My Book Went Out of Print, Now What?

When I learned that my publisher decided to let One Person/Multiple Careers go out of print just a few months after its second printing, I didn’t know what to make of it. The book hadn’t sold millions of copies, but it had sold thousands, had a loyal following — and garnered continuous media attention around the world.

As someone who spends a lot of time talking about the book business with other writers, this just didn’t make sense. But rather than whine, I took action. I asked the publisher to revert the rights back to me — which happened with relative ease and no cash on my end. And I decided to release an electronic version and a new paperback edition on my own, as the first “” production. In fact, the thing that pushed me to get moving and get the e-book finished was a wave of recent interest (nearly five years after the book’s publication) outside of the United States. It was killing me that there was no way to buy the book other than through Amazon, where the handful of used copies would surely run out at some point. I had some other reasons, too.

I wanted to start a conversation with other authors who are in the same position — wondering what to do with an older book that still has readers but has been orphaned by the original publisher.

I also wanted to model the kind of entrepreneurial thinking I encourage others to adopt. The timing was awful. I’m weeks away from delivering a new book manuscript to a new publisher. And my head is focused on encore careers — the subject of my new book. So the only way I could do this was by minimizing the labor involved. I tapped my network, found a great consultant to handle the technology parts, and gave her the updated introduction I had written months ago. I signed up for a PayPal account. My husband designed a new cover. And voila, we were ready to go in about two weeks.

So here it is. You can download the new introduction for free. And if you or anyone you know has been awaiting the digital version, you can order or share with this link. If you’re inclined to help spread the word – either about this new edition or about how authors can be more entrepreneurial, I’d so appreciate it. And here’s a few easy ways to do that:

1.  Tweet (#slashcareers) or share this post on Facebook.
2.  Write a review on Amazon.
3.  Share this post with other authors who may be wondering what to do about books that have gone out of print.

Oh, and don’t forget to join the conversation about “slash careers” and share your experiences with others. There’s a slash “/” careers group on Facebook that I plan to revive. I also regularly get calls from reporters doing “slash” stories and love having handy case studies ready to share. If you tweet, use the hashtag #slashcareers.

In a follow-up post, I’ll cover the steps you need to take to take a previously published book and reissue it as a digital and POD (print-on-demand) edition.


Taking Stock of Life’s Options While at Business School

In a guest post, Ricky Opaterny, a first-year business school student at N.Y.U., asks the big questions surrounding his return to the classroom.

Taking Stock of Life’s Options While at Business School

From Journalist to Novelist

Linda Villarosa writes a guest post on the challenge of moving from journalist to novelist.

Journalistic Entrepreneurs, a New Model

A trade association teleconference focuses on the ins and outs of life as a journalistic entrepreneur.

Friday’s Links: Networking Lessons from Ben Franklin

Inspired by Benjamin Franklin's Junto, two friends started the Silicon Valley Junto as a way to exchange ideas and network with their peers.

Getting on a non-profit board

Can I kvell for a few moments? One of my star students, Pamela Ryckman, just got a story published in the Financial Times about how to get onto a nonprofit board. She came up with the story idea in class and the minute she showed me the pitch, it was clear the piece would find a home.

I met Pamela when she wrote this profile about me for a local downtown paper, The Villager. After writing the article, Pamela decided to take my class. Then my poker buddy Paul introduced her to an editor at the FT. How’s that for good karma?


Why I like sports writing, even though I don’t like sports.

My single girlfriends in NYC have long been wondering where all the eligible men are lurking. I found it. Happy Ending Lounge on the Lower East Side is home to Varsity Letters, a monthly reading series celebrating sports writing. (If you’re wondering about the name of the venue, the bar’s former life as a certain kind of massage parlor confirms that it was always a popular haunt for men.)

I went to the July 5th event because the beau and I were invited by our friend, Rich Ackerman, a sportscaster and contributor to Being There: 100 Sports Pros Talk About the Best Events They Ever Witnessed Firsthand, by Eric Mirlis. Ackerman’s radio voice turned a “reading” into a live broadcast. The beau, who has spent almost his entire career around sports, also knew one of the other readers, Lee Lowenfish, author of a new biography of Branch Rickey, who is renown as both a jazz writer and a baseball writer (Lowenfish trivia: he sports a perfect slash business card, featuring a baseball in one corner and a musical note in the other.)
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New use for a blog

On Sunday, I spoke on a panel about freelance writing at a journalism conference with my friends and fellow freelancers, Chris Kenneally and Hannah Wallace. Chris’s new book, The First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language, is coming out later this week and during the panel, she mentioned that she is using a private blog (a blog she doesn’t publish) as an organizational tool for her next book. Now that I’ve discovered how easy and useful blogs can be for keeping track of writing thoughts, online links and other stuff you don’t want to lose, I loved this idea.
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Getting your first byline

A friend just asked me how she can start publishing her articles in newspapers and magazines. Since many people have come to me for advice about this, I’ve decided to answer her via a blog post so that it can help others as well. Below are the questions I’m most commonly asked.

How does the process work? In most cases, proposing an article for publication goes something like this. You have an idea for an article. You identify the publication you want to write for. You write a pitch letter (also called a query letter), trying to get the editor interested in your idea. You find the email address for an appropriate editor. (For magazines,, is a terrific site for locating editorial email addresses. For newspapers, you can usually find email addresses on the company website or by calling the switchboard.) And then you email your pitch letter and pray for a response. Note what is missing from this description; you do not send the whole article. How you write the article will vary based on what the editor asks for after reading your pitch.

Does it always work like that? Pretty much, except when you’ve written a personal essay or an Op-Ed. In those instances, you should write the whole piece and send it in, following the publication’s writers’ guidelines. Writers’ guidelines are exactly what they sound like, guidelines for how the publication wants freelancers to behave. Often, the guidelines are available on a publication’s home page, or by contacting the publication and asking for a copy. These days, the best information on what publications are looking for is on’s “How to Pitch” series. You can also read writers’ guidelines for a lot of publications at Both and Mediabistro charge an annual subscription fee. I use Mediabistro ($49 per year.)

How much work should I do when writing my pitch letter?
In the beginning, writing that pitch letter will feel as challenging as writing the article itself. This is normal. A good pitch letter should grab the reader from the start and it should answer these three questions — why this idea? why this writer? why now? Click here to read the pitch letter I used for the first story I wrote for The New York Times. And click here to read the finished article (note that they begin exactly the same way; that is not an accident.) I got the assignment even though I had no prior clips, probably because I answered those three questions.

What do I do after emailing the pitch? How should I follow up and how many times?
One of the hardest things about freelance writing is that many of your pitches won’t be answered. That doesn’t mean the pitches are bad. It mostly means that the editor hasn’t even read your email. Editors are drowning in email, much of it from colleagues and writers they already know. So it is hard to get their attention. Which is why your pitch should have an intriguing subject header (and mention that it’s a pitch.) Often, it takes a little nudging — an email or a phone call — to get an answer. And often, even with a little nudging you might not get an answer. I usually give it three tries in some combination of email and phone calls before I give up and send the pitch somewhere else.

Some of the books I have tell me to use regular mail. Should I ever pitch by regular mail?
If you have any books that say that, they are out of date. Never pitch by regular mail. (One exception might be for obscure literary journals, but the overwhelming majority newspapers and magazines conduct all business by email today.)

What should I expect when/if the editor replies?
You’ll probably have a conversation or email exchange about how long the piece should be, when it will be due, and how much you’ll be paid. The editor will then likely send you a contract. If she remembers. (I’ve written many articles where the contract only shows up after the article has been published.)

What are some ways to break into a publication if you’re unknown?
At the beginning, you’ll do better pitching ideas in your areas of expertise. If you don’t have any published articles (a.k.a. “clips”), but you are the go-to person for pet-training tips, vegan restaurants, or nudist colonies, then start pitching articles about pet-training, vegan restaurants, and nudist colonies. Your expertise will help. Trade publications (publications that serve a professional community) are easier to break into than consumer publications (the glossies you see on the newsstand). Online versions of consumer publications are often easier to break into than the print version of glossies. Community newspapers and publications distributed for free are always looking for content. As are many web sites. Alumni magazines are also a great place to get started. Of course, with any of these outlets, if you know someone and can get an introduction, use the connection!

How much do publications pay for articles?
Pay rates for freelance submissions haven’t gone up in decades. The “standard” for years has been a dollar a word, but many publications (especially newspapers) don’t pay more than .50 a word. Glossy mags can pay more than $2.00 a word, but I know very few veteran freelancers who are earning more than $1 a word on a regular basis. Many publications don’t pay at all. At the beginning, don’t write for the money. Write for the experience. Eventually, if you’re good, you’ll start to get paid. Meantime, you’ll hone your skills.

Note to any publicists reading this:

Now that I’m on the receiving end of lots of pitches for my “Shifting Careers” column, I’m noticing that the same principles of successful pitching apply for publicists as for freelance journalists. I’m not sure if all media folks would agree, but I am partial to pitches that show someone has read my prior columns and has customized the pitch letter to appeal to my interests. It helps if it is an idea I haven’t heard before or a new take on an old idea. Following up once or twice is nice. Any more than that starts to feel stalky. I seldom write an article based on a press release, though I do read them.

Keep in mind that this is a pretty basic overview. Once you start writing and publishing articles, you’ll hit a whole new set of issues. I’ll tackle some more advanced questions in another blog post.

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