Graduating, Starting A Freelance Writing Business, and Launching A Literary Magazine

I woke up this morning with absolutely nothing to do. Well, except move. Oh, and read submissions for Likely Red Magazine, an online literary magazine that just released its first issue this week. And I need to job hunt. And promote my blog on social media. And work on more content for here and possibly a few other blogs. Oh and write more on my novel manuscript and edit some of my short stories. It’s getting to be about time to submit some of them to other journals and publishers, too. You know what? I guess I have a lot of crap I need to work on. And Now that my classes at the University of Louisville are over, hopefully permanently, (no offense, graduate administration hopefuls), I finally have time to concentrate on working my butt off on all the stuff that I’ve been wanting to do for years.

Eric peaking up over a stack of books.
Here’s everything I had to read last month so I could graduate.

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It was a true test to wade through submissions last month with my final semester of classes elbowing my gut, knocking me over, crunching down on my face with its sneakers, and nearly leaving me for the campus squirrels to haul off with up a power line. Seriously, it was really hard. I got a lot more submissions than I thought I would, thanks to the magazine somehow getting aggregated and added to Duotrope and The Submission Grinder. What started out as a small number of fiction and poetry submissions, easily manageable between my readings of the many African American novels, Victorian period travel texts, and the awful, awful CUE–Cumulative Undergraduate Experience–papers that I had to write to graduate, somehow turned into what seemed to be an endless void of words and truths, both fictional and non-fictional, visual and descriptive, from people all over the world. I even had to alter the magazine’s description and change it from a locally-focused Louisville magazine to a broader-focused one. I’m still really surprised that it didn’t all completely blow up in my face. Actually, it still might. I haven’t let go of that feeling yet.

Please check out the issue if you have a moment. It’s free and online and all contributors were paid for their work. The journal will have new issues infrequently, every month or so. One thing spending $60,000 on a college education taught me about myself was that I have a hard time sticking to a strict schedule when I’m working on long-term projects. If it’s short term, sure, give me a deadline. If you need a new short story draft, a specific word count for a book, or pages on a website for a business all typed up all by next weekend, that’s completely doable. If you tell me that you need 200 words by every Monday at noon for the next year, I’m going to have a hard time. That’s why I’ll reiterate again that new issues will be released every month, “or so.”

While I’m hoping Likely Red will satisfy my hopes and desires of staying busy in the creative writing and literary world after college, I know that there’s not much of an economic opportunity for myself in it. So, as a graduating English major, I was forced to take a few more steps. One of those steps involves traditional job hunting, which to be honest, I’m still probably going to continue to do for a long time, even if I do become the happiest employee in the best office of the best company in town. I may be generalizing, but I think job hunting is just something that English majors like myself do a lot. At least, that’s what people have told me and what I’ve noticed.

While a steady job is ideal for my day-to-day money needs, there’s something else that I’d been wanting to try for a long time: being in business for myself. Not necessarily as a fiction writer, which I always enjoy being daily. But no, even if I did get a novel or a short story collection published, my experiences meeting and working with other writers have taught me not to expect a great deal of financial stability from my traditional creative writing projects. What being in business for myself translates into for me, as a new holder of the highly flexible, very capable, but often mocked as unreliable English degree, is blogging, freelance writing, and copywriting.

I made this. It’s stupid. But if you need words, contact me.

I had to put my thinking cap back on. This blog has been my personal blog for a long time. While I’ve messed around with Google ads, I never really expected to make that much money with it. But, that’s because I wasn’t really trying. I didn’t feel like I could write any useful content for anyone to read, let alone consider help spreading with a tweet or a Facebook post. I took a long time off from writing on this blog regularly so that I could focus on my last semester’s classes. During that time, I had a lot that I wanted to say. The break from blogging really helped me to focus in college, but at times I wish I’d kept up with this a little bit more. If it didn’t “take off”, I could have even used it to help fuel the fire in something else, like another blog or another project, like more traffic over on the literary magazine or something.

The break from blogging also gave me time to think about what else I wanted to do online. I thought long and hard about starting a copywriting business, but I didn’t know any copywriters. Probably even worse was that I hadn’t had any experience writing copy, though I knew what it amounted to. In my bag of writer-like experiences, I’d written articles, short stories, and many, many papers, and I’d been on the receiving end of the copyediting before with those few articles I’d had published in the campus newspaper. My concern is that I’ve never had any experience with writing sales copy itself, which is what many people in the business solely use the term copywriting to refer to. I think the term has mutated in my brain to encompass more than writing sales ads and actionable content. My brain has taken ahold of the term, squeezed it, and twisted it into a genre about writing words that are useful for people in exchange for money.

It turns out, though, that getting Likely Red up and running required more “copywriting” than I realized. Since the mag is new, the description pages and the submission guidelines had to be written in a way that gave people an idea of the aesthetic and what to submit. It also had to actually convince people to submit. It seems to have worked, because I’m still getting submissions. That’s right; if Likely Red falls flat on its face, at least it gave me some of my first experiences being an editor and some experience writing “copy” that convinced authors to submit to it.

I’m not sure exactly how I’m going to utilize writing as a business, but I’m going to give freelance writing a shot and see what hits I get. I may even hit up a few local businesses with some copywriting ideas. I’m also going to step it up a notch and not only start blogging here more, but I’m going to try to make my content more useful. Likely Red shouldn’t be going anywhere while I’m trying these new things, either. I’ll also be doing the traditional job hunt still, to get the bills paid while I’m trying all of this out. And if something doesn’t work out, I can blog next about how I’m going to move on with something else. That’s the newest thing I think I’ve learned: I don’t always have to know what the finish line looks like, just that it’s there. My plans are always changeable. Also, many of the bad results I’ve gotten in the past, because of plans that I didn’t change in time, were actually very fixable.

So what am I saying? I’m back to blogging more regularly. I’m also doing a lot more than just blogging now. I’m trying new things and seeing what happens. Actually, I’m kind of just trying out everything that I want to do and seeing if anything sticks.

I appreciate everyone who supported my personal blog while I was dealing with the stress of college. Feel free to comment and let me know what you think of some of these changes. You’re welcome to chime in at any time.

You should seriously consider subscribing to my free weekly newsletter. I’m trying so many new things that it’s hard to keep up without letting me into your Inbox. You’ll get updates about this blog, news about my fiction, news about Likely Red, and information about my business projects. I don’t use your email addresses for anything weird.

Author: Eric

Eric Shay Howard is a writer living in Louisville, KY. He has a BA in English from the University of Louisville. He is the editor of Likely Red, a literary magazine.

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