Vision: A Resource for Writers
Lazette Gifford, Editor
Vision@sff.net

The Well-Fed Writer:
Financial Self-Sufficiency as a Freelance Writer
in Six Months or Less

Reviewed by Joshua Johnston
2004, Joshua Johnston


Have you ever thought about going solo as a writer? Surviving and living only by writing? That's a dream many writers share, until they find out the dire facts of life: most writers don't make enough to support themselves with writing. They must keep their day jobs and write, if they want to stay solvent.

A sad and depressing picture, isn't it? Peter Bowerman, author of The Well-Fed Writer, contends that it doesn't have to be that way. If you go the freelance commercial writer route, as he describes in his book, you stand a good chance of living by words alone.

The book comes recommended by Robert Bly, a well-known author of many books and contributing editor at Writer's Digest magazine. With such a stellar recommendation, you can't go wrong, right? Let's take a look and see.

Bowerman devotes the first couple chapters mostly to motivation and selling of the freelance commercial writer lifestyle. He doesn't sugarcoat anything, yet he paints an attractive picture. Since many writers imagine being able to live off of fiction writing, he needs to sell the reader on writing nonfiction for a living, such as copywriting, advertisements, technical writing, etc. Those may sound boring, but if you're writing in the right area, they can be just as fulfilling, creative and enjoyable as fiction.

After he's sold you on the idea, he gets into more detail. Sections include how to create a portfolio -- even if you have no experience -- and find clients, how much to charge and how to ensure payment, how to deal with clients of various types and maintain relationships, and more. He doesn't go into great detail on copywriting terms, or terms for any other specific branch, though; he's focused on the business side; he provides nothing about how to write what you need to write, except for some excellent advice on information gathering.

Three appendices offer useful supplemental information: Appendix A has sample letters, contracts, brochures and direct mail pieces. Appendix B has various writing samples from real jobs. Appendix C has two interviews with "at home" moms who do freelance commercial writing, a special target audience of his.

His writing style is lively and chatty, with humor injected in liberal doses. He loves his subject, and it shows. You can't help but catch his enthusiasm and imagine yourself in his shoes.

All in all, the book is well-written and contains good information. The real test, of course, is does it work? The associated website (http://www.wellfedwriter.com) offers a CD and another book that include testimonials from people who have followed his advice. He uses his own advice, which is always a good thing; if you get advice that the advice-giver doesn't follow, it's rather suspect.

I plan on putting his advice to the test. He's got me convinced enough of the quality of his route that I feel fairly confident in following it.

ISBN: 0-9670598-4-4

SRP: $19.95