Sunday, April 3, 2011

Peter Bowerman - The Well-Fed Writer

Award winning author Peter Bowerman is the author of The Well-Fed Writer (2000), TWFW: Back For Seconds (2005), The Well-Fed Self-Publisher (2007) and the 2010 edition of The Well-Fed Writer - which combined and heavily updated the content of both original WFW titles. The WFW books are how-to “standards” in the lucrative field of commercial freelancing – writing for businesses, large and small, and for hourly rates of $50-125+.

Welcome to Writers in Business. Peter, Can you tell us more about freelance commercial writing?

Commercial writing is writing for corporations or other business entities on a freelance basis. That means marketing brochures, ad copy, newsletters, direct mail campaigns, speeches, trade articles, video scripts and about a zillion other types of projects. Because the business world generally has a lot more money than magazines or other organizations that might hire writers, the pay is considerably higher than in those fields. Hourly rates range from $50-125, with seasoned practitioners commonly making far more than that.

That's a great niche for writers. Is commercial writing different from freelance magazine or newspaper writing?

Very different. If you're reading to this and you've done some magazine writing, you'll relate to this. Imagine the editor of a publication you've been writing for saying, "OK, for this next piece, add up all the hours you think it'll take for research, background reading, travel, brainstorming, interviewing, writing, and editing. Then multiply it by $75." You'd think he lost his mind. But, that's pretty much how it works in commercial writing. Project fees are calculated based on those hourly rates of $50-100+ and all time counts. Unlike magazine writing, it's not just these flat project fees with potentially vast, open-ended commitments of time.

What sets the Well-Fed Writer apart from other books on this topic?

Most writing books either concentrate on the craft of writing or discuss arenas of freelancing with dubious and unpredictable financial potential (i.e., magazine article writing, novels, children's books, etc.) The Well-Fed Writer focuses on the lucrative and surprisingly accessible arena of commercial writing - freelancing for Corporate America.

While The Well-Fed Writer avoids romanticizing the field (while many commercial projects are fun, interesting and creatively rich, there IS more fulfilling writing out there), it doesn’t apologize for its emphasis on writing that makes money - good, steady money - an often off-limits subject in the eyes of those who would preserve the artistic "purity" of writing.

Your success in the field is inspirational. In addition to the Well-Fed Writer series of books, you have also created companion ebook publications. This is a great idea!

Ask yourself this question: "What other information could I package and sell along with my book as a companion ebook for which people would be willing to pay an additional $5, $10, $20 $30 or more?" For example, in the case of my main book, The Well-Fed Writer, I created two ebook products: a Tool Box (full of contracts, letter/email templates, and a lot more), and a Time line with action steps for various phases of building a commercial writing business. Together, they sell for $28on top of the $20 for the book, and probably 75% of people eventually buy them. Pure profit - no costs for storage or shipping.

Peter, I understand you offer mentoring, group coaching and teleseminars. How can we learn more about your work?

You can find me online at, and my blog.


  1. Excellent books! I've read them all.

  2. The Well-Fed Writer was the first book I read when considering freelancing work. I've gone back through the pages of that book many times and always find the answers I'm looking for.

  3. Your self publishing book is very good.

  4. Ha! Love the ebook idea. Resourceful and creative.

  5. Who designs your book covers?

  6. I know this interview just happened, but is the information about market conditions still accurate? Are corps still hiring freelance business writers?

  7. Thanks to all who commented (and sorry I'm just now chiming in!).

    I appreciate the kind words about my books from several of you. Glad you found them useful. And as you can see from the piece, I came out with an updated edition last year that weighs in at a meaty 368 pages...;)

    Rebekka, my cover designer is Chris DiNatale, here in the Atlanta area (

    And Mark, as for your question...

    Yes, this is still a good opportunity. And if you understand how businesses work and all the advantages of the freelance model, you'd realize that there will never be a time when what we offer ISN'T attractive to companies (i.e., no salaries, vacation and benefits to provide; the ability to buy the expertise you need only when you need it; access to a wide range of talent; and fresh "outsider" perspectives).

    Businesses ALWAYS have to be marketing, selling, and communicating with prospects, clients and their own employees. Obviously, that doesn't change with the economy.

    And there's only two ways to craft the mountain of written materials than any business has to create in the course of doing business: doing it in-house and farming it out to freelancers. Most will do it in-house, but a surprisingly high percentage will use freelancers and for the reasons outlined above.

    For companies looking to operate leaner (and these days, of course, who isn't?), it makes sense.

    That said, it's no slam dunk and you have to offer a company real value to get the work. I do think it's a bit tougher than it was when I first started out, but if you follow the strategy set out in my books, you can find work in any economy. Just don't expect to be making $5K a month in a few months.

    And I'm afraid I can't tell you how long it will take. I have no idea - everyone is different and brings a different level of expertise, skills, and ambition to the table.

    Hope that helps!




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