88 Money-Making Writing Jobs, by Robert Bly
This is the second book by Robert Bly I have read and reviewed , and this one does not meet the standard of excellence provided by Getting Started As A Freelance Writer. That is not to say that this book is not a useful and even potentially profitable read–for that it is. Nonetheless, the book has some very serious flaws that make it less helpful and coherent than it might have been otherwise.
The first of the difficulties is in the disconnect between the title and the contents of the book. The title states that the book contains 88 money-making writing jobs, but this is not exactly the case. Rather, there are 88 different genres included, some of which pay very little and some potentially pay a lot. The 88 jobs included are as follows, given in the alphabetical organization the book uses: abstracts, advertising, annual reports, articles, banner ads, billboards, biographies, blogs, booklets, books, book reviews, brochures, bumper stickers, business plans, cartoons, case studies, catalog copywriting, children’s books, christian writing, college essays, coloring books, comic books, cookbooks and recipes, copyediting, corporate histories, crossword puzzles, direct mail, eBay, e-books, email, employee communications, erotica, essays, e-newsletters, fantasy, fund-raising, ghostwriting , Google AdWords, grant writing, greeting cards, help screens, horoscopes and anthropology, horror, how-to writing, indexing, instructional writing, investor relations, jokes, landing pages, love letters, medical writing , menus, newspapers, novels, outdoor writing, playwriting, poetry, PowerPoint presentations, public relations, procedure writing, professional speaking, proposal writing, public seminars, radio commercials, reports, rèsumès, romance, science fiction, self-help, short stories, specification writing, sports writing, syndicated columnist, tabloids, technical writing, telemarketing scripts, training and development, travel writing, t-shirts, TV commercials, video games, video scripts, websites, webinars, white papers, word processing, writing for the government, and young adult.
From the previous list, it is clear that this book contains a lot of very scattered material. Unfortunately, the alphabetical organization of material makes it impossible for the reader to benefit from placing similar types of writing in the proper context, as the book lurches from artistic writing to business writing to “creative” writing without rhyme or reason. A better organization scheme would have been to ditch the tired conceit of 88 “jobs” and focused on the type of writer one can become in genre in order to make a decent and honorable living.
Nor does the poor organization of the work end the problems of the work. There are two additional serious problems that require mention. The first is that the book itself encourages unethical practices like ghostwriting medical reports for drug companies as a profitable job, as well as ghostwriting in general. Though these jobs may in fact be very profitable they are also of very dubious legal (to say nothing of moral standing). It is clear that Mr. Bly has no elevated moral and ethical sense, lamentably, in his advice to writers. It is less clear which audience Mr. Bly is writing to. Some of his entries assume that the reader already has degrees and expertise in very technical areas, while other entries assume that the author is able to devote considerable time and money to pursuing bachelors and master’s degrees in certain fields. Just who is the intended reader of this book anyway–a teenage writer looking for the right education to pursue his or her love of reading, someone with a lot of money to spend who likely does not need the mostly superficial and general advice given in the very brief synopses of the different types of writing because they are already making a six figure income writing, or someone who is a would-be free lance writer starting out his writing career? The book itself is not sufficiently clear on this point.
That said, if you sift through the vague and contradictory approach to the audience and disregard the morally dubious aspect of some of the writing Mr. Bly talks about favorably, there is at least some worthy grains to be found for the discerning reader. For one, it is clear that Mr. Bly is not so much a creative writer as he is a salesman and a marketing person who happens to make his income in writing. The fact that he is a hack, though, does not prevent him from being useful to those with a practical bend in writing, and his expertise in corporate and technical writing is certainly appreciated, even if it lacks the sort of personal warmth and genuineness that one would find had he made his livelihood in a different fashion.
Therefore, I must caution any reader of this book that while one will find helpful information, it is presented in a disorganized fashion and mixes good advice with bad advice, forcing the reader to show discernment in separating the wheat from the chaff. Therefore, it can only receive, at best, a lukewarm and partial approval.