An Interview with Rusty Fischer

Rusty Fischer is the author of FREEDOM TO FREELANCE: The Editor of The Buzz On Series Reveals How To FIND, GET and KEEP Your Next Freelance Job, available for sale as an eBook from

Q: Rusty, tell us a bit about yourself. Were you born knowing you wanted to be a writer or did you make the decision as an adult?

RUSTY: I was hooked on Zorro movies as a kid, and thought it would be fun to write a story about sword fighting. So I did. I think I was eleven, and it was called The Swords of Malachi. My Dad had his secretary type it up and I drew my own construction paper cover. I’ve been hooked ever since . . .

Q: Once you decided to try your hand at writing what problems did you face in establishing yourself?

RUSTY: Contacts. I had none. I knew no one in the industry, no one in New York, no one anywhere. Everything I¹ve ever had published has been a blind query letter to a magazine, anthology or book publisher. I have no agent, despite the fact that I’ve had six books published by now, with more on the way. I’ve managed to be very lucky by managing to put my words and ideas on people’s desks at the right time. Giving up has never been an option . . .

Q: How did your writing career progress to FREEDOM TO FREELANCE?

RUSTY: I’ve been a freelance writer for years, starting out in the field of education, thanks to my former career, that of a public school teacher. I began by writing lesson plans, poems and stories for several teaching magazines, one of which eventually hired me to become an editor a few years ago. Since then, I’ve moved on to book publishing, and am now on the other side of the fence, dealing with freelance writers on a daily basis. I felt that a book on freelance writing by an actual editor would probably help answer a lot of the freelancing questions I get on a daily basis.

Q: What kinds of freelance assignments have you had?

RUSTY: I’ve written everything from how to make trick or treating safer to erotic poetry! Most of the time, however, I concentrate on non-fiction reference material, such as my work writing four of the popular Buzz On guides by Lebhar-Friedman, Inc.

Q: Could you take a typical assignment and tell us how it worked?

RUSTY: Usually, I will contact an editor through an e-mail address that I’ve found off of a freelance writing Web site such as or For instance, I recently answered an ad for “freelance educational writers” that turned out to be writing several fiction and non-fiction pieces for an educational software publisher. I sent the editor in question several fiction and non-fiction samples by e-mail, and after a week or two she responded positively with an e-mail explaining the project. I told her I could do it, quoted her a price, and she called me to negotiate a little. When we had agreed on a pay scale and a deadline, she sent me a contract, I signed it and returned it, and got busy! One of the CD-Roms was about space travel, the other was about time travel, so I enjoyed writing those and can’t wait to “see” the finished product! My check came shortly after I turned in the final drafts.

Q: From the moment you received THE CALL for your first book, what is the one thing that you have learned about the publishing business which has remained constant?

RUSTY: That it is, indeed, a business. While writers dream of touching lives and causing smiles, along with tears and laughter and all other kinds of reactions, publishers dream of making big deposits at the bank. That’s probably one of the biggest reasons for the tidal wave of eAuthors lately!

Q: We’d like to know a little about your first book. (When was it sold? How many rejections did you receive before it sold? Did you use an agent? Is this a self-published book? If so, explain the process you went through to make this decision.)

RUSTY: My first book was a collection of educational short stories for Frank Schaffer Publications, Inc. I sold it several years ago and, since I sort of had an “in” there through an educational magazine editor I occasionally wrote stories for, I did in fact receive NO rejection letters for that book.

Q: Describe your feelings when you receive the contract from the publisher.

RUSTY: I was ecstatic! Although, looking back, I should have probably been a better negotiator!

Q: What/who influenced you to write for this market?

RUSTY: The law of supply and demand literally “shoved” me into writing non-fiction. None of my fiction queries were making a dent, but I was quite fortunate to find Frank Schaffer and then the folks at Lebhar-Friedman, Inc., who published The Buzz On books.

Q: Tell us the hardest part of writing that you experience either day to day or contract to contract.

RUSTY: Writing on contract means that you HAVE to write for somebody else. Not just yourself. Very rarely does the person you are writing for have the same idea about what the finished product should be like as you do. It gets more frustrating the more you do it.

Q: In your opinion, what are the best and worst aspects of being a writer?

RUSTY: The best part is having people read your work and actually react, either positively or negatively. The worst part is the sedentary and private nature of writing.

Q: Since you’ve signed the first contract, what is the one thing you learned about the publishing business or writing process that you thought you knew?

RUSTY: I thought editors loved writing just as much as writers do, but I find that this is not often the case in the traditional world of publishing. However, since I’ve published two eBooks with Athina publishing, I have found a world of clever, unique and caring eEditors who are wonderful people who, I suspect, are secret writers themselves. It’s quite a welcome feeling!

Q: Curiosity killed the cat but we’d like to know anyway. Has a reader (or editor) ever told you that a specific research detail was incorrect in any of your books? What was your reaction?

RUSTY: Writing for a non-fiction reference guide series such as The Buzz On involves a LOT of research, and invariably something gets missed or neglected. I do have a knack for spelling celebrity’s names incorrectly, particularly, for some reason, Suzanne Somers! My NY editor constantly gets on me about this, and at first I felt insecure, but after seeing the inside of the publishing world for a few years now, I could be doing a lot worse!

Q: What, if anything, is done before you start the actual writing process?

RUSTY: I do a major, MAJOR outline for anything I write. I don’t always match it, but it’s the best place (for me) to start!

Q: You mention in your book that your day job is being an editor – has this helped in your freelance writing career?

RUSTY: I would have to say “yes,” only because it’s helped me fix mistakes I used to make as a freelancer, like sending out incomplete or unpolished work. It’s helped me be more polite to editors and see them as real people rather than just faceless drones in an office. It’s helped me gauge when to send things to an editor, and when not. It hasn’t helped me make any new contacts, but it’s helped me be a better freelancer.

Q: What methods of writing work best for you? (ie. Do you plan the entire book before you start writing or do you just “go with the flow”?)

RUSTY: I think about writing, stories, plots and characters all the time, which I suppose you would call planning ahead. But when it comes down to brass tacs, I just sit down and let my fingers fly. Then I let it sit there overnight, come in the next day, and clean it up. The more time I have to clean it up, the better the story. I guess none of them are ever “good enough,” but when deadlines loom, you have to let them all go at some time or another.

Q: Have you ever suffered from ‘Writer’s Block’? If so, do you have any advice on how to overcome this?

RUSTY: Fortunately, I don¹t have the luxury of writer’s block! Seriously, though, there have been times when I’ve been quite stale, especially writing for a series as hip and witty as Buzz On is supposed to be. Sometimes it’s just hard to come up with a Top-5 List for why you shouldn¹t be wearing a thong! When this happens, I find switching gears to be the best medicine. For instance, one of our other projects is a series of preschool activity cards. I find that after a full day of writing catchy poems for 2-4 year olds, I’m quite ready to slip back into the Buzz On mode!

Q: Your book makes it clear that you prefer to use the internet for your own freelancing, is this common, or do you feel that your choice is cutting-edge?

RUSTY: I wish it was cutting edge, but it seems to me that more and more freelancers (and thus more and more competition for me!) are also doing it. Unfortunately, many editors are NOT, and this makes it hard for me to find receptive markets. However, as the months go by, more and more publishers are receiving e-mail query letters. In fact, the other day, I had an editor request that I send a manuscript as an attachment. Now THAT’S cutting edge!

Q: What made you decide to write an e-book?

RUSTY: The fact that I spend so much time online and found so many freelance writers online led me to think that others, and many of them, feel the same way as I do. I’m usually behind the bell curve, but on this one I think I hopped on fairly quickly. I don’t imagine myself making tons of money off of my e-book, but I’m satisfied with writing a helpful, educational tool that will hopefully assist other freelance writers avoid some of the (many) mistakes I’ve made along the way!

Q: Did you try to get the book published in print first?

RUSTY: No, I never even tried. I wrote it with an e-book in mind, and only sought out e-publishers for it. Having worked with traditional publishers, I knew it would be years before the book saw daylight even if someone agreed to publish it, and didn’t want to wait that long!

Q: Can you tell us some of your experiences working with e-publishers?

RUSTY: For the most part, it’s been great. E-publishers are very receptive and fair, and I’ve enjoyed the give and take of communicating through e-mail and reworking chapters together that way. I think many people think e-publishers are “easier” than traditional publishers, and that’s inaccurate. E-publishers are very professional and selective, and I find that refreshing.

Q: How long did your research take?

RUSTY: A lifetime! Seriously, as I mentioned, I’ve been freelance writing, in one form or another, since I was eleven. Becoming an editor years ago and viewing the writing life from the other side of the desk was just the frosting on the cake.

Q: How often do you update your book? Do you find that updating an e-book is easy or difficult?

RUSTY: Since it’s so new, I haven’t updated the .pdf version yet, but have already written the updates to come. I plan on updating the links and adding new chapters every year, since the book is still evolving, as is the freelance writing industry!

Q: How does being an online writer affect other people’s perceptions of your career? Is it taken seriously?

RUSTY: Despite the huge advances made in online writing and online publishing over just this last year, I still find that my online credits are asked for less than my printed work. Sites like Themestream and Writing Tree are still considered “self-publishing,” despite the fact that I’ve made hundreds more off of Themestream than I ever did writing for national periodicals like Good Housekeeping and Better Homes & Gardens. I think the writing world is still very much us (online writers) vs. them (brick and mortar publishers) and until more of us become more of them and vice versa, I think that will remain true for the next few years.

Q: How do you promote your book?

RUSTY: While I’ve learned of numerous avenues for self-promotion, I am a pretty shy person and prefer to let my writing promote for me. As such, I publish article after article in writing-related zines like The Writing Parent and on freelancing Web sites like to further my cause. While this doesn’t exactly make me rich, all of these zines and sites allow me to post a promotional blurb with my byline, which includes links to my e-publisher and own Web site. I’ve found it to be quite successful so far and will continue to do this from now on.

Q: Who is your favorite author?

RUSTY: It’s a toss up between Frank McCourt and Maeve Binchy.

Q: What genre do you prefer to read?

RUSTY: Shh, don¹t tell: true crime books!!!

Q: What is your next project?

RUSTY: An e-book on, what else, e-book promotion. It’s called E-BOOK PROMOTION FOR CHEAPSKATES: 101 WAYS TO PROMOTE YOUR E-BOOK FOR FREE and will be published by Athina Publishing in February.

Q: To wrap up this interview, please share an experience that may (or may not!) help other writers take the publishing world by storm. (as an example, you can share your booksigning horror story which may not help writers break into the market but it would help them know what not to do at a booksigning)

RUSTY: My only real advice here is to stick with it. Yes, it¹s old news, but it’s true. For example, when I was a teacher I began writing for a local teaching magazine. For free! I wrote about 10 stories for them and never made a dime, although the magazine was sleek and glossy and I got a whole page to myself, with illustrations, and a full by-line which looked quite impressive each time I added a new one to my portfolio. Time passed, and eventually they needed a staff writer. My first assignment: writing four of The Buzz On books!

Rusty Fischer is the author of FREEDOM TO FREELANCE: The Editor of The Buzz On Series Reveals How To FIND, GET and KEEP Your Next Freelance Job, available for sale as an eBook from

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