Polylyric is delighted to host this informative piece by Amy Rogers, scientist, science-thriller writer, indie author and publisher. Amy is a vibrant and supportive member of the indie publishing community, both through her own delightful contributions as an author, and by hosting other author interviews and features at Sciencethrillers.com. In this article, Amy shares her experience writing a popular science column in her home-city’s paper, and how it led to her latest book. She also offers helpful tips for indie authors looking for ways to earn a living and build a platform as they pursue their book-writing and publishing dreams.
Amy is author of the science-themed thriller novels Petroplague, Reversion, and The Han Agent which was recently named a finalist in Foreword Reviews’ Indies book awards (category: Thriller & Suspense). In Science in the Neighborhood, Dr. Rogers holds her nose at a landfill, pets a snake, listens to an iron lung, votes for a science idol, watches fish climb a ladder, buys earthquake insurance, visits a water treatment plant, and much more as she explores the science and engineering behind Sacramento transportation, weather, utilities, ecology, and health. Learn more at AmyRogers.com or ScienceThrillersMedia.com
Over four years ago, a friend alerted me that a local monthly newspaper was quietly looking for new writers. She suggested I start a column. While I’d been writing science-themed fiction for years, and I was a trained scientist with technical writing experience, I had never written journalism before. As an introvert, the thought of cold-calling people to interview and gather information terrified me. I said no. But after a few hours’ reflection I came up with an idea for a column that would explore how science and engineering are behind the scenes of many aspects of daily life in my hometown of Sacramento. And while it was hard in the beginning for me to make those calls, it got easier because people were generally eager to tell stories about their work. Writing this column, which I called “Science in the Neighborhood,” turned out to be one of the most interesting things I’ve ever done. When you say you’re from the media, doors are opened and you get glimpses of things hidden from the public. I derived great pleasure from sharing these insights and experiences with my readers. A monthly column was nice because, well, I only had one deadline per month.
After about 50 columns I realized I had enough material for a book. I then went through all my old work and organized it into categories, updated and expanded the articles, and created my first nonfiction book. I gave it a friendly, inviting yellow cover design to indicate that this popular science book is a fun, easy read. Science in the Neighborhood: How STEM professionals keep Sacramento clean, dry, and moving was published March 28 in both paperback and ebook formats. It turned out better—more beautiful, more interesting—than I expected, and I’m belatedly trying to get bookstore placement because of the book’s local interest and my column’s existing fan base. If I succeed, this will be my first book stocked on the shelf of a bricks-and-mortar store, and it could be a way for me to get my foot in the door with my science thriller novels.
I highly recommend becoming a columnist as a way to challenge yourself, gain exposure, build credibility, and get paid for your writing. Freelance journalism is usually more profitable than writing indie fiction. As I discovered, it’s also a way to create the content for a book over a long period of time when it doesn’t feel so intimidating. Find a publication you’d like to write for, preferably one that will allow you to mention your fiction titles in your byline. Brainstorm ideas that are a good fit for that publication. Contact an editor with your idea clearly explained and a list of topics. Write the best column you possibly can and submit it on spec; you’ll need your writing to sell your writing. If you think you might one day turn your columns into a book, be sure that your contract with the publisher gives you proper rights to your work.