PUBLISHED AUGUST 2017
by C. Hope Clark, Founder, Funds for Writers —
C. Hope Clark
Answers to your most common questions about obtaining grants.
Every day, writers and self-publishers e-mail me about finding grants. Just like no two requests are alike, no two grants are alike, either. Here I try to answer the most frequently asked questions so that you do not anxiously send out e-mails only to find out it’s the wrong grant, the wrong question, or the wrong angle for your project.
Q: I don’t have time to write and work my job. Are you aware of a grant that can cover my living expenses while I complete my book?
A: First, the grants that pay that much money are limited to contenders who have a publishing and writing history, demonstrating a serious investment in a writing career. Second, if this is your first book, the answer simply is no. Most grants purely for writing (versus teaching writing or going to a retreat or attending a class) will ask for your history as a writer. History normally means education and publication.
Q: I’m in dire straits financially. How can I get a grant by next week/next month?
A: Emergency grants can be found FundsforWriters.com. However, I am not aware of one that offers immediate financial assistance. Also, keep in mind that most emergency grants for writers require confirmation of your sincere efforts at making a living as a writer. Be prepared to show tax returns, publishing credits, etc.
Q: I’m in the middle of writing my first book. I need a grant to finish.
A: Sorry, but I’m not aware of grants for first-timers. Grants offered to artists and writers command a certain proof of experience to ensure the grant provider that the applicant knows how to follow through. If this is your first attempt at a book, you are pretty much on your own. I hate to say you must “pay your dues,” but that would be the attitude of any grant provider if you apply without experience. However, you’ll sometimes find grants from libraries and museums to do research, and grants from conferences and retreats for you to work on your project. Those are not as restricted.
Q: Where can I find a grant to go get my MFA or study creative writing/journalism?
A: Grants are not scholarships, and vice versa. Speak to your financial aid department at your school. FastWeb is another outlet for scholarships. And most people do not realize that community foundations offer scholarships. A community foundation is a compilation of small grants managed under one umbrella, limited to a certain, small geographic area.
Q: I need a grant to start my copywriting (or other writing) business.
A: There are no grants for businesses. Even the Small Business Administration does not offer grants for businesses. Yes, I know your business is about writing, but grants for writers lend themselves to prose (fiction and nonfiction), plays and poetry. You are starting a business, not creating literary art, so grants are nonexistent. However, there is a site called Idea Cafe that offers a small grant once or twice a year to business owners. You compete with other businesses, not other writers, but that’s the category you fall into so it’s appropriate.
Q: I would love to attend a conference, but can’t afford to do so.
A: Ask the conference if it has scholarships/fellowships/grants. Some do not advertise the fact that they do. If you have only part of the cost, consider asking your state nonprofit writing organization for assistance. Each state has one. Also, contact your local arts council, which might have professional development type grant assistance. Also your state arts commission. And there’s nothing wrong with asking for a commercial sponsor. But many conferences have assistance and don’t advertise it. They may also work out a work-study deal with you.
Q: I need a grant to self-publish my book.
A: Keep in mind that grants for writers usually fall in one of three categories, from my experience. On, the grant is for a proven writer to tackle a project. Two, the grant is for a project that will have impact on the humanities (i.e., you have to show the impact of this book on the world). Three, the grant is for emergencies. I’ve known a handful of self-published books to receive a grant; however, the author had a solid marketing plan (often with an agreement with an organization or nonprofit) demonstrating a firm grasp of how to distribute the book, with a confident means of sales. There are no grants to self-publish if you have not developed a platform. I have known people to land a grant when they partnered with a nonprofit/educational organization to publish a book and sell/distribute it in conjunction with a mission of the nonprofit or educational organization.
Lately, crowdfunding has become a serious option for writers. Go to kickstarter.com or indiegogo.com to let the public know about your project. With a good podcast or video and an explanation of your project, you can get the public to consider supporting you.
Q: I need a grant to pay an editor to improve my manuscript.
A: Sorry, but I’ve yet to find a grant for that purpose. I have, however, seen a self-published young lady do a Kickstarter campaign to have her book done over with an editor, new cover designed and PR campaign developed.
C. Hope Clark is founder of FundsforWriters.com, chosen by Writer’s Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past 16 years. She is also author of the Carolina Slade Mysteries and The Edisto Island Mystery Series. Learn more at fundsforwriters.com and chopeclark.com.