Tips fr Writers

If you are new to writing, chances are you have some questions about breaking into the challenging world of writing for publication. The tips that follow may help you get started.

Nonfiction Writing for Print Magazines

Want to see your name in print in a glossy magazine like Smithsonian, Woman’s Day, or Runner’s World? Read on.

Major print publications prefer to work with freelancers with a proven track record. You’ll be taken more seriously if you can present clips (copies of published articles) from smaller publications that show your writing style and professionalism.
Bottom line: Don’t be afraid to start small and work your way up the publication ladder.

Large or small, most print magazines want to see a pitch letter and proposal. Identify the appropriate editor on the masthead (health editor for your health article; articles editor for general interest pieces, etc.) and contact him or her with a well-written query that presents the topic you want to write about, the experts you’ll consult, and your qualifications for writing about this particular topic. Include links to your clips if you have them. If that sounds like a lot of work with no guarantee of a go-ahead from the editor, you’re right.
Bottom line: You’ll be taken more seriously if you approach editors as they like to be approached, with a one-page (maximum) query. In many cases the editor will also want to see a brief proposal. Read the Guidelines for Writers for your chosen magazine. These can usually be found on-line.

Don’t take rejections personally. Every writer gets them. Chances are at some point you’ll receive the ubiquitous “Doesn’t fit our editorial needs” letter, a polite way of saying “Thanks, but no thanks.” If the editor has indicated a specific reason for the rejection, learn from it before you send the piece out to the next editor.
Bottom line: Be prepared for rejection, especially when you are just starting out. Move on to the next publication until you find an editor who loves what you’ve written. Meanwhile, keep writing new articles and moving forward.

Mention photos if you have them. They can often help make the sale.
Bottom line: Photos are important. They may not be used in the finished piece (many publications work only with professional freelance photographers), but they can help intrigue an editor.

Writing Fiction for Print Magazines

The general tips above apply, but fiction editors expect to see the entire manuscript, not just a pitch. There’s no need for a query letter since you’re submitting the completed manuscript. Instead, accompany your story with a cover letter in which you introduce yourself and your qualifications and mention any previous work you’ve had published.

Writing for Newspapers

Target the appropriate editor and send the entire article. Photos are almost always necessary for newspaper pieces, so be sure to include them or mention that you can submit them on request.

Writing On-line fiction and nonfiction

Every on-line site is different, so read several examples of recent work. Study the submission instructions carefully and be sure to follow them. There are exceptions, but many of these sites pay little or nothing, especially to beginning writers. They can, however, be a way for you to gain experience and clips.

A Few Final Tips

  • The days of using snail mail to submit manuscripts are all but over, with virtually all publications expecting manuscripts to arrive via email. Check submission requirements, because some publications will not open attachments from writers they don’t know and prefer that you paste your manuscript into the body of your email.
  • Network, network, network. Join writing groups in person or on-line, join professional writing societies when you achieve the necessary qualifications, and attend writing conferences. Volunteer to give talks on your area of expertise or your latest book or article at your local library or a civic group meeting. With some experience, you may be able to turn public speaking into a paying gig that supplements your writing. If you’re shy about speaking out in public, consider joining a group like Toastmasters.
  • Use social media to your advantage. A website is vital to showcase your work, a blog can give editors a quick look at your writing style, and LinkedIn and other social media can help would-be clients find you.
  • When your first contract or letter of agreement arrives, don’t sign it until you are certain you understand every word. An hour with a savvy lawyer can save you both money and legal headaches and you can apply what you learn to future contracts.