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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,
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
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.