Blogger Template by Blogcrowds

Asking for Experts

Once you stumble upon a great story idea, you have to follow through. Sure, you'll want to write an outline, do your internet research, and read all background issues of that particular publication. But to really add meat to your story, you'll need experts.

Expert advice is priceless. An article without an expert may be functional, informative, and even fun. But experts add authenticity. They add good solid advice. They offer personal experience. They offer statistical information. Most importantly, they add meat.

For years, I fretted over the expert issue. Where would I find an expert? Would they want to talk to me? Why would they agree to talk? What would I say? But each of these questions has a simple answer: It's easier than you think.

Experts can be found everywhere: your backyard, your local store, local doctor's offices, local universities. You can step outside your box and call people from across the country. Contact people who have websites. Contact the people who write press releases. If all else fails, sign up for At Profnet, you simply ask for experts on a particular topic, and they call you.

The best part is that everyone likes to talk. Experts enjoy sharing their knowledge with others for a variety of reasons; perhaps they enjoy the subject, they enjoy the questions, or they simply want to promote their product or way of thinking. In any case, their knowledge will be useful to you. (However, if they are promoting a particular product or service, ensure that you interview several folks---you don't want to write a biased article.)

As for the rest of the questions, we'll address that in a later blog.

Until then...

Writing for Experience

Recently, I enthusiastically accepted a low-paying assignment. Why? Because this assignment offered something beyond a financial benefit: It offered the opportunity to improve my skills.

This new market was way outside my comfort zone. Normally, I'd never even think about trying something this new. But I was feeling ambitious---and a little courageous. So I took a deep breath and dived right in. I'm happy to say that the assignment was more than interesting---it was exhilarating. There's nothing so wonderful as conquering your own personal demons.

So step outside your comfort zone. Try something completely new, and maybe make a small little income from it. You have nothing to lose. And lots of experience to gain.

Snail Mail or E-mail?

When sending queries, many writers are perplexed by the snail mail/email debate. Snail mail is old-fashioned and expensive, and email is quick and snazzy. So, do you stick with the days-of-old, or do you cruise down the submission superhighway.

I'll 'fess up. I've tried both methods, and found a considerable difference in their response. My vote: go for SNAIL MAIL.

Sure, email's fast. But guess how many of my magazine/book queries and manuscripts have been accepted via email? None. Nada. Nothing. Zilch.

That's not to say that I haven't received any responses. A few editors have typed back a quick note (usually very helpful), with a "Thanks, but no thanks" reply. Hey, that works for me. I'm always happy with friendly email rapport. It's the "no responses" that bug me.

But snail mail absolutely does the trick for me. Yes, I know that I have to pay for envelopes, nice paper, postage, printing costs, etc. But you know what they say: you have to spend money to make money. And in this case, it's absolutely true.

My only guess is that editors are like me. They like the feel of paper in their hands. They're visual---they want to see the finished product. Maybe the extra effort that I spent shows that I am more diligent. Anyone can send an email. But how many people will actually invest the time and/or money in snail-mail queries and manuscripts.

The only two exceptions center around cold calls and repeat business. I have been known to test the local waters with newspapers (which did result in an assigned story!), and I absolutely rely on email once I've sold a story. Once an editor emails me, it's fair game (as long as there's no stalking involved!).

The bottom line: Buy some ivory stock with matching envelopes. Your efforts will pay off.

Dealing with Rejection

Writers have to have a tough skin. Rejection happens all the time, and you just have to brush it off.

It's not easy, though. Opening the mailbox to see your own SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) will make your heart skip a beat. Your hand will quiver as you tear open the envelope. You think, Maybe this is the one! And maybe it is. But more often than not, it's another rejection.

So how do you deal with it? Oh, I still have a hard time with it. But think of it this way: One "YES" is worth 100 "no's". The first time I received an acceptance call---YES, the editor actually called me to offer me a BOOK contract!---I was beside myself with joy. My feet didn't touch the ground for two weeks.

So here are some tips for dealing with the inevitable rejection:

1) Accept your emotions. When you're tearing yourself apart, trying to figure out how to be a real writer, remember this: You ARE a real writer. Writers are supposed to be emotional; they are supposed to be insecure; and they are supposed to question their validity. That's what makes your writing so good.

2) Count your failures. A long time ago, another writer introduced me to the power of 100 "no's". (My apologies to unknown creator of this concept.) She explained that every "No" was one step closer to a "yes" --- and in order to be successful, you simply have to get the 100 "No's" out of the way. Let me tell you, there is great power in saying, "I already have 86 rejections. Only 14 more to go!" Believe me, by the time you get to 100, you'll be successful.

3) Think smaller. Not everyone is a Mark Twain or J.K. Rowling. Some of us are just ordinary, girl-next-door type writers. We go to PTA meetings; we watch our kids play ball; we go out with our friends. You don't have to sell a best-selling novel. Try working with newspapers, trade magazines, or local businesses. Success is only a footstep away.

4) Send 10 submissions every day. Okay, so you're not that prolific? Wrong! You don't have to write 10 articles each day, you only have to query 10 places each day. Or send recycled queries (queries that were rejected by one editor, but completely usable for another publication). Email local businesses, or call friends that know a business owner. Networking is the key to success, and all submissions are a form of networking.

5) Promote yourself. Do you have a website? (Ha! You have me there! Mine isn't completed yet.) Do you have business cards? Write a blog. Get a small advertisement in the PTA newsletter. Join the Chamber of Commerce. Tell your friends what you do. Networking is the key to success (see #4 above).

Rejection is just another of life's lessons. Don't dwell on the negative. Put a positive spin on it, and let it work to your advantage. When you're a complete success, you'll know that you really and truly earned your right to write.

Writing Magazine Articles

In the wake of the bridge collapse in Minneapolis, writing seems so trivial. My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and the families caught in this tragedy.


Writing Magazine Articles

When dreaming about writing magazine articles, most of us have visions of a byline in Good Housekeeping, Family Circle, or Reader's Digest. But the truth is that these magazines are already inundated. It's time to find a new approach.

Like everyone else, I started my career querying the top-of-the-food-chain publications. But trial and error proved that there was a better approach: querying the lesser-known publications.

So I spend days flipping through my latest copy of Writer's Market. (Yes! You do want to buy the new edition every year, but go through the book club so you get a discount. I do NOT recommend their website. It's clunky and cumbersome, and I find it annoying when so many listings come up with "listing removed" or some such comment. I know they're working on it, so I hold out hope!)

The next step was to query the smaller publications. Okay, so Modern Bride really wasn't the best magazine for me, so I successfully queried an unknown publication. This magazine was distributed for free at bridal shops. But surprise---the payment was still pretty good.

Even better---this lesser-known publication didn't have many freelance writers. So I wrote several more and they were accepted as well.

And that was my turning point. Instead of fighting for the top spot, I sent numerous queries to the small and moderate magazines. The editors were always kind, and some even offered tips. When an article was published, I found myself in a great position. My next query letter always thanked them for publishing my previous article. Sending a clip from their own magazine is a great tool, as well. It proves that you can work within the editor's requirements.

So was it successful? Oh, yes! I've published articles on business topics, food topics, parenting topics, bridal topics, etc. I've even successfully used this technique on the "Food" or "Life" section of smaller newspapers.

So stopping running in place, and try this new technique. The odds are in your favor.

Happy Writing!

Over the past few days, I've received a few comments and suggestions regarding Constant Content and Associated Content. I've also learned a little about free article writing as well.

First, I wanted to share that I did receive a comment against these sites, and I'd like to share it with you. Another popular blogger contacted me and indicated that they recommend writers to avoid these sites. I personally am not ready to judge them yet, as my experiment is still in the beginning phases.

Second, remember that any publicity is good publicity. Once you have written some articles with bylines, your name will be out there. Okay, maybe it won't be some magical potion, but it will give you credibility when people are googling you. Also, if you have written for free-article sites (which I will discuss in a later post), you can include a link to your site. Cheesy? Maybe. But remember, this is the cyber age and we have to keep up with the times.

Don't forget the age-old wisdom: Write 1000 words a day. Does it matter whether you're writing a letter to your grandmother or an article for one of these sites? In my opinion, no. You are familiarizing yourself with the written word, and finding your true writing style. Keep writing. It doesn't matter whether it's hidden on your hard drive, shipped out via email, or sent to those sites.

Do remember, though, that once you've published something on these sites, you will lose the ability to sell your first rights. Does it matter? Maybe. Publications prefer to buy first rights (or all rights), and generally won't publish anything that's appeared on the internet or elsewhere. But remember, print and the internet are two different forms of media. If Constant Content or Associated Content publish my material, then I wasn't planning on sending it out for print publication anyway. To me, writing is writing, and my supply is endless (just re-slant your article for a different audience, re-do the purpose of the article, and re-write... you'll have a completely different article in no time).

Have I made any money off these sites? A little. Not enough to pay the mortgage, but it's a little extra. Will I write for them again? In a heartbeat. The more that I have out there, the more publicity I am receiving. And, they are marketing my work for me, so I can concentrate on writing new material.

In truth, I feel that the writing experience itself, along with the critiques received from Associated Content and Constant Content, ARE worth the effort. To be a great writer, one needs to write. But I wouldn't them on my resume.

Yesterday, a local newspaper editor asked me for several writing samples. My heart lifted, as it always does when I get another "chance" to be published. It's happened a lot before, but the happy feeling never changes.

Thankfully, my husband was kind enough to set me up with a scanner some time ago. With a few clicks of the mouse, the scanner starts buzzing, and my screen magically displays a .JPEG file of my work. I love this scanner! All it takes is a few more clicks and my samples are scooting across cyberspace. Now I'll just cross my fingers and hope the editor likes my style.

Yes, the story is simply fascinating, I know (NOT!), but I do have a point: ALWAYS keep your writing samples. Keep original copies of the published article if your can, and make copies to use as samples. Scanning is another convenient alternative. It gives the luxury of emailing your clips, or even posting them on your website.

Take care to categorize your samples, as well. If you're approaching a magazine, you'll want to find pieces that suit their style. If you're looking for a newspaper gig, try a third-person fact driven piece. While the styles don't have to match exactly, it will certainly give your stuff the extra edge.

The age-old advice is true: write what you know. When you speak about familiar topics, an air of expertise shines through. So examine your life, and focus on your interests. Your topics will find you.

It goes without saying (and yet I'll say it anyway), that you need to pick your genre first. Now my genre focuses on non-fiction articles. In particular, I am fond of the how-to article. I find that I enjoy hands-on experiences, and thus I'm able to guide my reader more easily.

(Now don't panic if you write in several genres, just apply this advice to each genre separately.) There's no long-term commitment involved.

You, of course, have a bevy of genres from which to choose. First, do you prefer fiction or non-fiction? What particular sub-category? What are your interests? Do you prefer first person or third person? Do you prefer writing articles, short stories, books, or something else? Do you prefer working for online editors, traditional publishers, or businesses? The choices are endless.

Once you've decided upon a genre, brainstorm about your ideas. Sometimes, they will come in fits and starts; sometimes they will flow freely; and sometimes they just won't flow at all. But THAT'S OKAY!!! Work through the pain, and keep going. Write every single day, even if you don't have much to say.

Here's a different approach: Every single time a new idea springs to mind, start a new Word file. Use keywords in the filename, so you can find it later. If you have five ideas in five minutes, then save five different Word files. Is it annoying? It can be. But when a new idea emerges, you can pop it into a new or existing file. Keep it up and you'll have an incredible brainstorming list for each topic. You never know when you'll want to open the file, rework it, and turn it into something remarkable.

I have a kazillion Word files on my computer (filed under "articles"). Some are merely flimsy ideas---they are only one sentence long. Others are full of pages and pages of material. Many articles are duplicated from a different point of view (POV). I may have the same article written in first person, and then rewritten in third person. Since every editor has a different style preference, I figure I'll cover all bases: I'm as flexible as possible when I'm "in the zone."

My topics also reflect my life's current events. When I was planning my wedding, I wrote numerous articles on wedding invitations, reception planning, and wedding decor. As my first child was born, I focused on pregnancy, childhood, and potty training. As my life reached the next stage, my writing evolved with me. Luckily, this works well for me: New ideas constantly emerge.

So now you're ready to go, but you don't know where to start? Just look around! Consider each aspect of your life. Did you hear a funny joke? Did you spend the afternoon stuck in traffic? Did your boss give you grief at work? Did your grocery bill shock you? Did your children argue about a trivial event? Turn each event into an article, and breathe life into your work. Your emotions will shine through.

There's been a lot of chatter about Constant Content and Associated Content. Are they legitimate companies? Are they worth the effort? Will I get paid?

Eager to learn more, I jumped into the arena and joined each one. What the heck, I figured. I have all these articles just sitting around my computer. Who knows if they're worth anything or not. But I haven't used them in a few years anyway.

So first I jumped onto Constant Content, and uploaded a few articles. I had forgotten that I had submitted a movie review a few years ago. I mean, how long ago did Star Trek: Nemeesis come out in the theatre?

I was shocked to see that I had actually sold this article, and had a $5 commission sitting in my account. But wait, you say, big deal, it's only $5. Maybe so, but it was just sitting on my computer, not going anywhere. It's not like people are fighting for that particular review. It's old news.

Anywho, so I reworked several of my articles and submitted them. As it turns out, Constant Content is a little picky about formatting and things like that, but once you get the hang of it, it's not that bad. So far, I have six test articles accepted by their editors. Let's see whether it works or not.

Eager to try for more, I buzzed over to Associated Content. I signed up quickly and submitted several articles for their review. Their replies were extremely quick, although I'm not sure whether I'm pleased with the results yet.

Here's the info on my submitted articles:

Article 1: They liked the article, but had too many similar ones. They asked me to submit for no pay, which I did.

Article 2: They said it was interesting and well written, but it wouldn't appear in search engines. They asked to submit for no pay, which I did.

Article 3: This article was immediately accepted for an immediate payment of $3.69. I thought that it was $3.69 per download, but I think that it's just a flat fee. But there is some kind of bonus.

My other articles: They said they have similar content and asked me to submit for no payment. I don't want to start a trend here, so I'm leaving them alone for now (and not submitting them).

In my case, the jury's still out on these two sites. I've heard a lot of people say that there's money to be made, but I'm still a little leary. I've made a lot more money off small freelance articles; even my fillers bring in more cash. But on the other hand, it's like a bank account that's slowly earning interest. Someone else is doing the reselling, and I can focus on more important activities.

I'll let you know how it works for me!

Meet the puppies

Just a quick photo to share...

When I opened my mailbox the other day, I was delighted to see a $100 check from Reader's Digest. They had accepted one of my submissions, and my quote appeared in July's "Quotable Quotes."

Fillers are short written pieces, such as reader tips, poetry, or small anecdotes. They offer a quick and easy way to earn a small check. I've been doing it for 15 years; it's easy to jot an email to a publication. Sometimes they pay only a few bucks, and sometimes they pay a hundred dollars or so. But either way, I don't mind. I enjoy it.

So are you ready to write some fillers? Consider writing short jokes or real-life funnies for a place like Readers Digest. You can fill out a form on their site. They also accept "Quotable Quotes," which pay about $100 a pop.

Household tips are always a valuable subject. Magazines like Family Circle, Woman's Day, Family Handyman, Woman's World, and Family Fun pay for these tips. To ensure success, make sure that your tip fits their style. Emails are a fast way to make some progress. Just send a few tips each day.

Creating the website

Creating this blog has renewed my energy, and I can feel the ideas flowing freely. At first, I simply typed the first entry into this blog. Then I decided to move onto my site and add as much information as I could provide.

The new site is coming along nicely. I has quite a bit of information, and I'm constantly adding new articles. While I hope to add some of my own soon, I've included articles written by others to spice it up a little bit. As things quiet down, I'll put the pen to paper, so to speak.

In the meantime, I'll see you at the website. Feel free to submit your articles, too.


Working on writing

Someone once said that if "you love your job, you'll never work a day in your life." This is my career goal: To love my work, and enjoy every moment of it. And so far, I've been true to this goal.

My freelance career has lasted over the last 20-odd years, and friends are always asking me about my job. While I am very proud of my writing and painting work, I play it very low key. In fact, one of my friends recently told me that if she had co-written six books, she'd be shouting it from the rooftops. I just laughed and told her I was trying to decide upon my next project.

After I had spent quite a while hemming and hawing, my husband came up with the ideal solution: I could write a blog about freelancing, talk about my successes, and offer advice to beginner writers. And this, I believe, is the perfect solution.

So now the blog is born. Come back often to learn about improving your writing career. I'll be back soon with an update.


Newer Posts Home