Friday, February 19, 2010

On Getting Articles Published

It's one thing to write insightful and well-crafted prose, quite another to navigate the business of writing - actually getting published and making money from your craft. Most of the ideas for this post come from The March/April issue of Writer's Digest, which attacked theme: Your Economic Survival Guide. Lots of great stuff here. I'll center in on ideas for getting articles published.

1. Build Relationships. Maybe you meet writers at socials or writers' conferences. Offer to take them to lunch to ask for advice. If you've written for someone before, keep in touch! Keep a good client list. If you came through with a good article last time, they're more likely to take your idea next time. Submit to them regularly.

2. Understand the Market. Perry Perkins makes a full-time living writing articles. At first, he wrote articles and used Writers Market to try to find appropriate places to place them. Then, he took a different approach. He spent several days reading through Writers Market, cover to cover, studying it. This knowledge can become a brainstorming list to dream up articles a certain publication might love. Then he could write queries based on what magazines were looking for, rather than trying to taylor his articles to fit their purposes.

There's an interesting parallel to Warren Buffett's advice to a young person wanting to learn how to invest like him. Basically, he told him to start like he did, studying every publically traded stock in the United States. The person objected - there are thousands of stocks! To which Buffett replied, "Start with the A's". I think Buffett's point was: if you want to pick the best companies, it helps to understand how they compare with other companies. The more companies you know and understand, the better decisions you can make.

Writing is a skill. But we sell our writing in a market - an industry. The more thoroughly we understand that market, the easier it will become to find the perfect match for our articles, and to propose articles that would be the perfect match for specific publications.

3. If your writing is good, then it's a numbers game - put out lots of submissions. Trying to move up from making a partial living to making a full living, Perkins upped his submissions from an average of 2.5 per day to 15 per day (assuming a five day work week). It worked!

4. Query big, well-paying publications first.

5. Don't put hours into an article until you know someone wants it. Query first.

6. Know the publication, giving editors what they want, when they want it, how they want it. You know this by studying their guidelines for submission and reading their publications.

Leftover Questions

I've written article for magazines, but have never done extensive article submission. Do most magazines accept multiple submissions? I suppose that since Perkins recommends hitting the big publications first, they he's giving them a week or a month to respond before submitting the proposal to lesser publications. How long do you give the major publication? And if there are 10 lesser publications, do you send out those 10 at the same time? What if more than one wants it? Do you write two similar, but different articles?

If you have answers or suggestions, please let me know.

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