How do you get published? Or, perhaps more to the point: How do you get people to pay you money for your writing? These are questions I hear a lot from writers who are new to the freelancing game and looking to write for magazines and websites. While I would love to help everyone find the answers to these questions, one of the first things you should know about freelancing and writing in general is that you have to be able to find your own work. But how?
First of all, what do you write about? What’s your niche or focus? Do you write about home-woven handicrafts, or are you a hard news hound? Figure out what you like to write about, and what you’re good at writing about, and make a short list of topics you’d be able to cover on a moment’s notice.
Research, Research and More Research
Once you’ve got some topics in mind, get online and start Googling. Find publications that fit with your specialties and note their contact information, as well as any specific submission guidelines. Grab a copy of the Writer’s Market for your genre and start flipping through it until you find something that piques your interest or pertains to your area of expertise. Then, start pitching.
What’s a pitch? It’s a short email that communicates the basic kernel of your story idea to the editor who will potentially buy it. Always follow the rule of Keep It Simple, and make sure your pitch is short and to the point.
Send out a set number of pitches every day. Start with one or two and work your way up. Keep track of where you’ve sent your pitches so that you can follow up with editors after a reasonable amount of time. (Note that a “reasonable” amount of time may vary, but if your pitch is very timely, you’ll want to hear back sooner rather than later. If you haven’t heard anything in 30 days, politely inquire to see if the editor received your email.)
Even if your pitch is rejected, be sure to send it out to other publications; sometimes it may just be bad timing, so don’t give up on your ideas. Be sure to keep things in motion at all times.
When you receive the go-ahead on a pitch, get to work! You may need to interview subjects or do more research on the topic, so get started early and deliver the piece ahead of schedule to really wow your editors and build a solid partnership for future assignments.
Getting published isn’t rocket science; it just requires ordinary actions, performed consistently, to achieve the desired results.
A Writing Success Cheat-Sheet
While these certainly aren’t the only places I regularly check for writing tips and potential jobs, these are some of the best places to start. Here are the top three places I find helpful on a regular basis, as a kind of cheat-sheet for writing success:
- The Writer Magazine — A great magazine (in actual paper format, delivered by the post office!) for writers of all genres. Published monthly, you’ll find lots of great tips for everything from how to write in a certain style to how to get your work published to markets you might want to explore. If you subscribe to the magazine, you’ll also get access to web-exclusive articles, which are often geared towards writing for Internet publications, rather than print pubs.
- MediaBistro — While I’m opposed to the fact that they advertise Suite101 on their job boards (along with a bunch of non-writing jobs for various media companies), they do have a lot of listings here that are reputable, and a lot of high-profile media outlets post jobs here. You can sign up for free and get tons of newsletters from them, if you so desire, or join their AvantGuild membership and get extras like health care coverage (a big plus for Americans), discounts on writing-related services, the ability to post your CV and a media profile on their site, and access to their excellent “How to Pitch” articles that will help you figure out how to pitch to specific media outlets that are particularly challenging. This site is extremely helpful and totally worth the $55 US it costs for a one-year subscription.
- Writers Weekly — Sign up for this free e-newsletter and get job postings, writing tips, publishing advice and even free e-book recommendations in your inbox on a weekly basis. The woman who runs this newsletter, Angela Hoy, also runs an e-book publishing company called Book Locker, which publishes books on the subject of writing from every angle imaginable, so you’ll also receive ads for her e-books and quarterly writing contests, which you may find helpful as well.
Finally, although my post about how to become a successful writer in 3 easy steps is a bit tongue-in-cheek, writing is really all about sitting your butt in a chair and writing. If you’re writing on a daily basis, you’re bound to improve, so sit down and get to it!