Tips and Tools for Serious Writers. Time to get serious about your writing career You won’t be able to quit work and write, but you might find a grant to make your writing goals easier. Or a crowdfunding opportunity to fund your project. Find serious contests, too.
Feel like you’re out of ideas to pitch the magazines you know? Then find new magazines. There are more magazines out there than you can imagine. Despite what you may have heard, new titles continue to evolve (over 130 in 2017 alone, Statista reports).
You’ve dog-eared your copy of The Writer’s Market, but keep in mind it does not list every magazine – just ones willing to fill out its listing form. It tends to be strong in consumer mags, not in online magazines, trades, or custom pubs. New titles may take years to be included.
In the meanwhile with a bit of sleuthing, you can turn up many fresh magazine titles.
1. Check for a Portal
Seek portals with a comprehensive list of titles. Faves of mine including Tradepub.com for trade publications – these are industry-specific magazines, such as Ad Age for advertising execs, or Variety for showbiz people. Or check out the manufacturing category for low-glamour titles that get fewer pitches. Examples include Modern Materials Handling and Industrial Heating. Due to their more specialized target audiences, trades tend to pay well.
Another little-known but great-paying type of glossy are company magazines, known in the mag trade as custom pubs. The best-known of these is Costco Connection magazine, along with all the airlines’ in-flight mags, but there are more. Find more at the Custom Content Council’s site with its handy members’ directory search tab to sort by industry topic.
2. Get Organized
Nonprofit organizations and professional associations should be your next stop. Many organizations create a magazine for their members with few people outside the group knowing about it. A prime example would be Stores Magazine, by the National Retail Federation.
Make a sale by picking up on an industry trend they haven’t reported yet – or revisit a big piece of industry news of five to ten years back and see whether predictions came true.
3. Read Magazine News
The magazine industry itself has trade pubs and organizations. Scope out announcements of new titles and editor changes by reading FOLIO or Editor & Publisher). The Association of Magazine Media puts out an annual Factbook chock-full of interesting magazine-trend info. Learn which categories of magazines are on the rise, and which aren’t worth your time. These sites also crank out news updates. Subscribe and use them as your road map to find even more magazines.
4. Go Back to School
Many top universities have alumni mags for each college (check out Harvard Medical School’s mag,, for instance), along with one for the whole institution. Some also produce daily bulletin content online about their grads, professors, and programs.
Start with your alma mater and higher-education institutions based in your town. Get your hands-on copies or read online editions. Profiling interesting grads is an easy way to break in.
5. Keep Your Eyes Peeled
Do you ever go to a doctor or therapist’s office without scanning their magazine rack? How about the gym, or the grocery store? Many businesses put out magazines for customers that you won’t find in a bookstore, so keep your eyes peeled.
Regional chains especially stand out with customer magazines. Great examples here include Tractor Supply Co.’s Out Here magazine, and PCC Market’s Sound Consumer.
6. The List You Want Already Exists
My big tip: Search online for a list. Google something along the lines of “Top 100 X Type of Magazines.” I recently turned up a fascinating collection under the search “top 100 magazines of 2018” in the form of a 100 Best Independent Magazines roundup from shopping site InsideHook. Many such lists will combine physical and digital magazines, cluing you in on more online markets.
7. Think Digital
Many former print-only magazines have become multi-media powerhouses. Other magazines thrive entirely online. The Association of Magazine Media Factbook notes that all-digital WebMD Magazine and Allrecipes rank in the Top 10 ‘magazines’ today.
Some magazines are mobile-Web stars. Among the fast-growers online are underdogs including Dirt Rider, In-Fishermen, home-design title Veranda, and outdoorsy Backpacker.
To sum up: Whether you crave a physical-mag byline or just want to find the highest-paying article markets, a wide world of new magazines is waiting to be discovered, with only an extra bit of quick research.
BIO:Carol Tice’s Her most recent magazine article was for Delta Sky. She invites Hope’s readers to come to her award-winning site at Make a Living Writing.
Part of the reason so many people want to write full-time is to escape the responsibilities of the day job, the commute, and all the baggage that comes with working for someone else. Truth is, writing full-time is not all it’s cracked up to be.
You experience the pressure of juggling when you have a day job and then attempt to write at night, during lunch, or on weekends. If you wrote full-time life would be so much less stressful, or so you think.
But writing full-time means you also have to squeeze writing into your day, because once you become your own boss, you are faced with:
1) estimated taxes, more serious bookkeeping, and administrative duties consuming 10 to 20 percent of your day;
2) marketing, which consumes a minimum of 20 percent of your day;
3) researching business techniques, keeping up with the industry, learning how to publish differently, vetting publishers/agents/clients – consuming 10 to 20 percent of your day if not more.
Suddenly you realize most of your day is still committed to items you don’t enjoy doing . . . just like when you worked the day job.
As a full-time writer, I cannot keep up with the changes in freelancing, blogging, podcasting, publishing, and marketing. As hard as I try, I end the day a little frustrated, feeling like I lag behind so many others.
The truth is, you cannot learn it all nor do it all. You write what you like, and you publish the best you can. You market intelligently instead of just checking it off your to-do list. But you cannot be like all the other writers out there. They are also ignoring aspects of the profession, because they, too, cannot work everything into their day.
You have to remember to keep this profession fun. When it ceases to be enjoyable, stop and rethink what you are doing. Better to work the full-time day job and enjoy your writing at night than be dragged into a full-time writing business and have it suck the life out of your joy.
A reader asked me to address this topic. She had an article to query to publications and didn’t want to wait for one answer at a time. Could she pitch to several markets at once, she asked. The answer isn’t a simple Yes or No. It’s actually Yes AND No. And I have my own personal anecdote for this lesson.
Back in my earlier freelance days, I proposed articles on writers and grants to Writer’s Digest as well as The Writer. Each was a unique pitch, written differently, but on the same subject. I’d just gone full time as a freelancer and knew the odds of both nationally-recognized magazines accepting my pieces was slim to none. One of the publications accepted within a month but never stated when the story would come out. The other didn’t get in touch for almost a year but told me when the article would appear.
They both came out in the same month. I received a contributor’s copy feeling completely ecstatic. Then I opened the other envelope in the mail and saw where the other publication sent me their contributor’s copy. The thrill of opening one was replaced with dread and despair. Sure enough, one of the editors contacted me seething. The other never said a word. I was afraid to pitch either of them for years.
When is it okay to pitch the same article to different publications?
1) When the publications are not in a competing market – OR –
2) When you mention in the query that you have also pitched the piece elsewhere.
For instance, if you pitch a story on how to maintain grass in a cemetery (yes, I actually published that piece), it can be simultaneously pitched to a turfgrass magazine and a genealogy magazine since they are not competing publications. However, when one accepts, it behooves you to let the other know. Sure, they may kill your piece, but you don’t want to burn the bridge to future gigs. Even if you write completely different articles, if they are about the same topic consider them too similar to pitch to competing markets, but understand that noncompeting markets may not care, with both accepting your piece.
And while we’re talking freelancing, I want to mention a remarkable guide book on becoming a freelance writer. Writer’s Digest Guide to Magazine Article Writing is your practical guide to selling pitches, crafting strong articles, and earning more bylines. It even tells you how to use freelance writing to further your novel career.
I stand solidly behind this book, written by Kerrie Flanagan. For those of you who remember Jenna Glatzer when she was a freelancer and the guru of that arena, and her guideline from 2004, you’ll embrace this one as its heir apparent. I cannot say enough good about the guidance in this book. It’s a keeper on my shelf, and I don’t keep many.
Entering writing contests is great practice for writing, editing, revising and submitting your work, whether it is creative nonfiction or flash or longer fiction. The more awards you can obtain, the better it looks on your resume and makes you more attractive when applying for specific writing gigs and searching for a literary agent. Having won several different awards for my work over the years, I’ve developed three tips for finding success with writing contests.
Select the right contest for your work. There are so many contests out there, it’s important to do your research when deciding where to submit your work. Are you familiar with the publication or website offering the contest? Are the entry fees reasonable? I personally don’t enter contests where the entry fee is more than $30, but that’s a personal choice. Research previous winning stories to get a feel for what the contest is looking for.
When I entered the Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Awards last year, I looked over the categories and decided I wanted to use the contest as an opportunity to create two new short stories—one a suspense/thriller and one in the young adult category. I read back through several years’ winners for the suspense category and then got to work. Admittedly, I didn’t research the young adult category quite as much. My story, “The Polaroid,” won first place in the 2017 Popular Fiction Awards suspense category. The young adult story didn’t go anywhere, so I filed it away.
Make your submission unique. Follow the guidelines for stories to the letter. If there’s a prompt, follow it and stay within the requested word count. Think of a unique angle for a submission. As a judge for the WOW! Women on Writing quarterly flash fiction contest, I read through a lot of preliminary submissions. One subject we see a lot are stories that focus on dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease or the disintegration of marriages. So, if you are going to write about those topics, take unique angles on them, such as sharing the story from the perspective of a neighbor or from the mind of the person with the illness, or giving a failing marriage short story a twist ending the reader isn’t expecting.
Use contests to find a home for work you’ve already produced. As I mentioned earlier, I had written a young adult story for the WD Popular Fiction Awards that didn’t place. A few months later I came across another writing contest opportunity from the Women’s National Book Association. I thought the story, titled “The Name You’re Not Supposed to Call Women,” would be a good fit for this particular contest. I read through a few of the previous winners and submitted my entry. Within two months I received notification that the story won Honorable Mention in the 2018 WNBA Writing Contest Young Adult Category. I was glad that I hadn’t let the story languish and was able to find it a home in this particular contest, giving me another great credit for my resume.
Writing short stories has helped breathe new life into my writing. There are also plenty of creative nonfiction contests out there, including one that WOW! Women on Writing holds each quarter. Try your hand at submitting using these tips and you may be surprised by the outcome (and the contest prizes aren’t too bad, either!)
BIO: Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer who also works as a marketing director for a nonprofit theatre company. She has received accolades for magazine writing, flash and longer-length fiction and is researching literary agents for her contemporary young adult novel. Renee also blogs for WOW! Women on Writing. Visit her website at FinishedPages.com.
When I found the announcement for a weekend writing retreat in Scotland in the British online Writing Magazine, I began to think how I could take a writing course in real life, not only online—and also make my dream of visiting Scotland come true. With two months lead time, I sent in the online application to Helen Walters, an English short-story writer now established in a village in the highlands of Scotland. The answer was positive! The October workshop would include three nights and all meals with sessions from Friday to Sunday evening, for the equivalent of $345. Each participant sent in a short story under 2,000 words ahead of their arrival, which would be critiqued one-on-one by Helen during the workshop.
When I wrote my Scottish friend Madge to see if I could visit her the week after the workshop, she invited me for five days following the retreat. Doubly motivated, given that I’d be financing my own trip entirely, I got an early-bird fare for a return flight from where I live (in the country of Georgia) for approximately $400, so my total basic expenses would amount to $745 for a week including the retreat and an authentic visit to Scotland!
Helen’s home in the Highlands has been turned into a retreat on the Black Isle, and is shared with her husband, crime writer Mike Walters – who was the skilled cook for our group. When I arrived and entered the cozy living room, the other participants were already relaxing, glass in hand. My accent quickly gave me away and one woman exclaimed, “You came all this way?” However, the workshop showed we had all come for most of the same reasons. My own goal was to learn about which markets are likely to buy the kind of short stories I like to write, but I discovered much more.
Helen is an outgoing and encouraging teacher — we spent group sessions sharing how we get story ideas (great fun exercises!); turning ideas into stories; creating characters (just a few are needed in short stories); as well as rhythm, theme and the mood of the narrative. During the planned sessions we faced common challenges like finishing a story (it seems this is a frequent predicament), PoV, flashback and setting. We had plenty of time for writing alone too.
Helen expertly pointed out which markets are more likely to take an interest in our work. For example women’s magazines tend to like upbeat and positive themes, while anthologies might be interested in the “darker” stories some of the participants preferred writing.
My visit to Scotland brought many experiences, ideas and more—it helped me create a much more vibrant relationship with my writing. I realize I don’t have to remain glued to any PoV, setting or style. This experience opened Pandora’s box – I am re-writing a short story with more humor in the twist, and already have two more ideas. For other writers I recommend looking up retreats offered at reasonable prices, in places you would like to visit. Your sharpened senses will begin to pick out new details for stories around you in the new settings—for me it was the elderly man in the shabby brown tweed coat perusing a shelf in a village second-hand store, one hand in his pocket and the other taking a book. He’s sure to appear in a story himself.
BIO – Born in San Francisco, with a childhood in Trieste, Italy, Mary Ellen Chatwin graduated from high school and the University of Alabama with a BA in English literature. From the southern US, Mary Ellen moved to Switzerland with her husband and young children, where she worked as Editorial Assistant for Berlitz travel guides. She studied social anthropology and received her PhD from the University of Basel for her research on “foodways” – social drinking traditions and social change in the country of Georgia, the country in the former Soviet Union. She has lived in Tbilisi for two decades, where she worked for international organizations in Georgia and neighboring countries in the fields of child protection, environment and social policy. She has lectured on food anthropology and social science research, and published nonfiction articles in these fields. Today Mary Ellen works as editor for cultural publications. She writes fiction, including short stories and poetry. Her first completed novel for middle grades is in the submission stage, titled Fly the Winds Home.
Here’s an optimistic thought: writing is a necessary part of every business. You read that right. Every business – big and small – has the need for written language.
More good news: most businesses don’t have a full-time or even part-time writer on staff. Hint: here’s where you come in.
Local businesses need your skills. They just don’t know it yet. It’s up to you to tell them.
Identifying potential clients
First you have to find them. Take a walk or a drive and make a note of locally-owned businesses in your town and the writing needs they might have. Browse the Yellow Pages online at yp.com. Identify potential clients by joining the chamber of commerce. Local rotary clubs also give you access to small business owners. (I’ve found small businesses better targets than large businesses, which are more likely to have in-house writers.)
Compiling your information
Once you’ve identified potential businesses, it’s time to give them something – for free. I’m not advocating you work for free. Instead, put together a brochure or letter that includes helpful writing-related information: how email newsletters benefit businesses, ways to generate social media content or writing for your target audience.
Then remind them of your skills and availability. Use a bulleted list to show the plethora of writing tasks you can take off their shoulders. Be sure to include website, social media and blog entries along with brochures, letters, press releases, newsletters, ad copy, etc.
Include contact options – email, website, social media and phone number. Make communicating with you convenient for them.
End your piece with a thank you. It’s just courteous and polite.
Method of contact
You can reach out in a number of ways, depending on the business. Start by compiling email addresses. You may only have a few at first but the list will grow over time.
Social media is another way to keep in touch with potential clients. Ditto that for your website.
I also suggest utilizing the old-fashioned way: snail mail. This isn’t a mass mailing. You want to choose a dozen, perhaps two dozen businesses to target. Snail mail provides prospective clients with something physical to hold – and hopefully keep – until they have the need to contact you.
Wait about three months and follow-up with a similar message. Repeat after another three months. Think quarterly contact. You want to establish yourself as a consistent presence, but not a nuisance. Potential clients aren’t going to need your services immediately, but they will eventually. When they do, whom will they think of? The nice writer who’s been sending free and helpful information.
Consider doing pro bono work for a charitable organization that can give you free press. I do this for a local foundation that has a quarterly newsletter where my logo is printed in every issue.
I’ve been utilizing this technique for years and have worked on a variety of jobs for a variety of businesses:
• Coffee shop – menu writing
• Insurance company – quarterly newsletter
• Locally-owned bank – ad copy
• School district – referendum campaign
• Gift shop – catalog descriptions
• Medical clinic – ghostwriting a monthly medical column
• Library – website copy
• Grocery store – social media presence
• Home builder – sales brochures
• Not-for-profit organization – annual report
• Local charity – letter to potential donors
• Bed and breakfast – radio ads
• Mayoral candidate – door hangers and press releases
• Legal firm – blog posts
And the list goes on.
These were all paying gigs. I’ve found once a business is aware of your skills and the convenience you provide they’re likely to hire you again for future jobs. There’s another optimistic thought.
Bio: Jill Pertler writes for businesses as a partner of the design company, Marketing X Design. She is an award-winning syndicated columnist of “Slices of Life,” published playwright, author of “The Do-It-Yourselfer’s Guide to Self-Syndication” and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Her business writing feeds the checkbook. Her columns and plays feed her soul. https://www.marketingxdesign.com/
If you write for children or young adults, you probably already know that school visits can be an excellent way to supplement your income, get to know your audience, and introduce new readers to your books. But did you know that organizing school visits in partnership with your local independent bookstore can make the experience even easier and more productive? Here are four reasons to consider partnering with your local indie.
1. Especially if you’ve moved recently or are newly published, you might not have personal connections with the schools and educators in your community. Local bookstores often have existing partnerships with schools, and you can benefit from those connections when you work with a bookstore on organizing your visit. Bookstores can introduce you to teachers, librarians, and parent leaders, and they’re likely to know which schools or even classes might be the best fit for you and your books. This is particularly helpful if you live in an urban area with a lot of different schools nearby.
2. If you’re visiting a school, you’ll want to give students and teachers a way to buy your books, but the purchasing process can be complicated. When you’re working in partnership with a bookstore, the store will likely handle a lot of the legwork for you, including coordinating order forms, getting books from the publisher and transporting them to the school, and processing payment. In many cases they will also promote your books to the school and do their best to make sure sales are high. Different stores have different policies, but most will be able to make the sales process much easier for you. This applies even if your books are self-published; many stores are still willing to coordinate sales of self-published books in exchange for a share of the revenue.
3. Schools are chaotic places with a lot of moving parts, and sometimes handling logistics can be as challenging as presenting to students. Many bookstores will send a representative to the school on the day of your visit to help out with all the little details, from troubleshooting tech to assisting you with signing and personalizing books. This leaves you free to focus on your biggest fans—the kids!
4. Partnering with a bookstore on school visits is also a great way to build a relationship with the store itself, which might lead to in-store events in the future. As an added bonus, some school events will include more than one children’s author, which means you might get to know some wonderful new colleagues in the process.
Lots of independent bookstores around the country have school visit programs, and even those that don’t might be glad to develop one in partnership with you. If you’re interested in visiting schools through a bookstore, it’s always a good idea to send the store an introduction about you, your books, and what your presentation can offer a school. Know that some stores have limited resources and might not be able to work with you right away, but chances are they’ll still be happy to keep your contact info on hand. To find a store near you, check out indiebound.org.
Hannah Sheldon-Dean is a writer, editor, and educator specializing in publications for children and young adults. She is the author of several licensed activity books with Penguin Random House, with additional works in progress. Hannah also has a background in education policy and social work and has worked extensively in socio-emotional and literacy programming for young people, most recently as the manager of school partnership programs at Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn, New York. She received an MSW from New York University and a BA in Literary Arts and Education Policy from Brown University. Learn more about her work at www.hannahsheldon-dean.com.
I’m grateful to be a freelance writer and making a living from something I love. In fact, I’m so grateful that I sometimes sell myself short and accept less pay than what my writing is worth. So how did I begin to expect and receive fair pay and even upsell my services?
In her Forbes article, “How to Get Paid What You’re Worth,” Liz Ryan writes “…you will have to negotiate, and you’ll also have to say ‘No’ to the wrong opportunities.” Saying “no” to some projects opens doors to better pay.
Here are a few tips to help you upsell your writing.
1. Emphasize relevant credentials and experience.
I selectively combine both direct and indirect experiences to apply for a gig. For example, if I’m proposing a piece on Mideast refugees, I explain why my previous writing as well as my Middle East living experience qualifies me as the best writer for top pay.
2. Relate your query to the publication’s specific need or growth potential.
Your sailing expertise may seem detached from a prepper blog, but you could explain how preparing for the unexpected is an essential skill that can benefit preppers using water routes during an apocalyptic event. Craft your query to emphasize water escape preparations as a new niche topic for the publication.
3. Analyze client’s job description to counter-offer services that better meet the need.
Twice last year I was asked by clients for an estimate on specific writing services. The first was a sizable work involving organization of notes, orchestrating interviews, and researching industry facts. I was advised to quote $15,000, but I believed the project was worth thousands more. I would forego it if I couldn’t get my price because of the range and depth of work. Well, I got my price. Not only that, but the client offered additional pay two or three times. I did not need more, because I had received a fair price to start.
Another client requested a high-level manuscript review, but then also mentioned comment balloons and line edits. I explained the difference and advised her that if she wanted detailed feedback rather than a summary, she should consider the line edit. She happily paid several hundred dollars more.
4. Follow up for additional projects.
Several previous clients indicated they might have additional work down the road. I politely waited a year or so, and then contacted them to follow up. Most were ready to assign new projects, while one had postponed the idea. My initiative paid off, sometimes more than once as additional projects were developed.
5. Ask high and accept lower at a fair rate.
Some projects have more bargaining flexibility than others. When feasible, consider taking the risk to ask a higher price, and then settle for a lesser amount that will meet your project expectations. However, keep in mind that you may risk losing the project in these situations. In fact, that happened to me recently. I refused a ghostwriting book project that was priced several thousand dollars lower than the work merited and lost the deal. No regrets!
As a writer, you set the bar for acceptable pay. Don’t settle for less than you deserve and look for opportunities to upsell your services.
BIO – Debra Johanyak is a freelance writer and editor living in northeast Ohio. In addition to her memoir Behind the Veil (U of Akron Press 2007), her most recent book is Say What You Really Mean (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014). Debra’s articles appear in publications like Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education, and she has published literary fiction. Her series of community dramas “In the Company of Extraordinary Women” to commemorate Women’s History Month featured women of historic prominence. She loves local history and woodland hikes with family. https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/83438.Debra_Johanyak