PUTTING YOURSELF OUT THERE
When it comes to submitting your work to print or online publications, the basic rules are the same, whether you are writing a full length novel or a magazine article. The most important rule is KNOW YOUR MARKET. There are literally tens of thousands of different magazines and book markets out there, covering every topic imaginable. So you must make certain that the topic of your article, story, blog, essay or any piece of work you intend to submit is the perfect fit for that publication.
This page is all about the more traditional methods of getting published, ie, selling your work in a pre-determined marketplace. Self-publishing is a different stack of pancakes altogether but we will talk more about that on the Juicy Creative Stuff page.
Putting yourself out there involves some research, so here are some tips on where to start:
- Find relevant magazines. Obviously if you want to write, say, a travel piece then search for travel magazines, either online or at your newsagency or bookstore. Read through a few and get a feel for their style, and the types of articles they publish. Above all, try to be fresh and original in your writing style and choice of subject matter, and it’s even better if you’ve experienced what you’re writing about, and have photos to go with your piece – say for example Bed and Breakfasts in Budapest. Review the contributor guidelines, and make sure you stick to them.
- Do your homework. It’s pointless pitching an idea for an article on a topic that may have been covered recently. Be aware that some topics are overdone, but if you can take a well-worn topic and write about it from a truly different angle, then go ahead.
- Send a query letter. Once you have established which magazine you intend to contribute to, it’s always best to with your pitch your piece with a query letter. This is your golden chance to make an impression on an editor (or agent if you are looking for one). Keep it short and precise, and use a persuasive tone to show the editor why your article would be perfect for their publication. Here, at Freelance Writing are some examples of query letters that worked. (This one of my favourite websites and contains a wealth of information for freelancers).
- Find out how much they pay. Most publications will give a good idea of their pay scale, so if you are writing specifically to make money, you can weigh up whether the time spent versus remuneration is worth it to you. You will also need to establish what rights the publication will want you to sign over – for example First Print Rights, First Electronic Rights, First Serial Rights, Exclusive Rights etc. These vary from country to country, so make sure you are clear on what you are offering, as this often influences how much you will be paid.
All Indie Writers is a great resource website, listing scores of writer’s markets with good detailed descriptions of what they want, how much they pay, and word counts. It’s free to browse, but it only deals with American publications.
Ralan.com is a website which lists book publisher markets
Poets & Writers has a small presses database with comprehensive listing of submission guidelines, reading periods and formats.
The Writer magazine will give you thousands of market listings for free if you subscribe
Duotrope is a terrific writer’s resource. You do have to pay an annual subscription, but you can start with a free trial.
DON’T BE SCARED, BUT BE PREPARED
Being a writer is an enormous test of character, fortitude, determination and perseverance. No matter how hard you work and how thoroughly you think you have done your research, every writer has to prepare for rejection. The best way to steel yourself against the inevitable rejection letter…or worse still, complete lack of acknowledgement is to not take it personally. Some of the world’s best selling authors had to deal with multiple rejections but it didn’t stop them becoming world famous and prolific. Agatha Christie, J.K. Rowling, J.D Salinger, and Stephen King just to name a few. So don’t be discouraged…these authors weren’t.
Dr. Seuss: “Too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling,” said a rejection letter sent to him. His books have made 300 million sales and he is considered the 9th best-selling fiction author of all time
C.S. Lewis: Years of rejection did nothing to weaken his resolve, and instead only made him more determined to succeed. When he eventually landed a publishing deal, the demand for his fiction became so high that his Chronicles of Narnia have been translated into over 47 languages, and have sold over 100 million copies.
Dan Brown: His rejection letter from one publisher said “It is so badly written.” He went on to re-submit to Doubleday instead and The Da Vinci Code went on to sell over 80 million copies.
Anne Frank: Her rejection letter read, “The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level.” This was probably the most misguided literary critique in history. With a further 15 rejections, eventually, Doubleday brought the translation to the world, and The Diary of Anne Frank sold over 25 million copies.