Writing is a very strange profession to be a part of. It's not as stable as most other jobs, particularly if you are freelance, fighting for the seemingly diminishing slots within magazines. But then there's something that is special and unique about writing that means I could no sooner give it up than I could breathing. And I know a lot of writers feel the same.
There comes a time in most writers' lives where we must question whether our efforts at writing are worth it. Particularly when we have had rejection after rejection or editors just aren't answering our e-mails, it can seem as though we are banging our heads on a brick wall all of the time.
No-one asks us to write. We write because we want to. We write because we have something to say. We write because we want to see our words in print and get paid for our work. So, even when we do get rejections and are sitting at the bottom of a very deep publication famine period, we can't just sit there, waiting for someone to throw us a rope ladder and drag us out - it's not going to happen any time soon.
What we need is to begin that long and difficult climb back to the top to at least reach the table where the publication feast is taking place. If we don't keep researching our markets, trying to come up with fresh and enticing ideas and pitching them then the longer we will stay in publishing famine. The sooner we get out there, pitching and conversing with editors, the sooner we will increase our chances of publication. It's as simple as that. Yes there is stiff competition out there and more writers are chasing fewer commissions, but why shouldn't it be you who gets that commission?
There are several things you can do to increase your chances and here are some tips that have helped me:
1. Know your market - readership, adverts, reader letters, editor's likes and dislikes for their magazine, word length, style, pace and tone of articles the magazine carries. If you don't research your potential markets, your resulting pitch will show this, reducing the likelihood of a favourable response from editors.
2. Know yourself as a writer - what are your interests? What fascinates you and floats your boat? Writing about something you know well and that inspires you will show through in your pitch and writing - something editors like to see when commissioning: enthusiasm and knowledge of the topic.
3. Push the boundaries: Make a list of the topics you think you can't write about and then write about them. Research the topic and potential markets who might like an article on this topic. If you're not an expert on it then find someone who is and interview them. This will bring credence to your pitch and your piece. Don't be afraid to try something new and open up your writing repertoire.
4. Don't make promises you can't keep. Yes you should produce a pitch that promises an all singing and all dancing article that will excite the editor and send them scrabbling to commission your piece. The aim is to make your pitch stand out from the rest - but, if you then fail to deliver do you think that editor will commission you again? Not likely.
5. Keep the pitches flowing. If one editor says no, find another. If you stop, it can be very difficult to get yourself in motion again. Use the momentum of your stream of ideas to keep you pitching - you never know if your next pitch will be the one to make it through. I once sent pitch after pitch to a well-known writing magazine - everyone of them was rejected until I sent my umpteenth attempt. The editor actually used the words that my persistence had paid off and he was commissioning my article. So it does pay to keep trying. Either the pitch the editor accepted was brilliant or they were so fed up of my bombardment that they gave me the commission to shut me up!
Having now had many articles published I am constantly on the lookout for potential new markets and adapting my writing style to the needs and preferences of each editor. Writers need to seriously think about doing this if they are to increase their output, commissions and writing portfolio. Don't be afraid to e-mail the editor of that magazine you've not tried to write for before. Editors need good copy if their magazine is to stay afloat, ahead of its competitors. Editors need a continual supply of material to fill their pages just as much as writers need to be commissioned to write what the editors need.
So get down to your nearest newsagent and get researching! Your writing and magazine editors will thank you for it.