Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Is your writing worth it?

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.

Julie xx


  1. I love number 3 and I am going to give it a whirl!

    Thank you for sharing Julie, it is tough out there, but keep plugging!

  2. Hi, Maria. How are you?! Let me know how you get on. I will keep on plugging - I will!

    Good luck
    Julie xx

    1. I'm good Julie, had a two month break from writing as I'd been feeling jaded, its been a tough year. I was diagnosed with adult onset asthma late last year after lots of health issues, and constantly feeling dreadful.

      You just don't realise how much these things affect everyday life as well as your writing. I am in a much better place now, and still want to try my hand at the article market.

      I made a list of all my interests, it was a lot bigger than I thought it would be, and I've also picked up some recent issues of magazines I thought I might pitch ideas to. Now I need to set aside an hour to brainstorm some ideas!

  3. Sorry to hear about your asthma diagnosis and other health problems - that's rough. Glad you're feeling more your self now and can get pitching! Julie xx

  4. Hi Julie,

    May I pick you brain please? When pitching an idea, what is the best way to go about it? How much information should I include, and how do I describe side bars? Should I mention I can provide images at this point?

    I appreciate you are busy yourself, so if you know of a good book on writing articles that will answer my questions, please point me there instead.

    Thank you :-)

  5. Hi, Maria - no problem.

    Pitch is usually 2 - 3 short paragraphs long. Always mention that you can provide good quality images at the resolution/size they require and I would mention side bars or top tips bars, etc.,if you think the article warrants them.

    Basically, I make sure the first paragraph gives the editor a good indication of what the article is about - this is your hook paragraph and if you don't grab the editor's attention here, they might not read on.

    The middle paragraph gives a brief outline of what the article will contain (can use subheadings for clarification) and the kind of experts/evidence you have to give the article some credence and professionalism.

    The last paragraph is to give the editor an idea of your relevant experience - why you can write the article and your contact details. If you can include your website/blog address where some samples of your previously published work can be found, all the better.

    I'll have a look for some book titles that might help you too. Our friend Simon Whaley's blog would be a good port of call too.

    Good luck

    Julie xx

    1. Thank you Julie, I appreciate you taking the time to reply, and yes, Simon's blog is great!

      I do subscribe, and enjoy his posts. I have also got his book 'The Positively Productive Writer' which is fantastic.

      I'd love some suggestions for other books, particularly focused on non-fiction writing, but only if you have time.

      Off to pen a few readers letters now... :-)

  6. The books I've been looking at recently on article writing were from the library and they are: Get Your Articles Published ISBN 978-1-444-10317-5. It's from the Teach Yourself range of books by Lesley Bowen & Ann Gawthorpe 2010. There's some cracking advice in that.

    Or there's Writing Short Stories and Articles by Adele Ramet, How to Books ISBN 1-85703-740-5, 2001.

    There's also a little bit in Jane Wenham-Jones' book Wannabe a writer?

    Julie xx

  7. Thank you Julie, I've noted them down and will look them up, and let you know how I get on. I also have Jane's book. X