Friday, 29 November 2013

Happy New Year!

No, it's alright. I haven't gone mad (well maybe a little). It's at this time of year that a writers' mind tends to wander down memory lane and have a look about what they have achieved in their writing year. It's time, before the whirlwind that is Christmas sets in, to take stock of what you've done as a writer and to look forward to where you want to go.

It doesn't need to be done in any depth - just a cursory glance at your out put and in put - what percentage of articles that you pitch actually become commissioned? What percentage of those actually make it to publication? Could you be doing something to up your output and publications?

There are always ways we can try and improve our writing success. Yes, much of that will be down to the writing time we have, our motivation levels and general life (it does have a tendency to get in the way). But, as writers, our job is rise above all of life's little irritants and frustrations and get on with writing in what little time we might have.

So, while the wind howls outside and the rain (or snow) falls, it's time to get your writing records out and take a look at where you stand, where you want to get to and what steps you need to take to get there. Small steps are fine! As long as they are travelling in the right direction.

Happy stock taking!
Julie xx

Friday, 15 November 2013

The Curse of The In-House Staff Writer

I don't know if you've noticed, but increasingly, when I look through potential magazines for my article pitches, I see there seems to be an alarming number of such magazines who only seem to use their own staff writers with minimal or no scope for free lance contributions. So where does that leave the freelance?

Is it still worth pitching to them on the off chance that they might take you up on it? Or do you leave yourself wide open to, at best being ignored completely or getting a polite decline, or, at worst, see your article idea written by a staff writer in the magazine you pitched it to!

Now, there's no way of proving that they 'stole' your article. There is no copyright in ideas and it could be the reason you didn't hear back from the editor was because they'd already got the topic you pitched covered. The only reasonable and professional thing you can do in the case of a magazine that has the staff writers' names on all of their articles is to move on and find another magazine that welcomes freelance contributions.

You could also save yourself and the editor of such a magazine a lot of wasted time by actually contacting them first - by phone is ideal, if you can get a number, as it's not so easy to avoid a phone call as it is to ignore an e-mail - and ask them if they are open to freelance submissions. Then you'll have your answer and know either not to bother or to pitch.

It's always worth approaching the editors with your intention to pitch article ideas as you never know if they'll say yes or no. Maybe a staff writer is off and they need someone to cover, or perhaps content is a little light for a couple of issues and you can help them out. Maybe you are an expert in something topical and their staff writers aren't and the piece would be better written by you. Who knows? So don't be afraid to try but do move on if it's an outright no. Remember to keep checking periodically as editor's change, staff writers leave and there may be openings in the future.

Happy writing

Friday, 1 November 2013

Head Above the Parapet

How do you write your pitch or article so that it stands out above the thousands of others that are also doing the rounds trying to grab the attention of the stressed and snowed under editor? It can be hard to remain positive and motivated when you know there are thousands of writers who, just like you, are fighting for those all important and highly coveted publication slots - but, with a bit of thought, some inspiration and thinking outside of the box, it can be and should be you who makes it through. Why shouldn't it be?

The first thing I'd say is to KNOW YOUR MARKET. The importance of this cannot be stressed enough. This is closely followed by KNOW WHICH EDITOR TO SEND IT TO. It's no good sending an editor of a magazine a pitch that shows them that a) it's a generic round robin e-mail sent to all of their rival magazines too or b) it shows them that you haven't bothered to read their magazine or have read it but have missed the point. Would you reply to someone who got your name wrong or who didn't know who you were? They don't like it and they won't commission you. So, whatever you do - DO YOUR HOMEWORK.

The next thing I consider to be important is to NOT TRY TO SELL THEM WHAT THEY ALREADY HAVE. It can be tempting to read one issue of the magazine and try to emulate the same thing. It won't work. Editors need new material that hasn't been done to death so package it up from a different angle. Do you have personal experience or knowledge and expertise in a certain field that would make it a better and more interesting, living, piece than if it were written by a staff writer with no clue on the topic? If so - get in there and flaunt your wares shamelessly!

A big clue I picked up on whilst reading magazines is to check out the 'COMING NEXT ISSUE' section. This will tell you what the editor has lined up so you won't make the mistake of offering them something they already have covered. The READER LETTERS page can also be a mine of information too as can the EDITOR'S NOTE, usually at the beginning of the magazine. They give you a valuable insight into what the readers like and dislike in the magazine and also give you a glimpse into the psyche of the editor and what he likes in the magazine.

So do consider the above when you're pitching to editors. Show the editor that you have a professional approach, know the magazine, care about the magazine, have thought hard about what readers and the editor might be interested in and presented it a way that clearly shows you are capable of writing well and you'll stand out from the crowd.

Happy writing
Julie xx