Tuesday, October 31, 2006

How to Crack the Code

Continuing with the Q/A with some crackerjack freelance writer friends, today's question is:

How do I break into a new-to-me magazine or market? Here's what they said. (For their top-notch credits, check out yesterday's post.) Oh, and Happy Halloween! I plan to spend the rest of the week gorging on my son's loot. :)

Oh, a few more fabulous words of wisdom on how to ask for advice from my pal, Linda Formichelli, co-author of The Renegade Writer.

- Spend some time really studying the magazine and be sure you know what they have run in recent issues — you might even mention a recent story in your pitch (if it’s relevant). Find out who handles the section you’re pitching and fire away! And be relentless about follow up. If I think a story is perfect for a particular publication, I’ll follow up with the editor every few weeks until I get some sort of response — even a “no.” - Amy Paturel

- Come up with fabulous ideas and pitch, pitch, pitch. Tie that first pitch into a query letter so the ed gets a feel for who you are and what you're about. Oh, and don't cry when they don't respond or reply with a cold, "Thanks, but no thanks." Just keep pitching. That new-to-you ed needs to recognize your name when it pops up in his or her inbox. Not as the psycho wannabe writer who throws any old idea at them but the writer with good ideas that is soon sure to come up with the GREAT idea. - Lauren Russell

-Read, read, read. Read the magazine and try to get a sense of who their audience is. If they have any information on demographics, editorial calendar etc.. that is very helpful in writing pitches. -Monica Bhide

-Plain and simple: write the best query of your life. I don't send out tons of queries like many other writers do; I only send out the ideas that I know are really, truly good and that I know I can sell somewhere--if not at the magazine I'm querying, then somewhere else. I would rather send a few quality queries than 50 bad ones, because if a magazine is new to you, that query is all the editor knows about the quality of your writing. (Good clips don't hurt, but bad writers can have good clips if the editor was willing to do the clean-up work.) - Camille Noe Pagan

-I’ll give the ASJA conference another plug, along with the Magazine Writers One on One conference in Chicago. Both are excellent ways to get the inside scoop on what editors are looking for from freelancers, because they will tell you this right from the podium. Why waste time perfecting a query for a section of a magazine that you come to find out is staff produced? Since conferences only occur once or twice a year, the rest of the time I would suggest focusing on magazines that you like as a reader AND the sections you enjoy as a reader—again, assuming they’re not staff written. For example, I’m a Family Circle subscriber, and the magazine used to have a column called “Women Who Make A Difference.” It was the first place I turned to whenever my magazine arrived in the mailbox—I was raised by a mother who believes strongly in giving back—and it was the one place I wanted to see my byline. It took about two years of pitching but eventually I sold a piece, which appeared in an October 2004 issue of the magazine. - Leah Ingram

-Follow-up has proven to be one of my most rewarding practices. And not taking ANYTHING personally, ever. It's never about you. - freelance writer Sandra B. Hume

-My best tips on breaking into a new-to-me magazine is to have several ideas in mind when I send the first pitch. Then, if my idea is turned down, I already have another query waiting in the wings to send to the editor right away. Also, I feel that persistence, without any signs of desperation or being annoying is important. There is a fine line between showing an interest in writing for a specific magazine and being too aggressive. Editors are extremely busy. Although selling my article or essay is a priority for me, it is not top priority for the editor and I respect his/her needs to complete tasks other than reading my query and getting back to me. If I don't receive a response to a pitch within two weeks, I e-mail a kind note to the editor that says, "This e-mail is just a quick follow-up to inquire if you have had a chance to review the query I sent you on XX-XX-XXXX. A copy is below for your convenience." If I know that a magazine's response time is lengthy, then I may wait a bit longer before following-up. - Sharon Waldrop

-I study the magazine and figure out what section I'd like to break into. Then I keep on the look for story ideas that will fit the best. I try to have a couple of ideas ready, that way, if the first one gets "bonked," I've got another one to send while the editor is still thinking of me. - Michele Wojciechowski

-Persistence and patience. And more persistence. Also, a feeling of "what the hell." Don't worry so much. Just get it done, and press send. - Denise Schipani

-A knock out query. It can cover the fact that you might not have clips. I've also had success with letters of introduction and following up with ideas. - Jen A. Miller

-Traditional advice is to read the publication, or at least go to the web site, and I think that’s very basic and useful. It’s also helpful to review six months’ of topics in that pub to be sure you’re not pitching something that’s in the current issue. That said, I know others who have queried publications they’ve never seen before and gotten assignments. I believe it’s about the query or intro letter. Show the editor what you can bring to the table – new information, research skills, a track record in a particular area. I always try to do my homework before querying.

Follow up. I know some folks are reluctant to do that, and I don’t advocate being a stalker. However, many times an e-mail will get lost in the shuffle or an editor just hasn’t had time to review it. I’ve gotten many assignments after following up a few times. Also, I know some folks give a two- or three-week deadline and then pull the query. I’ve had queries sit for months and months with publications I wanted to break into. I tailor my queries pretty specifically and I have lots of ideas, so it’s usually not a big deal for me to work on the editor’s timeline. - Gwen Moran

1 comment:

Julie said...

Hi Allison,
I recently discovered your site through the Renegade Writer site. I am really enjoying all the great advice here and in previous posts. I am just starting out, so I've been devouring all the good advice I can find!