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The First Sale

September 28th, 2012

I can still remember the feeling after all these years. Great excitement, huge pride, slight disbelief… All these emotions rolled into one the first time I sold an article to a magazine.Tracing Your Servant Ancestors FCIn 1995, I’d started pitching to editors after finishing a freelance writing course. I sent an idea to Best of British about the history of Christmas cards as I had a small collection of Victorian examples.

When the editor accepted my article, I couldn’t quite believe that my writing was good enough to publish and that I would be paid for it. Fifty whole pounds! At the time, that seemed a huge amount of money for doing what I love most in the world: writing.

When you have your first sale, I guarantee you will feel exactly the same. But don’t make the same mistake I did. It was another year before I had anything else published because I didn’t follow the five golden rules I now stick to when freelance writing:

Pitch another idea to the same editor

After you’ve sold one article to an editor, send another idea to him or her as soon as possible. Following this first sale up is important as the editor will remember your name and your writing, but don’t take it personally if the second idea is rejected.

Re-work the same idea using a different angle

On the Writers Bureau article writing and journalism courses, students are taught to come up with as many angles as possible for one idea. With a first sale under your belt, you will have a cutting to show to other editors, which should make it easier to get a second idea accepted.

Follow up on ideas sent to editors

This is much easier to do than it was in 1995! If you haven’t heard back from an editor within a couple of weeks, send a short follow-up email. If there is still no response, make a quick call to the editorial department to ask if the email was received and whether the idea is of interest to them.

Make time for your writing

Pitching to editors and submitting articles is time-consuming. If you want to be a successful freelance writer, there are no short cuts; you simply have to make the time to write. Whether it’s twenty minutes a day or a whole evening a week, set aside an allotted time for your writing.

Build on your success

Having your work published in a paying market proves that you are a good writer, so you can easily sell another article to a different magazine. Thousands are published each year and huge numbers of them accept articles from freelance writers. Why can’t you be one of them?

Michelle’s latest book is Tracing Your Servant Ancestors (Pen & Sword). You can find out more about her writing at www.michellehiggs.co.uk .

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