Hello and welcome to the August issue,
Ah... some sunshine at last for us poor rain-soaked citizens of the UK... oh no wait a minute, it’s just started raining again! I hope all our international readers are having more luck with the weather then we are!
In this month’s issue, we have expert advice from ex-student and prolific freelance writer, Lorraine Mace, on how making sure that the pitch, prose and pictures that you send in can lead to more work and, ultimately, a bigger profit – something most of us long for!
If you are thinking of conducting an interview in the near future or you are afraid of doing one, this week’s Top Tips is for you. Follow the rules and your interview should be a breeze.
And don’t forget to read the end note for a sneak preview of what’s coming next month.
THE WRITERS BUREAU
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Minding Your Ps and a Q
It must be every writer’s dream to have a regular stream of work accepted. Who wouldn’t want to become an editor’s favourite and make lots of money? This needn’t be a dream, it can become reality. Minding your Ps and a Q will help to ensure success.
The first hurdle to overcome is getting an editor to commission an article. To be successful at this stage you must present the editor with the what, when, why and how of your proposed feature.
Start with the title. This should indicate what the article is going to be about in an attention grabbing manner. Try to be original, but make sure it has relevance to the subject.
The opening sentences of your pitch should hook the editor. In as few words as possible you need to sum up the point of the feature you are proposing.
The middle part should spell out when it is relevant, why it should be written and how you are going to tackle it (interviews, quotes and/or anecdotes).
The final part should tie the article together as a whole. Use a reference back to the opening, or a humorous punch line that neatly summarises the content.
You should also include the length to which you are planning to write the piece and whether or not you will be supplying illustrations.
Before you even think of sending a pitch to a magazine you should thoroughly research your proposed market. The article must be tailored in every respect to suit the publication.
Ask yourself if the subject matter is really suitable for the readership. If it isn’t, how can you slant the information so that it has relevance? The market’s style is very important. Is the publication fact driven or looking for a more relaxed, chatty way of getting the point across?
How many words does the publication want? The only way to find that out, unless it is stated in their guidelines, is to buy several copies and count the words. This may be tedious, but it saves you falling at the first hurdle by offering 2,500 words to a magazine that only ever accepts 1,200.
What style, tone and vocabulary does the editor want? Remember, he knows his readership and stepping outside of what sells is not going to get your article published. Getting to know the market is part of a writer’s tool set. If a magazine is sold on the strength of its real life dramas the readers will only be interested in space probes if someone has been abducted by aliens.
Illustrations sell words – strange, but true. An editor is far more likely to consider your proposal if you can supply appropriate pictures to accompany the text. The important word here is appropriate, so once again this is something that should be researched prior to making the pitch.
Does the publication accept digital photography? If yes, how must it be submitted – on disc or by email? What size is required?
Some magazines accept prints, but these must be enlarged to the size the publication considers acceptable.
Most publications use transparencies, but again this should be ascertained before approaching the editor with your idea.
You should study several copies of the magazine to see what style of photography is used. There is no point in submitting stunning shots of the family skiing in Whistler if your target publication only wants scenic photography without any people. Similarly if the magazine is aimed at family holiday destinations then pictures of children enjoying themselves might help to sell your travel feature.
The best idea though is to take as many different pictures as you can, with and without people, in differing light conditions and from several angles. The reason for that can be found in the last section of this article – the Q of the title.
One aspect of your research should always be to find out what your target publication pays per thousand words. The next important question is to do with the photography. Most magazines pay extra for illustrations, but how much? Do they pay a flat rate for photo features?
Finding out the rates of pay before offering your work is essential. If the flat rate for a photo feature doesn’t cover the cost of the development of photographs, postage (including return postage for the illustrations), your time for writing and research, and make you a profit, then is it really worth making the effort?
Possibly not for a one-off, but research can be adapted to fit several markets. Which is where the Q comes in …
Research can be used in different ways to provide several features, which is the reason for taking so many photographs. Different illustrations, a new slant on the words, and you have a new feature.
Let’s assume you have visited an area of Portugal, either for business or for a holiday. You decide to write about your trip for a travel magazine who is only interested in the aspects that appeal to its readership. Your photography to accompany that feature is carefully selected to fit the market. You get paid – end of story. Except that it isn’t, it’s only the beginning.
Look through the remaining illustrations. What do you have that could accompany another article aimed at an entirely new publication? The wine making tour might be of interest to a trade publication, or a specialist magazine for the wine connoisseur market, providing you have suitable photography.
Photographs of golf courses could be used to illustrate an article for a golf enthusiasts’ publication. Different pictures could illustrate an article aimed at one of the country magazines focussing on Portugal.
The important thing is making sure each feature is individual and can stand alone. New text and different pictures from the same research or trip can provide several outlets for your work.
Broaden your horizons and aspirations and remember – as long as you remember to mind your Ps and a Q dreams can come true.
10 Top tips for conducting an interview
Many people are nervous when they have to interview someone for an article but if you follow the guidelines below it should make the experience a pleasure, not a pain!
1. When you arrive at the interview remind the person which newspaper/magazine you represent – or the one that will be taking your freelance work. And always make sure you are smart and well-dressed. Turning up looking scruffy is an insult to the interviewee.
USEFUL SITES FOR WRITERS
‘I blog primarily on my obsessions: writing, social media, and how to mix the two for fun, art and profit. I am fascinated with the new notions of personal identity and interaction that are evolving through the use of the internet and social media, and how these new technologies impact the working writer both literarily and practically.
There are articles on areas including ‘10 steps to being everywhere in social media’, ‘What is the new media’, and ‘Why choose new media over old?’
END NOTE and a little inspiration
Could you write an article about ...
That’s it for this month. However, I thought I would end on a humorous note with this poem. It highlights the folly of relying on spell checkers!
'Spell Checker Blues'
Eye halve a spelling chequer
Eye strike a key and type a word
As soon as a mist ache is maid
Eye have run this poem threw it
Taken from http://torch.cs.dal.ca/~johnston/poetry/spellchecker.html
Next month, our expert advice comes from Heather Cooke with an article entitled ‘Length Matters!’. Facing rejection again? A basic mistake is to write copy that’s too long or short for your editor, but are there other ways in which length matters… to a writer?
Plus, there will be more inspiration from successful students and useful sites to play with.
“I’m currently working on my fourth book, have been paid for my writing by at least 15 different magazines, and now earn half my income from writing – all thanks to The Writers Bureau’s course."
Sarah Plater - Writers Bureau Writer of the Year 2017