Smaller presses can be an excellent stairway to success by attracting the attention you desire from the larger publications. You might consider starting local. These writing jobs often mean a more steady income, a growing writing portfolio, and some interesting story assignments.
Writing locally also gives you the advantage of familiarity. You will be able to appeal more easily to your readers since you shop the same places, travel the same roads, and are otherwise affected by the same social and environmental issues they are.
Even though local publications often can't pay as well as larger publications and the article assignments aren’t always riveting (how many “best of” article topics can I create), the less competitive nature of the smaller market makes it far more likely that a local editor will take a chance on you and your writing skills, and then return to you for future needs.
Regularly exercising your skills of brainstorming, researching, conducting interviews, meeting word counts, and anticipating deadlines will ensure improvement. This will in turn arm you for articles you can query regionally or nationally.
So, who in your community needs your writing skills?
Local publications - Don’t assume the local paper is the only publication in need of writers. That little magazine you pick up for free in the grocery store needs writers. So does the real estate guide with articles about local happenings that arrives in your mailbox. To start, arrange an in-person meeting with the editor or write a friendly, but professional email introducing yourself. Let the editor know if you have clips from previously published work and be prepared with a few article ideas to pitch if they express interest.
Tourism organizations - Local organizations such as visitors' bureaus or chambers of commerce probably create more written content about your area than anyone else. Contact the directors to see if they need assistance creating print or web content. Be flexible and creative when considering how you can help promote the local area. You could write traditional articles (like lists of the best parks in the area), proofread monthly e-newsletters, pull together a calendar of events, write blog posts, or regularly update their social media accounts.
Nonprofits – these organizations always need confident and skilled writers. Offer to assist a local nonprofit you care about by writing and submitting articles about their work to area publications, writing financial campaign "ask" letters, updating websites and blogs, coordinating and writing newsletters, preparing press releases, assisting with grant proposals, or proofreading outgoing documents.
Start Ups - If you hear of a new business in your community, reach out and offer to write press releases, website content, ad copy, brochures, and introductory letters. You could also proofread or tighten copy they already have. Every business does better with a compelling story; be the person who writes those stories.
Don’t give up your dreams of writing for the New York Times, Good Housekeeping, or Better Homes and Gardens. Just be prepared to climb that ladder of success one rung at a time using local markets. Each step strengthens your writing muscles.
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Thanks again, Sylvia!
Great ideas indeed, although make sure some start ups have their act together, as I've seen a few that were less than umm good
Alex - thank you for inviting me to post. I always enjoy meeting new readers and writers!
Thanks for the tips, you mentioned some I hadn't thought of. I think starting small is the way to go!
Pat - you are right. Sometimes, you run into a bad situation. All you can do is try to maintain written communication so you have a record.
Kathryn - I'm so glad you found something useful here. Thank you for stopping by my own blog as well!
Hmm, I'd never thought about local publications... =) Thanks for the tips!
Thank you for an interesting and informative post! Before I was retired, I wrote a number of articles for a regional union newspaper for a union I was active in. Even though I wasn't compensated with money, I was paid with visibility and gratitude + improved writing skills and the thrill of being in print. Sometimes you can get published in literary journals associated with universities or regional groups too. Have a good one!
Fundy - those are great ideas. Colleges LOVE to publish alumni!
Thanks for the info and good to know. I have always appreciated your insights and writing tips, Sylvia......although I do wonder how many of those you mention actually pay something. I suspect that "visibility and gratitude" is about the most one could expect. There is the argument that one learns how to become a better writer. Granted, but isn't this also one of the main benefits of blogging? I wonder if a good "work for hire" writing assignment would be better. I have done this twice, for Greenhaven and Lucent Books. The deadlines were demanding, but in the end I had a paycheck. Honestly, I'm not looking to get rich in this business, but a small stipend does add to the incentive and lends respect.
A great reminder, as I am starting to do this, myself. Awesome guide and reference!
Lots of advice here, thanks. I've found that some of so-called local publications use syndicated copy, so how do we get on board that train?
When I started, I wrote just about anything for any publication that would have me. My biggest finds were some of the ezines like Writing for Children and Crow Toes Quarterly. Wish we had more of those excellent resources these days.
Sharon - try to get a meeting with the editor of any local publications. If they can put a face with the name, they will be more likely to give you a chance. Also, there is nothing wrong with writing a few pieces for free. Editors are more likely to offer pay to anyone they view as "loyal". And the connections can lead to other publication opportunities. Ultimately, you have to decide what work you are willing to do, and for how much or how little return.
Raquel - thank you and good luck!
Julia - Try reading: http://www.writers-editors.com/Writers/News_Items/Syndication/syndication.htm
cleemckenzie - those are great examples!
I landed a great job on Elance once, writing an article for a publication called My School Rocks. It was an ideal publication for someone trying to reach children who might read my books--but they only needed that one article. I still look for jobs like that on Elance sometimes.
Some great ideas which I need to explore.
Thanks for sharing.
Hi Sylvia .. yes being local makes sense to start with .. less travelling and a good job will spread and demand can be met ... there's also the volunteer aspects which can lead to sales ... nursing centres, care homes, old age places etc etc ...
Great ideas Hilary!
Sound, excellent advice, Sylvia. I've passed this along to all my networks.
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