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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Five Good Reasons--to Write for Regionals

I've posted before about how I focus not on dollars/word when accepting work, but rather dollars/hour. The latter is a better indicator of what the assignment is worth to me. Keeping the dollars/hour figure in mind makes some markets that other writers might ignore lucrative options for me--like regional magazines.

Why write for regionals when their national counterparts pay more per-word? Here are five good reasons:

1. Less competition. Editors at the major national magazines receive hundreds of queries a week. When you pitch regionals, you're competing against a smaller pool of freelancers, which automatically ups your chances of getting noticed--and getting assignments.

2. Fewer editing hassles. I've written for more than 60 national magazines, and the more editors a publication has on staff, the more editing you can expect. Your assigning editor may love the piece, but then her boss requests some changes...then her boss requests changes...then the editor-in-chief decides she wants to go in a different direction. Smaller magazines=smaller staffs=fewer rewrites, in my experience. And that helps keep my dollars/word rate high.

3. Less research time. Finding experts for a story is no problem-- you can turn to draw on sources like Help a Reporter Out, book authors, universities, and associations. But what about the dreaded "real people," or anecdotal sources--you know, the real-life examples often included in articles? Finding a breast cancer survivor in her 20s or a mom of three children who's slashed her grocery bill by 50% or someone who's started his own online business and makes a six-figure living is by far the most time-consuming part of researching stories, especially when you need to have a "geographic spread" (meaning your sources can't all come from the same area). I've found that locating those dreaded "real people" is much easier when I'm doing it on a more local level--after all, between friends, neighbors, fellow parents, workout buddies, etc, I feel like I'm connected to just about everyone in the Chicago area.

4. Higher chance of steady work. You're competing against a smaller number of freelancers--that's one thing. But those freelancers are more likely to be newer to the field or inexperienced, and if you do good work for your editors (and I know you will, if you take the advice in my blog!), you'll find it's relatively easy to develop a relationship with them, possibly even become a regular contributor. Steady work=less time spent pitching=higher dollars/hour rate.

5. Higher local profile. Even with Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and other social media, there's something to be said for being known in your own locale. Having your name in regional publications can create higher visibility on a local level. I've had more comments from friends and acquaintances from my articles in Chicago Parent, for example, than from anything I've written for national mags. And the more people who know (and remember) what I do, the better.

Readers, what about you? Do you write for regionals, and if so, why? And if you don't, has my post encouraged you to try it?