Search This Blog

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Best Place for New Writers to Pitch

I'm often asked by new freelancers for market recommendations--those which are more "open" to using less experienced writers. That's a tricky question. In general, smaller markets (think regional and trade magazines) are more open to new writers simply because they don't receive as many queries as their national counterparts--so you face less competition.

When it comes to nationals, though, there is a place where new writers should pitch. Where is it?

The front of the book. Front of book, or "FOB" refers to the departments that run in the front of the magazine. They often include several short pieces on the same page, typically 50 to 300 words or so. These "shorts" are sometimes written in-house but are often penned by freelancers.

Why is FOB such a great place for new writers to start?

1. It takes a lot of stories to fill the pages, up to about twenty depending on the market. That's a lot of assignments, even if they're short ones.

2. The editor for each FOB section must fill it each issue. Every issue. Issue after issue. And that means she's always prowling for new ideas--and new writers--to help her do that.

3. The editors in charge of FOB sections are usually lower on the masthead; meaning, they're newer to the magazine and less likely to have a "stable" of freelancers than more seasoned editors do. (See reason #2.)

4. If a new writer screws up a story (or fails to turn it in--it happens!), the editor is stuck with a pretty small hole to fill. She's not going to have to scramble to fill two or three full pages the way she would if a freelancer dropped the ball on a feature. So an editor is more likely to take a chance with a new writer on an FOB than a longer piece.

5. Established freelancers often don't bother with FOB pieces. We're paid by the word, remember? So while I pitched and wrote FOBs early in my career, I've given them up in favor of better-paying features--and many freelancers follow a similar trajectory.

6. FOBs give you a chance to prove yourself both to the editor and the magazine. As a new freelancer, I couldn't always get feature assignments with the magazines I wanted to write for. But after I pitched and wrote two FOBs for Self, I nailed a feature assignment--and the editor came to me!

And before you ask, yes, you should still use a query to pitch even a short FOB. Next post, I'll tell you why.

Are you a new freelancer or do you want to become one? You'll find my first two books on successful freelancing enormously helpful. Ready, Aim, Specialize! Create your own Writing Specialty and Make More Money includes 20 queries that worked along with advice on launching your freelance career by starting with what you know about already; Six-Figure Freelancing gives a broader overview of treating your writing like a business and succeeding in a competitive field.