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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Best Tips From 2014 ASJA Conference

I'm back from the 2014 ASJA Annual Writers' Conference. After five days in Manhattan, I'm exhausted but also energized, with plenty of great ideas, new contacts (and friends!), and new pitches to send.  

I attended about a half-dozen panels, and picked up tips from a number of editors, agents, and fellow freelancers. Some of the tips I gleaned included: 

  • Focus on your strengths in your pitch to a content marketing agency. Dan Davenport of Meredith Xcererated Marketing (formerly Meredith Custom Publishing) doesn't like it when writers list nine different things they can do. He prefers that you limit yourself to one or two things you do well. (After meeting him in a client connection appointment, and hearing this advice, I completely rewrote my follow-up letter to him, focusing on what I do the best--service-oriented fitness writing.) 


  • "There's never been a better time to be a freelancer," says content marketing writer Jennifer Goforth Gregory.  "It used to be that when corporate bigwigs wanted to promote products they did it with advertising. Now they create more effective content which saves them money--and that advertising money is now in their content marketing budget so it's available to us." She defines content as "anything produced by a company that provides information with the purpose of increasing trust for the customers to have in the brand." 

  • If you're self-publishing a book, have 10 online reviews up before you start sending it out for publicity, suggested Miral Sattar of BiblioCrunch. You get those reviews ahead of time by sending your e-galleys out to readers will who will review it on Amazon. (Great advice and a tip I'm going to use from now on with Improvise Press!)

  • Don't ever say, "I don't think you know how good I really am." This was advice from keynoter Daniel Jones, who talked about his dreams of his writing career (making a living as a writer of short fiction) and the reality (he's the editor of the Times' Modern Love column). I missed the last half of his speech (I had to run to the Apple store at Grand Central Station to replace my iPhone which went for an unplanned swim in the toilet the day before), but my takeaway was to focus on your work, not on bragging about it. He also shared some hilarious emails from writers responding to his rejections, which were a big hit.  
  • If you're a new writer, or new to the market, pitch something you have personal experience with, says Lynya Floyd of Family Circle. (Gee, I've been saying this for years!) The question she asks of pitches is "what is the service here?" and says each story has to have national, not regional appeal. 
  • Amy Rushlow, of Prevention.com, suggests that writers come up with an attention-grabbing headline, and then write the story. "Click-bait" headlines do grab readers. (In your pitch, make sure to include the headline or working title." 
  • Think ahead, says Marissa Stephenson of Men's Journal. "We work about six months out, so we're already looking at October/November pitches, and thinking about our January fitness package." She said Men's Journal pays $2/word and $150-300 for quick online posts; $500-600 for slide shows. 
  • There are three places to find content work, says Jennifer Goforth Gregory: agencies; brands; and content services company like Ebyline and Contently. To get your foot in the door, "write a killer LOI that packages your experience and shows how you can help your clients. Include publications you've written for that are relevant to them. Make it really easy for them to say yes."