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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Easiest Way to Crack Women's Magazines (and 8 Ways to Do It Well)


I started my freelance career two decades ago writing for women's magazines. My first sale was to Cosmopolitan; after that, I wrote for publications including Woman's Day, Family Circle, Self, Shape, Redbook, Fitness, Fit, and Woman's World

I had several reasons for doing so. First off, I was familiar with some of the publications already. I'd been reading mags like Cosmo and Shape for years before I pitched them. I knew what topics the magazines covered and what kind of stories that editors were likely to be interested in. 

But even more important, these magazines paid well, and used plenty of freelance material. While some sections of the mags might be produced in-house, the majority of them relied on freelancers for short FOB (front-of-the-book) pieces, departments, and longer features. 

While a lot has changed in 20 years, some things haven't. Women's magazines still work with lots of freelancers, and while some of their contracts request all rights, they pay in the $2/word range. Plus, there's still some cachet to writing for these big publications, and they make impressive clips when you're starting out. 

Best news of all? There's any easy way to crack these markets, even when you're short on clips. That was the message I heard from editors from Family Circle, Woman's Day, and First for Women when I moderated a panel on women's magazines at this year's annual ASJA writer's conference. 

The answer? Pitch "real women" stories. Editors from all three magazines said they're always looking for compelling pieces about real-life women, and these stories are often difficult to find. 

So, what sells? When pitching a "real woman" piece to a woman's magazine, keep these factors in mind: 

  • The woman you profile should fit within the magazine's readers' demographics.
  • The woman should have a compelling story to share. Consider the challenge she faced, how she overcame it, and the takeaway for the reader. 
  • Even if the story is sad, there should be some kind of positive or uplifting aspect to it. (Generally speaking, women's magazine readers aren't looking for depressing reads.) 
  • Send a photo of the person along with the pitch. 
  • Look for people who haven't been covered in national media (local media is usually fine). 
  • If pitching a story about more than one woman--say four women who have successfully started their own at-home businesses--strive for diversity in terms of age, race, geographic location, etc. 
  • Tell your friends and family members you're looking for possible story ideas. The bigger the net you cast, the more likely you are to find possible stories. 
  • If one market doesn't say "yes," try another. I pitched a story about a woman whose doctors didn't believe she was sick for years--until she was finally diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and successfully treated--to nine women's magazines and finally the ninth one assigned the story! 

I hope you find these tips helpful to pitching, and selling to, women's magazines. Good luck with your pitches! 

**New to the blog? Welcome! If you're serious about making your freelance writing business a money-maker, I suggest my freelance classic, Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money, Second Edition

If you're more interested in getting into ghostwriting and content marketing, I suggest Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: Make Money Ghostwriting Books, Articles, Blogs and More, Second Edition

If you're brand-new to freelancing, Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets walks you through the process of launching your freelance career

Finally, if you like your books full of shorter pieces, check out a different format--Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success is divided into five broad sections to help you make more money regardless of what kind of nonfiction writing you do. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

We're ALL Vegetarians...Until the Burgers Arrive


At a panel on developing a lucrative side hustle at ASJA (moderated by the awesome Damon Brown), I talked about the importance of using your experience to set yourself apart from other writers. Book authors know we're talking about something called "platform," which in short can be described as '"who are you and how will you sell this book so that the publisher can make money with it". 

Platform matters for writers of shorter content, too, whether you're pitching an article to a national magazine or sending an LOI to a content company. See, competition is stiff. You're competing against hundreds of thousands (more likely, millions) of other freelancers to get work. Oh no! Before you give up, though, consider that you're not competing against all of these writers at the same time, or for the same markets. Feel a little better? Good.

The fact remains, though, that you're still competing against a fair number of them if you're writing for a market that pays well (or even decently). How do you stand out, especially as a new writer? By thinking about something that makes you unique...and something that has value to your potential client or editor. 

Here's what I mean. I'm a certified personal trainer. I have been since 2007. And I've trained clients as a lucrative (okay, not really) side gig. Hence my presence on the panel. But I am not training clients right this second. Fact is, I haven't trained a client for almost two years. 

But do I confess this in LOIs, or to editors or agents I meet with? Hell to the no! (I also don't mention that my street slang is typically about five years' behind what people actually say.) I point out that I'm an ACE-certified personal trainer, with a fairly deep background in fitness. Guess what? Most freelancers don't have that qualification. So it sets me apart from the mobs of writers who want to cover fitness. 

Better yet, most trainers aren't writers. So, who is an editor going to think of when he or she needs a writer to cover something fitness related? Hopefully me. 

Now if an editor point-blank asks me about whether I'm training clients currently, I'll fess up. I won't lie to get a gig. But it's okay to make an impression that helps you stand out in a very competitive field. You don't have to be doing something full-time, or part-time, or even occasionally to "claim" it. 

As I said at the panel, "Am I training now? No. But can I say, 'I'm a trainer'? Of course. Hell, I can say I'm a vegetarian. Because right this minute, I am a vegetarian." 

"Well, we're ALL vegetarians!" added Damon. 

To which I responded, "Yeah, we're all vegetarians...until the burgers arrive." 

Mmmmmm....burgers.

Oops, I digress. My point isn't to sway the vegetarians to eat burgers. (Though they are delicious once in a while. The burgers, not the veggies.) It's to claim something about your background, experience, or credentials that helps set you apart. That's what I call being unique qualified. It helps you nail assignments and makes you memorable. And most of the time, being memorable is good. 

**A big welcome to my new readers. If you're serious about making your freelance writing business a money-maker, I suggest my freelance classic, Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money, Second Edition

If you're more interested in getting into ghostwriting and content marketing, I suggest Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: Make Money Ghostwriting Books, Articles, Blogs and More, Second Edition

If you're brand-new to freelancing, Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets walks you through the process of launching your freelance career

Finally, if you like your books full of shorter pieces, check out a different format--Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success is divided into five broad sections to help you make more money regardless of what kind of nonfiction writing you do.