Need a Clip? Open a Newspaper

NON-FICTION:  For writers of all genre who want to write, and the readers who love them.

Ironically, in today's market place successful nonfiction has to be unbelievable, while successful fiction must be believable.
- Jerry B Jenkins

Words are a lens to focus one's mind.
Any Rand

There are two kinds of writer: those that make you think, and those that make you wonder.
- Brian Aldiss

I get up in the morning, torture a typewriter until it screams, then stop.
- Clarence Budkington Kelland

Words are the most powerful drug used by mankind.
- Rudyard Kipling

The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.
- Mary Heaton Vorse

Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry.  Writers are like dancers, like athletes.  Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.
- Jane Yolen

Writing nonfiction is more like sculpture, a matter of shaping the research into the finished thing.  Novels are like paintings, specifically watercolors.  Every stroke you put down you have to go with.  Of course you can rewrite, but the original strokes are still there in the texture of the thing.
- Joan Didion

In fiction, when you paint yourself into a corner, you can write a pair of suction cups into the bottoms of your shoes and walk up the wall and out the skylight and see the sun breaking through the clouds.  In nonfiction, you don't have that luxury.
- Tim Robbins

Need a Clip? Open a Newspaper

By Shirley Kawa-Jump
This article originally appeared in The Rock

As any fledgling writer knows, there’s a giant Catch-22 in the publishing world – can’t get published without clips and can’t get clips without getting published.

To circumvent that, you might want to first delve into the arena of small papers or free newspapers because they often have a lack of writers. These types of papers pay little or nothing at all. My first newspaper job was for a weekly hometown paper that paid seventy-five cents a column inch, about $10.00 an article. It wasn’t much, but it eventually led to much bigger and better things.

Pick a newspaper that is open to freelancers and study it at the library or on the Internet (if the archives are on the Web). Don’t just look at the last three issues, really study the paper over the last three months. Then go look at the competitor’s newspaper. There will be stories that one paper covered and another didn’t, sometimes due to lack of interest but often because there was no one to write the piece.

Come up with several ideas to pitch to the editor. Five or six is best because then you have plenty to come back with if the first two are rejected. Try to think of angles other people haven’t done before. For instance, if the weather is getting warm, that means the local ice cream shops will be opening up again. That in itself is a story, but not a very good one. What if you pitched the editor “How Ice Cream is Made” or “The Real Scoop on the Latest Ice Cream Statistics”? Neither of those angles are typically covered but both make for interesting pieces.

Decide which section your idea would best fit in and then look up the name of the editor. If you don’t know how to pronounce the name of the editor, or aren’t sure the paper even uses freelancers, call the switchboard and ask the receptionist. In newspapers, getting things right the first time is half the battle. The last thing you want to do is get your preliminary information wrong. Take five seconds to find out who edits the Metro section – it will be worth it.

Now make the phone call. If it’s a morning paper, try around eleven in the morning. Afternoon papers, wait till about three o’clock, when the issue has just hit the pavement. For weekly papers, call the day after the issue comes out. The hours leading up to deadline are the busiest for editors so make sure you aren’t calling at the wrong time.

When you make your pitch, keep it clear and concise. Remember the ABC’s of journalism – Accuracy, Brevity and Clarity. These are the guidelines for every article you write and for querying editors. Make your point, have some information already gathered (names of some sources, local places to call, etc.) and list your credentials if they are relevant. If you worked on a newspaper before, that’s important. If you’re a full-time dentist who wants to write about new dental technology, that is also a key point.

Even if you have no writing experience at all, you can often land at least one assignment for a newspaper by offering to do the article “on spec”. Working on speculation is frustrating, very frustrating, but is often the only way to get your foot in the door. If you do a terrific job, it will automatically lead to more assignments and paychecks.

And remember, that’s what you ultimately want.

Freelance Writing 101

NON-FICTION:  For writers of all genre who want to write, and the readers who love them.

Ironically, in today's market place successful nonfiction has to be unbelievable, while successful fiction must be believable.
- Jerry B Jenkins

Words are a lens to focus one's mind.
Any Rand

There are two kinds of writer: those that make you think, and those that make you wonder.
- Brian Aldiss

I get up in the morning, torture a typewriter until it screams, then stop.
- Clarence Budkington Kelland

Words are the most powerful drug used by mankind.
- Rudyard Kipling

The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.
- Mary Heaton Vorse

Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry.  Writers are like dancers, like athletes.  Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.
- Jane Yolen

Writing nonfiction is more like sculpture, a matter of shaping the research into the finished thing.  Novels are like paintings, specifically watercolors.  Every stroke you put down you have to go with.  Of course you can rewrite, but the original strokes are still there in the texture of the thing.
- Joan Didion

In fiction, when you paint yourself into a corner, you can write a pair of suction cups into the bottoms of your shoes and walk up the wall and out the skylight and see the sun breaking through the clouds.  In nonfiction, you don't have that luxury.
- Tim Robbins

Freelance Writing 101

by Angela Adair

Anyone can be a writer, anywhere! Freelance writing was one of the premiere home-based businesses of all time. From the vintage typewriter to the high-tech home computers of today, freelance writing has remained a reliable source of income for wordsmiths worldwide. Their clients include magazines, newsletters, newspapers, book publishers, greeting card firms, gaming companies, and corporate clientele.

The best idea generator is to study market listings (see end of article).

You Have An Idea.  Now What?

Order Writer’s Guidelines. Writer’s guidelines are issued by publishers as an easy, quick way to let writers know exactly what they want from incoming manuscripts. To receive writer’s guidelines from a magazine or publisher:

  • Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) with a short note requesting their writer’s guidelines.
  • Send an e-mail request to the editor
  • Or check their website to see if their writer’s guidelines are posted online.

Read An Issue of the Magazine

Most editors complain that they receive several queries that do not follow the magazine’s purpose or format, or do not target the magazine’s audience. Some publications will send a sample issue on request. Others charge a nominal fee. I always visit the newsstand at my local bookstore. I sit in their coffee shop and review the magazine without buying it. (If I bought every magazine I approached, I’d be in poor financial shape.) You can also get a good idea of a magazine’s editorial content by reading the articles posted at their website.

The Assignment and Dealing With An Editor

If you are persistent, you will become a published writer. The editor will contact you by mail, phone, or e-mail and will tell you to proceed. They might discuss your idea and tell you how they’d like you to write the article differently than your query angle. They should also provide you with a word count and a deadline. They might send you a contract, but this doesn’t always happen.

Many small publications do business “on a handshake.” One editor sent me an e-mail that said, “Great idea! Can you get it to us by August 15th?” My response was, “No problem. Send me a word count and I’ll get right on it.” That was it. I knew she was busy and didn’t have time for professional or personal chatter. I had read their guidelines and knew what rights they were buying and how much they were paying me. I only needed to deliver exactly what I’d stated in my query letter. The point I’m trying to make it this: I picked up on the editor’s “business etiquette” and her stress level. I did not bother her by calling for petty details, and I didn’t even call to ask if she’d received my article. I sent the manuscript by express mail so I could bother the post office with a phone call instead of her.

Included in my package was my manuscript, a disk of the article (so they wouldn’t have to retype it), my photos with accompanying negatives, and a short note proposing another article idea. My system worked because she gave me the go-ahead on that idea, and also asked me for a list of articles I could write for them next year. I’m now a regular contributor, and I have no doubt it is because I respected the editor’s busy schedule and made her job so easy.

Now write the article.

Making Money As a Corporate Freelancer

NON-FICTION:  For writers of all genre who want to write, and the readers who love them.

Ironically, in today's market place successful nonfiction has to be unbelievable, while successful fiction must be believable.
- Jerry B Jenkins

Words are a lens to focus one's mind.
Any Rand

There are two kinds of writer: those that make you think, and those that make you wonder.
- Brian Aldiss

I get up in the morning, torture a typewriter until it screams, then stop.
- Clarence Budkington Kelland

Words are the most powerful drug used by mankind.
- Rudyard Kipling

The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.
- Mary Heaton Vorse

Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry.  Writers are like dancers, like athletes.  Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.
- Jane Yolen

Writing nonfiction is more like sculpture, a matter of shaping the research into the finished thing.  Novels are like paintings, specifically watercolors.  Every stroke you put down you have to go with.  Of course you can rewrite, but the original strokes are still there in the texture of the thing.
- Joan Didion

In fiction, when you paint yourself into a corner, you can write a pair of suction cups into the bottoms of your shoes and walk up the wall and out the skylight and see the sun breaking through the clouds.  In nonfiction, you don't have that luxury.
- Tim Robbins

Making Money As a Corporate Freelancer

By Shirley Kawa-Jump
This article originally appeared in The Rock

One of the fastest-growing and most-lucrative areas for writing is corporate writing. If you have some understanding of marketing, a flair for words and an ability to meet short deadlines, this is a great area to consider. Many freelance article writers divide their time between articles and corporate writing because they’ve realized that corporate freelancing provides the closest thing to a traditional, steady paycheck. I’ve been doing corporate writing as a major component of my business for nearly 5 years now and have built up a strong clientele base. This gives me continual income and allows me to be home with my two children.

Here are some tips to get you started:

Get educated: Before you start looking for work, be sure you understand the terms of the marketing and advertising world. Get Bob Bly’s book or any of the books in the Guerrilla Marketing series. Both present the information in easy-to-understand terms. You should know the difference between a white paper and a press release, understand the basics of brochure layout and be familiar with terms like target audience, market analysis and top-of-mind awareness.

Find clients: If you have some writing credentials already, then you can approach the local marketing and advertising agencies first. Find out if they use freelancers and try to arrange a meeting. Be forewarned — most agencies work on tight deadlines and need turnaround of copy in a day or two. If you don’t have any experience yet, then call non-profits or small businesses and offer to do some pro bono work to build up your portfolio. Once you have some work under your belt, you can start approaching small to medium-sized businesses and subcontract to them.

Also consider approaching local writer groups to find published authors who need a publicist to write and send out press releases or review kits. Keep an eye out for small businesses that don’t seem to be doing any self-promoting (read the business section of the paper every day and you’ll see the regulars, who announce everything down to a new stapler and those who never do any publicity). Try to pick companies that have something coming up — an anniversary, an expansion — anything they might want to announce and then approach them about doing a press release, direct mail letter or flyer.

Do it all: The key, financially and convenience-wise, is to offer ‘turn-key’ service. This means you handle everything. As a publicist, this would include the distribution of press releases. In most cases, its easiest and most efficient to use online wire services, either BusinessWire or PR Newswire (both have websites). These are distribution services that hit all the local and trade media for you. It’s about $100 to join and $90 to send a 400-word release to local and trade pubs in one state. If you have a client who does a lot of releases, this is the best option overall.

With marketing materials, turn-key service means you work with the graphic designer and the print shop to coordinate the design and finishing details. Note that you don’t have to do the graphic design yourself — you can partner with a designer and make money on the hours you spend coordinating.

Promote your business: Don’t forget to send out press releases on your business. Do up a flyer and send it out to the small businesses in your area. Make sure your business cards talk about your copywriting work. Join business groups like the Chamber of Commerce and network. Keep reading about the industry, attend meetings of marketing communicator groups, and try to stay ahead of trends so you can bring the best and greatest service to your clients.

Corporate freelancing is a broad area that can encompass a wide variety of writing needs. I have done everything from letters of recommendation for CEOs who didn’t like to write, to scripts for audio visual presentations. Although I do have meetings about three times a week, the majority of my time is spent at home, working around my kids and their schedules. It’s a flexible and lucrative job that virtually anyone with a flair for writing and creativity, plus a basic understanding of marketing and business, can do.

Write Your Way to $1000 a Month

FICTION:  For writers of all genre who want to write, and the readers who love them.  Find what you want to know.

I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn them into monsters.
- Stephen King

If you don't go after what you want, you'll never have it.  If you don't ask, the answer is always no.  If you don]'t step forward, you're always in the same place.
- Nora  Roberts

For one who reads, there is no limit to the number of lives that may be lived, for fiction, biography, and history offer an inexhaustible number of lives in many parts of the world, in all periods of time.
- Louis L'Amour

I have been successful probably because I have always realized that I knew nothing about writing and have merely tried to tell and interesting story entertainingly.
- Edgar Rice Burroughs

Nobody reads a mystery to get to the middle.  They read it to get to the end.  If it's a letdown, they won't buy anymore.  The first page sells that book.  The last page sells your next book.
- Mickey Spillane

All fiction is a process of imagining: whatever you write, in whatever genre or medium, your task is to make things up convincingly and interestingly and new.
- Neil Gaiman

Men always want to be a wonan's first love.  Women have a more subtle instinct: What they like is to be a man's last romance.
- Oscar Wilde

Fiction is like a spider's web, attached ever so slightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners.
- Virginia Woolf

You can fix anything but a blank page.
- Nora  Roberts

I loved words.  I love to sing them and speak them and even now, I must admit, I have fallen into the joy of writing them.
- Anne Rice

Write Your Way to $1000 a Month

By Shirley Kawa-Jump

A lot of writers will tell you that making $1000 a month from writing isn’t all that difficult. But how do they do it?

When I set a goal for “x” number of dollars to make from my writing, I do several things to accomplish that goal:

Diversify — particularly in a still-rocky economy, diversity is the key to ongoing income. I write primarily business and parenting articles, with a large portion of my business articles in trade magazines.

Trades have always had steady work for me and don’t seem to experience the same advertising fluctuations that consumer magazines do. Trades pay better, are usually easier to break into, and are pretty loyal to good freelancers.

Aim for double what you want to get paid. If you want to make $1000, then send out queries and aim for $2000 or more in work.

Writers usually only sell about 40% of what is pitched. Doing a good job every time is important.. when I’m querying publications I already work for, I sell almost everything I pitch because we have an established relationship.

Aim for double because you probably won’t sell everything you pitch, and because when you least expect it, some big paying assignment can and will fall through.

My first national magazine piece was held for a year — and it was payment on publication. I learned then that relying on anything in this industry is a big mistake.

Spend 1/3 of your time looking for new markets; new work. I still do this, although I don’t spend that percentage anymore.

When I was building my freelancing business, I easily spent a third of my week querying, researching new markets, developing ideas, etc. Within a few months, I had made my goal and a few months later, surpassed my monthly income goal.

Always send out some “aiming high” queries. I always include a couple dream markets when I query. If I sell, great; if I don’t, I’ve got the other markets to sell to, too. It doesn’t hurt to dream big.

Work to improve your writing every day. I have never felt like anything I have written was absolutely perfect. I always feel there is room for improvement, areas where I could be stronger.

I study everything I read, from Newsweek to Jenny Crusie books… to try to discover what makes that writing so good, then I apply those lessons to my writing, the best I can.

Know that your writing is worth being paid for. If you are doing the best you can, at your writing, and you are putting forth your best effort in interviewing, etc., then you should be paid for your writing. You are working, and part of taking pride in your craft is realizing there is a value for what you do.

Remember that just when it all seems like it won’t work out, it will.

The day my husband quit his job to pursue buying his own company, I lost two of my biggest clients, which was about 60% of my income. I was the breadwinner all of a sudden and whoosh! All the bread was toast.

Within a week, I had not only replaced that income, but doubled what I had been making each month.

How?

All those queries and feelers I’d been putting out on a regular basis (see #2) came through and I had more work than I could handle.

Throughout the current recession, I had one slow month (December, which is always slow) and that’s it. I’m literally flooded with work right now, and hoping to get some breathing room soon. Really soon. (laughing)

Plan ahead. Like I said a second ago, December is always a slow month for me. So is the early part of the summer. A lot of editors are on vacation or not in work mode and things start to slow down. Plan ahead for those days by increasing your workload a bit in October, November and late spring. The slow times won’t hit your pocketbook when you plan ahead.

The best thing about freelancing is how well it works around a baby. I went back to work the day I got home from the hospital with my second child. I was weak, and tired, but I sat on the couch with my laptop and finished up an article that was due that day.

Ninety percent of my editors never even knew I’d had a baby. I had curtailed my workload, of course, before I had him and for the first few weeks afterwards, but I never stopped entirely. I just worked around his naps or while he played on the floor.

$1000 can definitely be made and quite easily, if you want it badly enough. Just set that bar for yourself, spend some time each day working toward it and you’ll be seeing that money in no time.

“How badly do you want it?” – George E. Allen – British author and publisher – 1832-1907

© 2002 Shirley Kawa-Jump

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