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I like writing for regional magazines. Some writers are all about getting into the big-name magazines, and that’s fine. I like writing for them occasionally, too. However, the bread-and-butter side of non-book income is writing for magazines so I need to keep the assignments and checks coming.

2fd069a12889a0c3761c5db01730cb0d6858b490Here’s why I like to write for regional magazines:

  • Larger market: If I wanted to write a story for a national history magazine, I have three or four possible markets where I could pitch the article. However, if I look at the local angles of the story, I could at least double that number of market, maybe even triple it. I live in Gettysburg, and there are six magazines that I can think of that directly cover the town.
  • Easy to resell articles: I find that it is easy to resell article ideas between regional magazines. The article needs to be refocused a bit to fit the market of the magazine, but probably half of the article can stay the same between the markets. For instance, I wrote an article about the Tuskegee Airmen who were from Maryland for a Maryland magazine. I then repurposed it for both West Virginia and Pennsylvania magazines focusing on the airmen from those state. While the names were different and I had to interview different people, the basic information about the history of the airmen was the same.pa-heritage-magazine-spring-2016_large
  • Multiple chances to impress: This ties into there being a larger market of regional magazines. Each of those magazines has a different editor, so you have multiple chances to build professional relationships that can serve you well. Once I have worked with editors for a few stories, they quickly realize I like history so when history ideas up in editorial meetings, they contact me to write the story. Also, if the editor moves on to a new job, they know they can contact me for assignments.178e9ea3549cac3b6d3a2d20aee0ad2c
  • Good payment: Certainly national magazines pay more, probably around $1 a word, but regional magazines easily pay 25 cents to 75 cents a word. If you repurpose your article idea for four magazines, you’ll probably make more for the overall idea by selling it to regional magazines.
  • Unique stories: Because national magazines have a national market, I find that the stories they tend to tell are more generalized. I find that I have plenty of good articles ideas that national magazines wouldn’t be interested in because they are too local. For instance, I recently wrote an article about the year-long hunt for a supposedly escaped gorilla. It was a fun story that local people enjoyed reading about, but I doubt that a national magazine would have cared for it.
  • Less competition: Regional magazines have fewer writers competing for the editorial space. That means you have a better chance of being accepted. While national magazines may pay more, if you don’t get the assignment, you won’t be making anything. Not only do I have a better chance of getting the assignment at an individual magazine, but if I’m pitching an idea to multiple magazines, such as the Tuskegee Airmen story, I have a better chance of getting the story accepted somewhere. The odds are against me getting the $1 per word story, but I could easily get 50 cents per word.

1192240118All that being said, national magazines still offer advantages.

  • More-impressive clippings: When querying magazines for assignment, having national credits is more impressive to editors. That would make them more likely to see my query favorably. I do have some national credits, and I name them in my queries as well as pertinent regional credits.
  • Better pay: As I already said, if you can get a national assignment, it will more than likely pay better than regional publication. This is particularly true if you can get an assignment from one of the big-name publications that might pay you even more than $1 per word.
  • Author reputation: It doesn’t happen as much now as it used to, but some authors can build a following of readers who are anxious to read their articles.

From my perspective as a full-time freelance writer who needs to earn a living, these are my reasons for favoring regional publications. You may have a different perspective. If it works for you and gets you published, keep it up. If you find it failing you more often than not, try your luck with regional publications. There are some great ones out there. I should know. I write for them.fm2017_smcover-1

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checklist-clipart-response-clipart-clipart-pencil-checklistWhen I mention freelance writing, what type of writing jumps to mind? Here’s the types of freelancing I’ve done: newsletters, columns, newspaper articles, magazine articles, short stories, novels, ads, brochures, direct mail, radio scripts, catalogs and press releases. They’re all types of freelance writing.

Freelance writing is what someone is willing to pay you involving writing. I even throw in speaking, magazine editing and teaching as part of my work.

The way I look at it, you can divide your freelance writing into three areas based on who will be reading.

  • Public Writing – This is writing for the general public. It includes stories, novels, a lot of what writing, magazines, etc. It tends not to pay as well as other types of writing, but you get more recognition.
  • Business Writing – This is writing for businesses, such as ads, brochures, direct mail. You need more refined skills and understanding of marketing. It pays better than public writing.
  • Scientific Writing – This type of writing can be very technical. Often it seems to be done by writers who are scientist or other experts first and writers second. You need to be able to break things down and rebuild them. It pays very well.

Writers tend to specialize in one of these areas. During my first stint as a freelance writer, my specialty would have been scientific. My current specialty is public writing. As your writing career grows, you will get opportunities to expand into other areas if you want to. It’s up to you whether you want to take them on. It will give you a chance to expand your horizons.

The important thing is to find the area that brings you the most satisfaction. I find myself having to find a lot more assignments than I used to during my first time as a freelance writer. However, I am enjoying myself a lot more now. It doesn’t really feel like a job. That’s what you’re aiming for.

 

 

I was listening to another indie writer talk about her business model that allows her to be a full-time writer. Besides books, she gets income from selling writing courses, speaking, and affiliate marketing.

That got me thinking about my business model. About 45 percent of my income is from book sales and another 45 percent is from articles. The other 10 percent comes from speaking. While I would love to see the book sales percentage much higher, I don’t think the article writing will ever disappear from my business model.

Article writing for me is obviously an income stream, but my articles are also seeds. I spread them liberally. Some will take root and grow. That growth might be humungous or it might be moderate. Some might sprout and die while others might not sprout at all.

nov2_pollinationLet me explain.

Many of my articles have become the source for books that I have written or other articles. For instance, my book, Saving Shallmar: Christmas Spirit in a Coal Town, grew out a pair of newspaper columns that I had written years earlier.

Another way that my article seeds have grown is when I gather some of my favorites for a collection.

Many of my articles have spun off other articles. For instance, after I wrote about the Tuskegee Airmen from Maryland for the Maryland Life Magazine, I wrote similar articles for Wonderful West Virginia and Pennsylvania magazines.

Then, of course, the articles help keep my name in front of readers. I have even gotten speaking invitations from my articles.

If I were to give up article writing, I would be giving up a lot of the inspiration for my books. So if I’m going to grow my book business, I’m going to have to do it without cutting into my article writing much.

thI write a lot. I know I write a lot, but when I actually count the words I’m writing, it doesn’t seem like a lot.

I write 16-20 newspaper columns and magazine articles a month and probably average two books a year. That seems like a lot to me, but there’s so much more that I want to do, I wonder if I couldn’t push myself more to help clear that log jam of ideas that I have.

I tell my students that writers write so despite everything else that they may need to do as a freelance writer or independent author, they need to write each day. That’s easier said than done. For instance, yesterday I didn’t do any writing. I did a lot of research, interviewing, transcribing older interviews and marketing, but I didn’t do any writing.

That was discouraging, especially when I listened to a podcast interview in the evening and the author being interviewed was saying how at a minimum he writes about 500 words an hour and usually it’s closer to 2,000 words.

Wow. I shoot for 1,500 words a day. At that guy’s pace, I could have my daily writing done in 45 minutes.

One way that I’ve tried to combat this day-to-day variation in my schedule is to set a weekly total rather than a daily total. So my goal is to do 9,000 words a week (six days a weeks with Sundays off). I was making strong progress to meeting this and then October came along. Into my normal daily writing work, I had to add six classes I had to teach, four presentations, two festivals, and a weekend of required Boy Scout training. That much extra stuff send my weekly totals tumbling.

So I’m trying to build back up again. I’m doing well today. I’ve written about 1800-1900 words, but I’ve still got to make up for doing nothing yesterday. I should be able to, though. At least that’s what I’ll keep telling myself.

Do you set writing goals for yourself? What are they? How well do you do at keeping them? Does having a goal give you something to strive for or something to feel guilty about if you miss it?

Yes, I do feel guilty when I miss a target, but that doesn’t stop me from trying again. I know that having a goal makes me push myself a bit more. Maybe not enough sometimes, but I do know there have been times, where I’ve felt like stopping my writing and then looked at how close my goal was. “Just a few hundred more words!”

So get writing! Put your butt in your chair and start typing whether it’s an article or short story, first draft or final edit, get something on paper that wasn’t there yesterday. You’re a writer!

I’m a full-time freelance writer. That means that I have two or three articles due each week and I work with a variety of editors who don’t really care that I have other deadlines. They are only concerned that I meet their deadlines.

Trying to do this week after week can be daunting if you don’t develop coping mechanisms and prepare yourself.

Here are some tips that I use to meet my deadlines without losing my mind.

Break down each project to smaller pieces. For instance, when I’m writing an article, there’s research, interviewing, writing and final preparation that needs to be done. I use daily “to do” lists, so I can list a small piece of each article on the list and accomplish something for each project daily. It keeps each project moving forward.

  1. Set mini-deadlines. Using the smaller pieces for each article, I set dates to have each piece completed by so that I can complete the entire project with time to spare before the entire project is due.
  2. Build in extra time. When setting those mini-deadlines, I plan it out so that I am finished the project a few days before the entire project. This buffer time allows me time to fine tune a project or deal with any unexpected delays such as not being able to get a hold of someone I need to interview.
  3. Don’t take on too much. As Dirty Harry used to say, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” Know what you have due around the same time each new projects you might take on would be due. Know how productive you are and what your general schedule is. There’s only so much you can do no matter how prepared you are so make sure you know how much you can handle before you take on a project.
  4. Go with the flow. While having little deadlines is nice organizational tool, if you find yourself in the zone with a project, don’t worry about the deadline. Just keep writing. You can adjust your deadlines later.

Juggling multiple deadlines can be tiring, but it can be done. The more deadlines you have, though, the more organized you will need to be.

 

 

A friend wrote me an e-mail yesterday asking for my take on doing simultaneous submissions for article query letters. This is an issue that has vexed a lot of writers. Magazine editors generally don’t like it because it puts pressure on them to respond to an article quickly. However, sending out a query letter and waiting months to hear back from an editor isn’t a productive use of the writer’s time. Writers don’t want to tick off editors who might be willing to buy a story by sending out the same query to multiple markets, though.

I’ve got two ways that I work around this problem.

Customizing a story. Some story ideas lend themselves to market customizing. For instance, I’ve written three articles about an itinerant movie director from the 1920s through 1940’s. He would go from city to city using a stock script to shot a movie in which he cast local people in all the parts. He simply changed the title of the movie based on the city in which he was shooting.

I sold the article to three magazines. Each article was different in that I focused on the movies the director made in the magazine’s market area (i.e., Cumberland, MD; Pennsylvania; Tyrone, PA), but other information in the articles the same, such as biographical information on the director. In cases like this, the articles are different enough that I don’t mind simultaneous queries to non-competing markets.

Make it up in volume. The technique that I use more often simply grew out of the volume of queries I have out at any one time. I’m at the point where I have so many queries with magazines that I don’t need to worry about submitting the same idea to two magazines at once. I send out a couple of queries each week. At least one will be a new idea. Others will be sending a rejected idea out to the next market. Using this method, simultaneous queries don’t really become an issue because I’m too busy with other ideas.

The exception to this is when an editor doesn’t get back to me about an idea. I usually follow-up with queries if I don’t hear back from an editor in a month or so. If I still don’t hear back, I consider the idea open to send to another market.

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