Saturday, June 24, 2017

You’ve Finally Been Published--Now What?

Writers are an odd lot. Some write prolifically while others write one or two successful pieces and then nothing. Getting published for the first time is a tremendous goal. It takes a lot of time and energy. But afterwards, many writers feel let down. Why is that?

Most likely it’s because they focused so much on that one piece, whether article or short story, and not on all the information they gathered for it. But a professional writer knows that information is his or her biggest asset.

Many beginning writers get published for the first time, then turn to a completely different subject, marketing that to a different editor or publisher instead of building a relationship with the first.

Writing is not just about words, it’s about relationships. No matter what sort of writing you do, you need to build on past successes. If you begin at the top, you have no where to go but down, so it’s important to begin slowly and build relationships with your editors. This can be either by getting to know what a particular editor wants or building on new contacts.

For some writers, perhaps you, that first published piece is a fluke. It may not have been totally an accident—most likely you sent out numerous queries or finished manuscripts—the piece succeeded. But more than likely the piece succeeded in the wrong market. Sure, you were ecstatic about getting anything published, but it happened for the wrong reasons.

To get your career started, you need to build on that first publishing success, even if it happened in the wrong market. Editors want to know about your track record—they want to see clips of published pieces. But if you don’t have any, you’re as bad off as if you apply for a loan without any credit history.

As soon as you achieve publishing success, immediately send several similar ideas to that same editor. In fact, while you’re waiting to hear back from that publication, assemble a list of salable ideas that you can send along later. While this publication may not be your ideal, it’s better that you get more pieces published in an established market instead of trying to forge new ones.

Perhaps the editor liked your writing style or perhaps your subject. What probably happened was that the editor liked the timeliness of your subject. Your subject was right on target, even if your writing skills may not have been up to par. Take a serious look at that market and send the editor some other ideas.

It’s important to build a rapport with your editors. Normally, they don’t remain in their positions very long. Editors flit from publication to publication about as fast as hairdressers do from salon to salon. If you have a good relationship with an editor, he or she will often take you with them to their new publication. It’s usually an upgrade to a better position for them, resulting in a marketing upgrade for you, which can mean higher pay and more prestige.

Success as a writer is all about climbing the proverbial ladder. You’ve got to do it one rung at a time.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Where Do You Start to Publish Online

There are plenty of markets online. Many of them focus on small niches, which makes your chances of getting published even greater if you have a specialty. You won’t find a richer resource of publications anywhere that’s easier to access than online. However, you do need to approach submitting to online publications a little differently than you would submitting to print publications.

The Internet is growing. More people are spending more time reading online, which increases the chances of your work being read. But those who do read articles online, read about specific things. While the number of specialized print magazines has grown dramatically in the last two decades, Web sites have always been tightly focused, thus attracting specific readers—readers who are interested in the information they have to offer about their particular subject.

Good Web sites and e-zines are constantly growing their readership. Perhaps you’ll get lucky and a small ezine that only 100 people read a month accepts your work. A few months later that publication might be read by 1,000 people a month. It’s not unusual for readership to increase by over 1,000 readers in one month. Remember that the Internet is also known as the World Wide Web for a reason. If your work appears online, people from other countries who might never have read your work may do so online.

Writing for Web sites is a little different than writing for print. Generally, you’ll want to write your articles in the second person. While thousands may eventually read your work, you’re dealing with one reader at a time, so addressing them using the pronoun “you” in the second person instantly makes a connection.

However, selling to Web sites and e-zines is essentially the same as selling to print markets. Start by studying the markets. While there are a few databases that list online markets, you’ll actually be better off searching for them yourself. First you need to find them. Begin by searching for the subject you’re interested in writing about as if you were a reader interested in reading about that same subject. Google is the best search engine out there. While others may target specific subject areas, Google literally covers the world in its searches.

Another source you can try is the Directory of E-zines.

Create a special folder entitled, “Online Writing Markets,” then as you discover potential sites and e-zines, bookmark them and save them into this folder. Don’t be too particular at first. If you search for a specific subject, you’ll find what you need. Once you have found a number of sites which may be possibilities, go back and study them one by one.

How good your results will be depends on your search. To search for a specific word or phrase, enclose it in parentheses. Go back to the ones that look like they may be good markets and notice how often they’re updated. If a site sits idle for a couple of months, it’s a good bet the owner isn’t paying much attention to it. On the other hand, if a site is updated frequently or on a specific schedule much like a print magazine, then it’s a sure bet they’ll need plenty of content to keep going. Also, notice if articles on the site have been written by different people. If they’re all written by the same person, move on, because that site won’t be accepting other writers—at least for now. In print this is known as “in house” while online if could be referred to as “on site.” You may want to check back later because the owner may begin using other writers.

Once you know which markets may be good for your work, find out if they pay anything and how much. Also, determine if they have any writer’s guidelines, and if so, download a copy.

Remember, all your transactions should be electronic. If a site or e-zine owner says your should send your work by regular mail, cross them off your list immediately. You’re working in the 21st century when smartphones and computers connect many Americans.

Submitting queries for your article is the same as for print. The form is the same and so is the content. The only difference is that you’ll be sending your queries by Email included within the message itself. The same goes for the text of your articles. Make sure you send them in as a Microsoft Word document. You can use any wordprocessing program you wish to prepare them, but you must use a universal program like MS Word to send them. To be on the safe side, send your text as an attachment in MS Word 2003 or higher.

And just as with print, keep tract of your submissions. While your Email program’s “Sent” folder will do that, it’s a good idea to keep a record of your submissions in your computer, then you can easily go back to check on the status of each article submission.

NEXT WEEK: Promoting Your Online Work

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Publishing Online—Where Are We Now

The Internet continues to grow as a publishing medium for both articles and books. It took a while, but readers as well as writers seem to be accepting it as a bonafide publishing venue.

This added confidence seems to be encouraged partly because of the volume of writing in the form of blogs, Web content, and e-books now available online. In addition, the number and types of electronic devices on which to read it has increases exponentially. While many readers avail themselves of this writing on laptops and tablets, an equal number or more access articles and blogs on their smartphones.

And although it had taken quite a while for writers and periodical publishers to accept the Internet as a viable publishing medium—even though it’s not a majority as yet—more and more are turning to it every day.

The number of blogs has exploded since 2010. Platforms such as Google’s free Blogger have made it easy for writers to get the word out. Many have turned to Wordpress, thinking it to be more professional. But when it comes right down to it, it’s not the platform that draws readers, it’s the writing. It’s the difference between writing polished work on a high-tech computer or writing it by hand on a paper towel. In the end, it’s the quality of the writing that counts.

The fact is no one–editors, public relations people, and, yes, even writers–recognize the Internet as a legitimate publishing medium. One reason is that essentially non-writers communicate on it. And even if a professional writer publishes pieces on Web sites, there’s no way to tell the difference. Sure, the writing is most likely better quality, but there’s no definite line as there is in print publishing.

Secondly, few Web sites pay little or nothing for contributed work. Most site owners, beyond the corporate sites, are people with a special interest and are not professional editors or writers. And that’s the rub. Sites that do offer writers opportunities for publication don’t have any approval process, so they accept everything. Someone has got to decide which pieces are good or not before posting them.

However, today both amateur and professional writers seem to have found a place somewhere online. The difference in how they present themselves is two-fold.

First, the professional edits and polishes their work before posting it online, whether it’s a blog or an article submitted to an e-zine. Also, blog subjects tend to be slanted to the reader and not personal in nature. Amateurs, on the other hand, either don’t know how to edit their work properly or ignore this process and essentially post their first drafts.

Second, amateur and non-writers seem to be confine their posts to personal blogs, product reviews, and comments after articles. Some set up personal writing Web sites where they post short stories, personal blogs, or poetry.

The day of professional blogging is upon us. Investigative journalism has found its way online and these writers—as professional as any newspaper or magazine writers, some of whom formerly wrote for print markets—are getting paid for their work.

Pay for online work is increasing, also. While e-zine publishers generally work with very low or non-existent budgets, some have come to realize that paying professional writers attracts visitors to their sites. Many major newspapers, such as the Washington Post, have online editions that feature some of the same writers they feature in their print editions.

Next Week: Where Do You Start to Publish Online

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Key to Unlocking the Door to Success

Communication is the key to unlocking the door to success. Believe it or not, you already have it in you. But you’d be surprised how many writers—in fact, how many people—cannot communicate effectively.

Writing is one of many forms of communication. Like listening, it requires a reader to digest the ideas provided by the words. Remember that old saying: "If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound if no one is there to hear it?" That could be changed to read: "If a writer writes down his or her ideas, do they exist if no one reads and interprets them?"

There are three parts to the communication process—the sender, who sends the message, the message, itself, and the receiver or the reader. If the receiver cannot understand part of the message, even one word, than there’s mis-communication.

This concept should be the basis for your writing. Using it is the difference between being a writer and a person who writes. Everyone learns to write in school. But most people don’t communicate well. Instead, they rely on the reader to interpret what they have to say.

This happens everyday on Facebook. Most Facebook users assume that they’re writing only to their close friends. Actually, most of them are really sending their posts out to all their Facebook “friends,’ many of whom they don’t personally know. Normally, they shorthand their posts, assuming their personal friends know what they mean. But those Facebook “friends” who don’t know don’t understand what they’re trying to say, thus mis-communication occurs.

As a professional, published writer, you must make sure that everyone who read’s your work understands it.

If you write articles for magazines, for instance, you already have a target audience—a defined group of readers based on the subject matter of the magazine. Most magazines today specialize in a particular subject, so you must slant your article to meet their needs.

However, if you write books, your readership is often undefined. Sure, some may argue that if you write a romance novel that only women of a certain age will read it. But in reality, what’s to prevent any reader from purchasing the book at a bookstore, a book sale, or even on Amazon. Chances are men won’t read it, but you never know.

So knowing who your reader will be is an important part of the communication equation. To be successful and get your work published, you need to write for a specific group of readers who will understand not only what you’re writing about but the words you use to do so.

Too many beginning writers write for themselves without considering who will read their work. Because of this, they fail to get published. Naturally, there are other reasons why they may have trouble getting their work published, but lack of communication is Number One.

Have you written pieces that have yet to be published? Get them out and read them again. Did you write them for a specific group of readers or just yourself? Changing the angle or focusing these piece better may still help you get them published.