Friday, August 11, 2017

The Right Time

Too often writers are consumed by the content of what they’re writing. Few consider whether the subject is timely or not. To be a successful freelance writer, you have to consider whether it’s the right time to write and market your idea.

While some subjects are “evergreen,” or good for just about any time, most are time specific.  Evergreen pieces appeal to an editor any time of year. Even so, you still have to get things out ahead–at least 2-3 months for short stories and magazine articles, and perhaps a year ahead for a book idea. It’s not what’s trending now but what will be trending in the near future. In some ways, you have to be somewhat of a fortune teller to predict what readers will want down the road.

Many beginning writers get frustrated when they get rejections from publishers for their work. While the writing skills of some may be lacking, the reason for the rejection could be one of timing. Many think they can send any article, short story, or book idea in at any time and the publisher will just love it. But it all comes down to timeliness.

To market your writing successfully, you have to take a hint from retailing. Department, discount, and online stores would never think of putting out summer clothes in June or July (or December or January for those down under). Summer is already here. Instead, they put out their summer collections in April or May, several months ahead of when the clothing might actually be worn. Ads for back-to-school clothing and other items now begin to appear in July, barely a month after most kids have just gotten out of school for summer vacation.

So to get your ideas—or in the case of short stories, your text—to an editor at the right time, you have to think ahead. Whatever you’re sending out now—except articles to newspapers if you can find any to take them—should be on topics that will appeal to editors three to six months from now. This works especially well with seasonal subject matter.

Writing about events in a timely manner is another thing altogether. There are three ways to approach this—write about the event before it happens, write about it after it happens (news), and write about it coinciding with an anniversary of the event.

Most publication relations writers write about events before they happen. This produces interest in the event and encourages readers to participate or attend it. Newspapers usually publish stories about events after they’ve happened, giving readers a review of the event. Magazines like to publish articles on events to coincide with the anniversary of an event because they need to plan far in advance. Knowing which type of publication you’re targeting will allow you to know how you should write about an event.

Trending subjects can either have a short life or a long one. Articles about a political election or the election process may only be of interest to readers for a shorter time while those that concern diet trends may have a longer timeline. It’s important to know which trend is which in order to pitch ideas that won’t be outdated by the time an editor gets to them.

Seasonal pieces are perhaps the easiest to write and sell because seasons are well established. The four seasons of the year—summer, fall, winter, spring—the most general, but you also have those holidays around which retailers plan their sales—Christmas, Easter, Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving, and back-to-school. You can easily make a list of ideas for each season and be assured that most or all will sell.

So while it’s important to write well, it’s just as important to write timely pieces that you know will sell.

To read more of my articles and book excerpts, please visit my Web site. And to read more articles on freelance writing, grammar, and marketing, go to Writer's Corner.


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