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Making That First Sale
by Kathryn Lay
One of the most exciting sales for a writer is
that very first sale. And sometimes, its the most difficult. Ive known writers
to sell their first submissions as well as those who have been submitting for
years without making a sale. It can be discouraging and deadly for a beginning
writer as they lose hope of every seeing their byline. Most often, when talking
with new writers who are close to giving up after months or years without making
a sale, I find that the majority are only submitting to the biggest and best
publications. And they are submitting full-length articles or back page essays,
competing with thousands of other writers for premier and high paying spots that
only have a few spots a month open, perhaps one in the case of essays. So how
can a new writer beat the odds and break into the magazine market? Here are a
few areas to think about:
* New magazines New magazines rarely have
established writers unless they are all staff written. They dont have a
stockpile of manuscripts that theyve already purchased. This is a great
opportunity to get your work in front of an editor and show them what you can
do. Check with friends who may have purchased a new magazine, watch the magazine
racks at bookstores and grocery stores, watch for announcements in writing
* Magazines in change When you learn about
magazines where the owner, the editor, or the format has changed, this may be
the perfect time to get in. They may be looking for fresh writers with new ideas
to pump up their magazine. Read a couple of the new issues and get a feel for
where their new focus lies.
* Magazines upping their frequency If you hear
of a magazine that goes from a quarterly publication to monthly, or annually to
quarterly and so on, they will need more submissions. Make sure to understand
what they need, but dont hesitate to make yourself and your writing
* Small magazines When youre first beginning,
work on getting your byline. It doesnt mean you need to give all your writing
away for free, but find smaller publications that, even though they pay little,
will give you a byline and sales under your belt. Even a $10 first sale is
enough to keep a new writer from throwing in the towel.
* Local publications Check your local
newspaper, magazines, and specialized papers. They are often thrilled to work
with local authors. One of my first and most fun sales was a humor column on
local events and everyday things happening to me in my area for a small local
newspaper. I sent in 3 sample columns, got an appointment with the editor, and
talked her into $15 a week as opposed to her offer of doing the column for free.
It lasted a year as a bi-monthly column, giving me much needed experience and
bylines. I later resold several of the columns to magazines.
* Trade Journals that you are familiar with in
your work or hobbies. Do you take magazines that pertain to your job or hobby?
Why not write for them? My love for carousels led me to a magazine for
merry-go-round enthusiasts. After several issues, I knew Id love to sell them
an article. I knew a local amusement park had recently refurbished an antique
carousel. I found out who led this project and interviewed him. I ended up with
a wonderful article that included pictures I took of the finished carousel and
donated photos of the work in progress.
* Fillers: Most magazines have places for
fillers. Humor, informational tidbits, helpful suggestions, facts, etc.
Childrens magazines look for puzzles, rebus, crafts, and more. Though the pay
is sometimes small, most provide a byline and a check. Think of tips for how you
do projects better, faster, easier. Travel tips. Parenting tips. Short how-tos.
As you work on new ways to make your first sale,
try these 4 ideas:
1. Target your work. Dont just write a piece
and shot put it to the biggest magazine around. Choose a magazine and an area of
writing in their publication and target a piece for it.
2. Be flexible and open. Dont shoot down the
idea of writing a free column or selling an essay for $50 to a small anthology
rather than for $1500 to Womans Day. It doesnt hurt to start at the top, but
if that doesnt work, be willing to do what you can to get those first
3. Advertise yourself. Build a website. Get
business cards mentioning that you are a writer and give them to people you meet
who might need someone to put together their companys newsletter.
4. Network. Find and join a local writing group
or club, attend conferences, join writing lists and make acquaintances and
friends. Ive found many of my writing projects through others who have
recommended me or invited me to write for them. Ive learned about a lot of
markets this way. I found my agent because of a generous online acquaintance who
recommended me to her.
Everyone is a beginning writer at first. Try new
ways to make that first sale. And when you do, celebrate and do it
© Copyright 2005, Kathryn Lay
Kathryn Lay is the author of 26 books for children, over 2000 articles, essays and stories for children and adults and the book from AWOC.COM Publishing, The Organized Writer is a Selling Writer. Check out her website at www.kathrynlay.com and email through firstname.lastname@example.org
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