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$harpen Your $ales Tools
by Beth Fowler
Do you want to earn more writing dollars? To
rise from hobby to business status IRS-wise? If you answered "Yes!" then it's
time to sharpen your sales tools.
Tool 1: Identify readers' tastes.
Analyze advertisements in several issues of
the targeted publication. Content and ads reflect readers' genders, age
ranges, marital status, occupations and income levels, education, social
groups, moral, political and religious outlooks; main likes and dislikes;
fantasies and fears.
A food mag editor advertising classes in
Tuscany with Chef Carluccio won't salivate over a query about "Five Meals with
Frozen Fish Fingers." Editors shove potluck queries to the back burner in
favor of those that satisfy readers' tastes.
Tool 2: Get names right.
"Instead of going to the top editor, these
[incorrectly addressed] queries will go to the lowest editor (the slush
pile)," writes John Wood in How to Write Attention-Grabbing Query and
Cover Letters (Writer's Digest Books, 1996). Check recent editions at
newsstands, bookstores, libraries and publishers' websites for editors' names.
Find out who gets your article about home trends: the business or lifestyle
editor. Track down departed editors who'd previously bought your work. Editors
who trusted you before are as good as money in the bank for future
Tool 3: Focus on customer concerns.
A query with "I'm a member of SCORE. I'd like
to write for Small Business Magazine" is seller focused and won't
hook editorial attention. A query with "Small Business Magazine
readers who don't want to be among the 80% of small businesses that fail need
to know that SCORE, Counselors to America's Small Businesses, offers advice
and business plan workshops. Entrepreneurs who write business plans are more
likely to be in business past the five-year danger mark," is customer focused
and more likely to get an editorial OK.
Tool 4: Pursue add-ons.
Writers pursuing add-on sales should
immediately acknowledge the first purchase, express appreciation, and offer a
logical extension that will satisfy more customer needs. Sell sets (a column,
a two-part article) and mention another product in the context of a current
product, such as naming a recently released book in one's
Tool 5: Be available.
Sales savvy writers are available when their
customers need them. Among other things, this means answering the newspaper
editor's phone call during the Super Bowl. (Dear editor is putting tomorrow's
edition "to bed.") This means installing an answering machine, and accessing a
host server to send and receive e-mails when traveling beyond the local
Internet Service Provider's reach.
Tool 6: Persist.
Sometimes editors reject articles for reasons
having nothing to do with quality or suitability. Let's say you've submitted
an article about the therapeutic value of animal companions to a magazine for
nursing home administrators. The editor shoots back a form letter: "While
we've given your article consideration, it doesn't meet our editorial needs at
this time." At this time!
Perhaps animals starred in a centerfold spread
less than two years ago, or headquarters overhauled the magazine to cover
administrative topics exclusively, or budget shrinkage precludes compensating
freelancers, or the editor's dog crunched its final biscuit, making a story
about comfort creatures discomfiting. Persistent writers try another time.
Tool 7: Become multitalented.
Anne Lamott's first novel was published in
1980. More novels and memoirs followed. She wrote columns for magazines and
then "Someone offered me a gig teaching a writing workshop, and I've been
teaching writing classes ever since." And writing.
Tool 8: Create a business plan.
Dynamic plans lead to dynamic results.
Wordsmith plans include income goals, milestone goals (e.g. Get published in
Writing for DOLLARS!), and quantity goals. Overall goals are supported with
specific actions to maintain loyal customers and cultivate new customers.
Tool 9: Produce systematically.
Novelist Wilbur Smith says, "If you just let
it happen, then it's not going to happen." To make it happen, Smith gives
himself a date on which to start producing a new bestseller.
A production schedule is a "to do" list with
due dates. Coordinate the production schedule to avoid bottlenecks, missed
deadlines and downtime. Track queries and manuscripts sent, accepted and
rejected; dollars spent, owed, and earned.
Tool 10: State your USP.
Marketing wizards bandy around the term USP.
Writers, too, can announce their Unique Selling Points by proposing articles
with unconventional angles, having access to meaty quotes and new research
data, highlighting unique qualifications and experience promising an insider's
view, taking a contrarian's stance and busting popularly held
Tool 11: Negotiate.
Don't freeze out non-paying publications. Ask
for a free advert to be published in the issue with your article. The addendum
"Email the author to find out about writers' workshops" is fair consideration
in lieu of dollars, as is "This short story is excerpted from the novel of the
When a prospect asks, "How much do you charge
for an article?" reply, "I recently received X dollars for an article of the
same length" or cite fees from Writer's Market or tell the editor you'll get
back to her. Meanwhile, find out what that and similar publications pay
freelancers. Ask for additional pay for photos. Retain as many rights as
possible. Have copyright revert to you after publication so you may sell
Editors and readers are customers. You're a
salesperson. Sharpen your sales tools and watch your writing dollars
© Copyright 2005, Beth Fowler
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