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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 sales.

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 byline.

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 myths.

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 same title."

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 reprint rights.

Editors and readers are customers. You're a salesperson. Sharpen your sales tools and watch your writing dollars grow.

© Copyright 2005, Beth Fowler

Find more interesting articles at authorsden.com/bethfowler

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