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Sweating It Out in Cambodia: Marketing My First Sale While Overseas
by Kimberly Baldwin Radford
Maybe you're still sweating out your first
acceptance letter; perhaps you've crossed that milestone years ago. My first
sale found me literally "sweating it out" behind my keyboard in hot, humid
Cambodia. With a year left in my husband's contract, I had decided to take a
break from public health to pursue a lifelong dream to write.
Armed with an outdated "Writer's Market", I
finally had free time to dedicate entirely to writing. What I had not taken into
account, however, was that I lacked the most basic resources to market my work:
The mail system in Cambodia was abysmal, making postal submissions a waste of
time and money; faxes cost $4-5 per minute. I had E-mail access through my
former job, but Internet services had yet to hit Cambodia in a significant way.
The few offices with access charged $6-8 per hour. Clearly, I was at a
disadvantage for contacting editors in a cost-effective manner.
I e-mailed every relevant publication that I
could find an address for and guidelines began to trickle in. Several magazines
listed a fax number but no E-mail. Accessing a helpful service called Faxaway
allowed me to send faxes via E-mail at extremely cheap rates. Each letter
mentioned that mail service in Cambodia was not reliable; could guidelines
please be sent via E-mail? I was pleasantly surprised at how often I received a
reply. A few magazines even sent guidelines through the mail (miraculously
several got through) even though I obviously had not been able to enclose a SASE
or overseas postage.
Mentioning that I was inquiring from Cambodia
eventually led to my first sale in a publication called FACES, a U.S.-based
children's magazine about world cultures (www.cobblestonepub.com). I sent a fax-via-E-mail requesting writer's and
photographer's guidelines (my husband, Colin, being the photographer) and
immediately received a fax stating that Cambodia was being featured in an
upcoming issue. Although the query deadline had passed, the editor was willing
to consider photographs for submission.
After dancing with joy that Colin's photos might
be seen in print, we realized that I was still no closer to achieving my dream
of being published -- all of the articles had been assigned. Living in Cambodia
HAD to offer a unique slant on a topic that the editor hadn't considered. Coming
up with a fairly lengthy (too lengthy!) list of potential fillers, I sent off
another E-mail and held my breath.
Now it was my turn to celebrate: I had suggested
an interview with a novice Buddhist monk accompanied by photos and was assigned
a 700-word article. FACES bought six of Colin's photos to go with it, turning it
into a four-page piece. Twelve additional slides were purchased to illustrate
other stories in the issue.
While challenging, it IS possible to market
one's work from a developing country. Not only does offering photographs improve
the likelihood of catching an editor's attention, it can also dramatically
increase one's earnings: My article paid $175.20; Colin's 18 photos fetched
$1000. Hmm... Maybe I should be exchanging my keyboard for a camera!
© Copyright 1999, Kimberly Baldwin Radford
Kim Baldwin Radford is an international health consultant, most recently based in Phnom Penh, CAMBODIA. Her articles have appeared in publications such as Faces: The Magazine About People and Women of Spirit. The Radford's next work destination will find Kim pounding the keyboard in hotter and even more humid