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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Armed with an outdated "Writer's Market", I finally had free time to dedicate entirely to writing.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 (www.faxaway.com) 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 Madagascar.

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