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8 Ways to Avoid Being a One-Sale Wonder
by Rebecca Matthews
You sold your first article to X magazine. They loved it. They sent payment within a week. You are on a roll.
Your second article was sold to Y magazine. They loved it. They sent payment within a month. You are on top of the world.
Your third article has been accepted by Z magazine. They love it. Payment is in the mail. Life is good.
As you continue to gain acceptances, you start noticing a trend: all your sales are to different magazines. Not one has been a repeat sale. This was my reality after a few sales. I couldn't seem to sell an article to X, Y or Z magazines after my first sale to them, no matter how many queries I sent. I began to doubt myself and wonder if freelance writing was for me. After wallowing in self-pity for a few hours and complaining to my writer friends, I returned to work taking to heart their advice: self-pity doesn't gain you clips, writing does.
In my attempt to generate more clips, I began to write down ways to avoid selling only one article per magazine. I didn't want to be a one-sale wonder, but a repeat writer. Here are eight ways to avoid being a one-sale wonder.
Keep sending: Rejections can be discouraging, no doubt about it. More so if they come from the same magazine time after time. Don't let them get you down, keep on sending. After my first sale to a local equestrian magazine, it took sixteen queries before I landed a second assignment and four more before I landed a third. A little determination can go a long way.
Revamp your query: Maybe it isn't your idea that is turning them off, but the query you are sending. Look it over. Are you sure you are emphasizing the key points to you topic? Is your great idea buried under a hill of flowery words and lavish description? Strip it down to the bare essentials then rewrite until you have a sharp, engaging, attention grabbing query.
Shelf it and move on: There are times when your great, original idea isn't so original. You are just that much too late and someone else with the same idea got their query in ahead of you. It could be as simple as they ran an article similar to your idea within the last year. Now is the time to shelf your idea until you have another angle to it.
Find a new angle: You and Writer B have sent in the same idea. Magazine X accepts Writer B's query and rejects yours. Don't be discouraged. Your idea isn't bad it just needs a new angle to it. Is there something you missed in your initial search for information? Is there breaking news that will put a different slant on your idea? Brainstorm. Take your original idea and spin off at least four more ideas from it.
Dust off an old article, idea or query: Pull out an old idea that has been sitting for while, review it, and see what you have to work with. It may be an article you wrote on spec that didn't sell. It may be an old idea that you have new information or a new source for. It may be a query that you pushed aside and forgot about that is perfect for a new department at your target magazine. Whatever the reason; brush it off, spruce it up, and send it out.
Write on spec: Sometimes the most direct route is the simplest. How-to's and list articles can usually stand on their own with a cover letter, rather than querying. I made a second sale to a magazine by sending off a list article with a cover letter. Writing on spec can also help generate other ideas, which may be more along the lines of what the magazine is looking for. Maybe your article on how Farmer's Markets can help you pinch pennies, leads to another idea on how Farmer's Markets can improve local economy, or how they keep families eating healthier.
Remember the seasons: Sending out a query for Christmas at Thanksgiving isn't going to get you an assignment unless you are aiming for the following year. Magazines have seasonal issues, use them. Standard rule is to query six months in advance. However, for seasonal articles, eight to ten months isn't unreasonable. If you have an idea for an article on making your own snow hill, send your query in before the snow starts to fall, preferably sometime around President's Day.
Take stock in special editions: Some magazines have special editions that are published periodically through the year. Pay special attention and aim your query for that edition. If you are an expert on dogs and know the Westminster Dog Show is coming, look into interviewing a judge for a dog or animal magazine. If a regional horse magazine is running a stallion issue, consider doing an article on a stallion service auction.
Ideas are endless and they can be as original as you make them. Don't allow yourself to be discouraged if your favorite magazine rejects your query time after time. It may take sixteen tries before an acceptance comes your way, but keep on sending and always continue to write.
© Copyright 2009, Rebecca Matthews
Rebecca Matthews is a freelance writer based in southern Idaho. Her
work has appeared in such magazines as EQUUS and The Northwest Horse
Source. When she's not writing, you can find her out riding her
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