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Five Article Types That Sell
by Patricia Fry
How many different types of articles can one write? The answer hovers somewhere around a dozen. There’s the essay, opinion, bulleted piece, how-to, informational/research piece, Q & A, article with expert quotes, interview article, photo feature, review, book excerpts, profile piece and the personal experience article, for example.
But which article types are most popular? And which style should you choose for your subject? You can take almost any topic and create a valid article using any one of these styles. Of course, your choice should reflect the needs and requirements of the magazine you wish to write for. You’re not going to offer a magazine that thrives on hard news an article featuring your viewpoint. Nor would you submit a personal experience piece to a magazine that publishes only how-to and research articles. So, before you write that article, be sure that you are writing the right piece for the right magazine.
So which article types are the most popular; the most often used? I suggest the following:
- How-to. We all want to learn new things—as long as the learning process isn’t too complicated. You’re reading this article in hopes of learning how to write the types of articles that will sell. We read books and articles in order to learn how to prepare certain meals, groom our dogs, make a quilt, tend a garden, get along better with our spouses, take better photographs, travel to exotic places for less and so forth. The how-to is probably at the top of the article chart when it comes to popularity among editors and readers.
A how-to responds to readers’ questions about a physical process or a thought process and guides them in how to accomplish or achieve something. Not everyone can write a successful how-to. It takes someone with a rather organized mind—who can sort out and explain the various steps to a process clearly and logically.
I recommend that you start by listing the steps you want to cover. And then note the points you want to make within each step. String these together with carefully chosen words and separate the points with numbers or bullets, such as I have done here, and you have a useful how-to.
A how-to article can be 300 words or 3,000 words—whatever the magazine or ezine editor asks for. Where there’s enough space, I like to use pertinent anecdotes in my how-tos as a way to emphasize and illustrate the points I’m making.
- Research piece with Expert Quotes. This is another popular type of article. This piece is generally formed through research and interviews. The article generally consists of facts and information with quotes from experts in the field to validate the material. If you are commissioned to write an article featuring home-schooling, for example, present the facts and provide some resources related to home-schooling (how many kids are home-schooled today, why do parents choose to home-school their children, how do parents get the curriculum for home-schooling, which states have the most home-schooled students, how do home-schooled students fare when they are faced with college entrance exams, etc.) and then get some expert quotes. Interview parents who are home-schooling, a director of a home-school program, an advocate against home schooling, college admissions folks and a few kids who were home schooled, for example.
Once you have gathered your material and quotes, weave them effectively through the article being aware of the flow and readability.
Always get written permission from anyone you interview for an article of this type.
- The Profile piece is not the same as one in which you quote experts. A profile piece features usually one individual related to a specific aspect of his or her life. You might profile a celebrity who owns several dogs for a dog magazine. So your focus will not be her celebrity status as much as it will be her interest and interaction with her dogs. Perhaps you’ll profile the head of a major company on the topic of management for a business management magazine or on his thoughts about working past retirement age for a senior magazine.
The key to writing a good profile piece is to interview the individual extensively and long enough in order to get some quotable gems. It may take many more questions than you expect and 45 minutes to finally get that lead quote from him.
- The Personal Experience piece. We all like to talk and write about ourselves. This is an easy, slam dunk sort of article to write. But make sure that your experience is truly worth writing about and that it fits with your target magazine’s theme. Here are some areas that you might consider when writing the Personal Experience article: travel, healing/fitness, recovery from a severe illness or accident, adopting children from other countries, a brief and unusual encounter with a celebrity, a truly unusual wedding or birthday celebration or an identity theft experience, for example.
The Personal Experience article should be interesting to read, have a point and possibly teach a lesson.
- The Essay or Opinion piece. We all have opinions. I love to write the essay—there’s no (or little) research involved. You don’t have to conduct any interviews. It’s strictly your thoughts—your words—your perspective. And many magazines publish essays or opinion pieces on the topics of their publications.
The key with the Essay or Opinion piece is to write skillfully, make it interesting, stay on topic without too many sidebars and leave the reader with something to think about.
Don’t avoid submitting articles to certain magazines because they want article types that you are not familiar with. Practice writing the How-to, Profile piece or Expert Quote article, for example, and you will expand your earnings considerably.
© Copyright 2009, Patricia Fry
Patricia Fry is a career writer, author, speaker and editorial/publishing consultant.
She is the president of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network)
www.spawn.org and the author
of 27 books, including The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book
Visit her informative blog daily, www.matilijapress.com/publishingblog.
New book of cat stories
Patricia Fry announces her latest book: Catscapades, Tales of Ordinary and Extraordinary Cats www.matilijapress.com/catscapades.html.
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