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Marketing For New Writers
by Susan Miles

Like all unpublished writers, I devoured every writing how-to book, article and web site I could find. I can’t say I was terribly encouraged by the advice offered. The experienced writers offering these words of wisdom were painting a picture of countless rejections and years of toil before you could hope for a sale! One depressing article described the writer’s experience of selling only 6 articles for a total sum of $240 over a period of 10 years.

I therefore proceeded to throw these books and magazines away and try my own tactic.

My first step was to get those necessary clips to show that I was worth publishing. A local based magazine that is part of a globally recognized name quickly picked up two of my articles for "publish without payment".

While it is always nice to be paid for your writing, as a complete unknown to editors, this is going to be difficult without a track record.

The next step was to feed off these publishing credits and submit wider afield. Sticking to my area of specialty, which is sport, particularly running, I used the Internet to find as many running publications in the world as possible.

I located two in the UK, one in South Africa and about 24 in the U.S.

Rather than order copies of each and every one of these magazines, I simply reviewed their websites to get a feel for the type of articles they regularly published. I also read (where available) their submission guidelines.

I then applied a "blanket approach" to submitting; send my 3-4 finished running articles to a variety of these publications via email. My introduction (equivalent to a cover letter) was addressed by name to the publications editor, included a one sentence overview of the article, a brief introduction to myself, my qualifications to write the piece (details of the international events I had competed in) and a list of my writing credits.

The article(s) were then simply pasted into the body of the email to eliminate any fear of computer viruses lurking in a word attachment.

I received a number of acceptances this way, but unfortunately with long editorial lead times, publication would not occur for several months. To take advantage of these acceptances, I simply added the details to my list of credits with the notation (accepted for publication 2002).

The result, a sale to a running publication in Houston Texas that technically became "My first sale", i.e.: the first publication I received a check for my writing. I have never read the magazine (except online), never lived in or even visited Houston and the only conversations I have had with the editor of this magazine is via email!

So how can you use this information to make your first sale?

1. Get those first writing credits anyway you can. I suggest that you should purposely target magazines that "publish without payment", as your chances of success are higher as you are not competing with professional writers.

2. Don’t be afraid to make simultaneous submissions, particularly if the publications do not share the same regional demographic. For regional publications, you can submit to different states, for national publications, you need to think internationally.

3. Research your target magazines online, it’s both time and cost effective.

4. If you have an area of specialty, don’t be afraid to submit your work either nationally or internationally to publications in that field. We truly are a global village when it comes to writing--take advantage of this.

5. Submit via email whenever the editor lists their email address. This year alone I have made a dozen sales without once having to resort to a snail mail submission. Like researching online it is both time and cost effective.

6. Think like a marketer not a writer. When it comes time to submit your work you are no longer a writer but a marketer. Your job is to sell your written words, so be confident, be professional and be just a little bit pushy!

When I look back at my first year as a published and paid writer, I am surprised by the aspects of the process I have enjoyed the most. I realize I have gained as much enjoyment out of developing my skills as a marketer as I have in developing my skills as a writer. I have got excited over discovering new markets courtesy of the Internet, of using email to sell to publications from Salem to Sydney, and leveraging off my early "publish without payment" articles to start generating payment from my writing. However the biggest thrill has come from trying my own marketing tactics, (often contrary to the advise I had read), and achieving success.

To those who take the time to read this, I encourage you to try these tactics if they feel right to you. More importantly I hope it gives you the confidence and the courage to try your own approach to selling your writing.

© Copyright 2002, Susan Miles

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