Writing is a noble proposition, in and of itself. Published writing is something else entirely. And paid published writing—whoa, Nellie, that’s just glorious! In order to get published, though, you need to put yourself “out there” in the world, and get your writing in front of people who are in charge of accepting items for publication … preferably in places that will pay you for your work.
That can seem like a scary proposition at the best of times; and if you’re new to this whole writing-for-publication business, it can be utterly paralyzing! But if you approach this in a logical, step-by-step process, it doesn’t have to be so scary.
Once you decide you want to be published, one of the first things you need to do is to decide on your target publication. Are you looking to write for magazines? Newspapers? A special-interest newsletter? Or are you pursuing a guest-writing gig with a blog you enjoy reading?
Breaking into (news)print
If you’ve never been published, you might want to consider starting small. And by “small,” I mean local. Local papers are forever looking for filler articles to round out their reporters’ news-gathering efforts. Conduct an online search for “local newspapers near me”; Google will gladly provide you with listings, along with maps and directions … even hours of operation, phone numbers and, if you’re lucky, website information.
Perhaps you’re involved with a local garden club, civic group, or charity. If so, volunteer to submit an article (or two or three, if you’ve got a decent lead time and sufficient information to impart) to your local newspaper, promoting your organization’s upcoming activity or fundraising event.
Submitting articles to your local paper not only provides an outlet for your writing, but it gets you a byline. And bylines lend valuable credibility for when you begin submitting your writing elsewhere. Plus, it enables you to build your newsclip portfolio. Keep in mind these newspapers seldom pay for submitted articles or press releases; but when you’re just starting out, it’s worth it to get the byline.
To write a good news article, there are a few things to keep in mind. Focus is crucial. Know where your story is going to go before you sit down to write. Organize your facts in a logical order. You’ll want to hone in on the five Ws: who, what, where, when, and why. In some instances, you may also need to throw in the H: how. Here are some specific suggestions for writing a news article designed to grab and hold your readers’ attention.
Writing for magazines
Suppose, however, you’ve decided newspaper writing isn’t for you and you’d rather get into the realm of magazine writing. Great. Congratulations on making that choice; you’ve cleared the first hurdle. Now what?
First you’ve got to realize lead times for magazine articles are far longer than for newspaper articles. Magazine deadlines are routinely months in advance of their publication dates. And you can’t simply submit an article to an editor in hopes it’ll get printed. Magazine editors often request a query letter or a story pitch before you write the article. Be sure to check out some of these recommendations about preparing to write a magazine article for consideration.
But lest you start submitting articles willy nilly to every trade and general-interest publication you happen to run across in your otolaryngologist’s waiting room (which can be quite an undertaking, trust me!), you need to narrow your scope.
The articles you’re likely to find in Cranes Today (the mechanical type, not the long-legged, feathered sort) are likely to be significantly different from the ones you would read in the latest issue of Portable Restroom Operator—or PRO for short. To be completely honest, this is just a guess on my part, as I haven’t had the opportunity to flip through either of those publications in, well … ever.
Still, there are nearly 4,400 folks who subscribe to PRO’s online newsletter whom, I would imagine, rather look forward to receiving their new issue each month … not to mention the 14,000-plus who read Cranes Today. So, if you’ve got a feature article that would be of interest to one of these markets, go for it! In fact, should you be interested in niche marketing to the lifting industry (i.e., writing for Cranes Today), you’re in luck. Their submission guidelines are clearly spelled out for you, including their photo-size specs. Both these publications are examples of trade magazines, targeted toward a particular business or industry. While neither of these publications specifies anything about payment for articles, even an unpaid submission would garner a byline—which is a great way to build a portfolio!
Were you to relish submitting an article about, say, an exceptional relationship with your beloved pooch, you’d certainly want to consider sending it to Garden & Gun—to be featured in their “Good Dog” column—rather than to the glossy, fashion-forward pages of Marie Claire. Again, you have to know your market.
A Few Publications Currently Seeking Submissions
For years, the Chicken Soup for the Soul books have been delighting and inspiring readers the world over. Fortunately for us writer types, the publishers are perpetually coming up with new audience segments—and, therefore, new markets to tap. Right now, they’re accepting submissions for books in two new categories: The Best Advice I Ever Heard (deadline for submissions is February 28, 2018) and Stories About My Mom (deadline for submissions is July 31, 2018). To learn how to submit your story, you can find the specifics here.
One online literary publication that is currently accepting submissions is Blackbird. They’ll be reading new poetry, fiction, and nonfiction works until April 15, 2018, so there’s still time to get something in to them. You may read their submission guidelines here.
Gigantic Sequins is another literary publication with open reading periods (the current reading period closes February 15; the next one opens June 1 and runs through August 15). Like many publications, they accept submissions through the Submittable online site.
Wherever you plan to submit your work, be sure you follow the publications’ submission guidelines. Many publications will disqualify your work if you haven’t followed their instructions to the letter (this is why practicing through following contest submission guidelines is a great idea).
Check back next week for even more sites that are accepting submissions.
Rita M. Reali is an award-winning author whose work has appeared in Reminisce magazine, the S.H.A.R.E. pregnancy-loss newsletter and newspapers across Connecticut and Tennessee. She’s spoken about editing at writers’ conferences and delivered presentations on proofreading to several professional groups. Rita also runs an editing and proofreading business, The Persnickety Proofreader, and blogs under the same moniker: https://persnicketyproofreader.wordpress.com. Her debut novel, Diagnosis: Love, was published in 2015.