This week our "Getting Started" series post is a bit later than usual due to the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in the U.S. We're kicking things off with a bang though, as we welcome Linda Formichelli! Linda will talk about getting started as a freelance magazine writer. It's a topic we don't touch on very often here at All Freelance Writing since my own career is built on a cross between Web writing and commercial writing, so I'm excited to have Linda share some of her thoughts and experiences with us.
Here's what she had to say:
On How She Started Writing for Magazines...
"I had always wanted to become a writer but ended up getting my Master's degree in Slavic Linguistics. I decided I didn't want to continue with the PhD program and thought I might like to get into publishing instead. I did informational interviews with several publishers and realized that working at a magazine or book publisher wasn't for me...but wouldn't my experience with informational interviewing make a great magazine article! I whipped up my very first query and sent it to a magazine I saw listed in Writer's Market. A while later, I received an acceptance in the mail. This was in 1996. After that, I started pitching and writing for trade and smaller magazines, such as AKFCF Quarterly, the magazine for KFC franchisees. In 1997, I moved to Massachusetts and went full-time freelance, and in 1999 I started breaking into national magazines like Redbook and Family Circle."
On Needing Specialized Education or Experience Before Starting...
"No! As I mentioned, my Master's degree was in Slavic Linguistics. I was always a good writer, but I had no formal education or even experience. I just took a chance, and my first query sold for $500! Also, I wrote for publications that were way outside of my ken...for example, I certainly don't have any inherent knowledge of KFC issues. But through writing for a wide variety of magazines, I developed specialties in several areas, including business and health."
On How Writers can get Started in Magazine Writing...
"When I was first starting out in 1996, I had a 1,200-baud modem and as far as I know there weren't any groups for writers online. Now, I advise new writers to take advantage of the wealth of support out there, from writers' forums to online classes to online magazine directories like tradepub.com and writersmarket.com.
I started writing for print magazines, but now there are a lot of online options as well, such as online magazines and blogs. Just be sure that wherever you pitch, the market looks professional and has credibility. You won't get much benefit out of writing for those sites that pay $4 per article and anyone and their dog can post pieces."
On Things Prospective Freelance Magazine Writers Should Know...
"1. Be persistent! This is so important. So many writers send out one query, don't get a reply or get a rejection, and give up. You need to get as many queries and letters of intro out there as you can. It's a numbers game. Eventually, you'll be more well-known in the industry, will be in a number of magazines' 'stables,' and won't have to pitch so much.
2. Value your skills. Many writers brag that they're making hundreds per month on sites like Associated Content...but when you look, you see they've posted something like 1,200 articles. Your time and skill are worth more than that. Pitch places that pay, whether they be online or print. And don't forget that everything is negotiable. If an editor approaches you with a puny rate, ask for more.
3. Be confident. Fear holds so many writers back. What if the editor hates my article? What if the editor thinks I'm stalking him if I follow up? And so on. Instead, think: What if the editor loves my article? What if I follow up at just the right time and land a assignment? (This just happened to me!) Also, don't let the fear of making a mistake hold you back. An imperfect query in the hands of an editor has an infinitely higher chance at acceptance than one that sits on your hard drive forever as you "perfect" it. One of the assignments in my Get Unstuck! for Freelancers course is to send out a query with a typo in it. One of my students did this, by accident as it turns out, and the editor wrote back within an hour expressing an interest in her idea."
On Linda Formichelli...
Linda Formichelli is the co-author of The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success and The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock, and has written for more than 120 magazines, including Redbook, Health, USA Weekend, Writer's Digest, and Woman's Day. She teaches an e-course called "Write for Magazines," about how to write a killer query, and one called "Get Unstuck! for Freelancers," which is about boosting your motivation and productivity. The next session of both starts on January 11, 2010; you can get more info at http://www.writeformagazines.com.
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