Advice Writers Can Bank On

Beth Fowler headshot Beginning writers know that they’ll get bylines without bucks from time to time, free copies of magazines in which their works appear, and a few dollars here and there. No pay and low pay are typical during the apprenticeship phase of writing.

Following the advice of paid writers representing nearly 200 years’ experience can advance your career and compensation to the next phase.

Q: What separates paid, published writers from wanna-bes?

A: Discipline, persistence, hard work and the ability to “get back up on the horse” were common responses from the interviewed writers. Francesca Kelly, Tales from a Small Planet editor (www.talesmag.com), says, “You don’t have to have brilliant talent to be published, but you DO have to have incredible persistence.”

Lucy Clark, prolific medical romance writer for Harlequin Mills & Boon (http://www.eharlequin.com.au), is the personification of persistence. “I received the contract for my first book the same day I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. Life happens! It’s hectic. It’s busy, but if we don’t make time for the things that are important to us, we might have regrets later on. I now have two adorable children who commandeer most of my time. I don’t have time for writers’ block. I don’t have time to waste. My stories have to be planned, the research done, so when I sit down, I can build up word count. There’s no such thing as writer’s block – just lack of planning.”

Q.What rumor about the business of writing turned out to be false?

A. Arlene Uslander, editor of The Simple Touch of Fate (www.uslander.net) which has one of my stories in it, discovered three falsehoods on the road to publication. “Once you have a book published, it’s easier to have the next book published and that when you send out a manuscript, no news is good news. And that having an agent accept your work means you’re going to get published.” Not true. Not true. Not true.

Karen Rose Smith (www.karenrosesmith.com) is a fulltime author with about 40 books to her credit. She sold her first book in 1991. “I thought after I sold the first few books, life would become easier! That’s not necessarily true.  After ten books, I remember being stalled and not selling for about ten months.”

Francesca believed that editors were unapproachable. “They’re usually really nice people who are just overworked.” She should know. She’s an approachable and no doubt overworked editor.

Q. What advice do you wish you’d received (or heeded) sooner?

A. Karen Rose Smith learned to “Write to the market. Study the line you want to write for.”

Studying the magazine she wanted to write for had a lot to do with an editor accepting one of Francesca’s articles. Being published in Redbook was a “sudden breakthrough” for her.

“It’s not enough that you have something to say,” is freelance editor and author Karen Schmitt’s advice. “You have to make yourself understood – connect.”

“Rejection isn’t personal,” counsels Megan Hart, an author whose been paid to write for decades. “They’re not rejecting you, they’re rejecting the work.”

“ ‘To be a successful writer, you must write every day,’ ” recalls editor, Dan Case. “I heard this a lot, but really didn’t believe it. When I read Stephen King’s book, On Writing, and he said ‘write everyday,’ I believed it. (Hey, if the King of all writers says it, it must be true.)”

Q. What would you tell a beginner about writing for pay?

A. Writers’ answers ranged from “Don’t write for pay. Write because you love it,” to “Don’t write for FREE!”

Lynn Wasnak, a freelance writer for 25 years, explains that fulltime freelancers urge beginners not to write for free or too cheaply because it allows editors to lower the going rate. Go to https://www.writersmarket.com/assets/pdf/How_Much_Should_I_Charge.pdf.

As for me, I do the writing because I love it. I donate some works to organizations where I volunteer. Otherwise, I sell my work for dollars.

   ***

Article by Beth Fowler, author of the beloved coming-of-age novel “Ken’s War.”

Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQjZBjqFNzs&feature=youtu.be

 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Use My Winning Query as a Model to Pitch Your Article

Beth Fowler headshotSo, you’re ready to pitch your article idea to an editor.

Read each publication’s submission guidelines VERY CAREFULLY, then write a well-researched query letter.

Below is my query that led to a sale. You may use it as a model for your winning query letters.

Dear Jean Ann Duckworth:

I benefit from reading Simple Joy and was especially happy to see an article by my on-line friend Rekha. I believe that an article about breathing would support Simple Joy’s purpose.

We all breathe, but do we breathe properly?

Once we’re aware of our breathing patterns, we can improve them instantly. Women who breathe properly report that they feel “calm, poised, energized, a general well-being, centered, alert, relaxed, open” and similar positive sensations.

Does that sound like a miracle? Because God is in every breath, the benefits of proper breathing are miraculous.

I’d like to share what I’ve learned about breathing with Simple Joy readers. This proposed 1500- to 2000-word feature article (one time rights) will:

 

  • Explain physical and emotional hindrances to proper breathing
  • Guide readers through a breath awareness questionnaire
  • Review the breath’s path through the body
  • Include several easy, effective breathing exercises
  • List hobbies and sports that improve one’s breathing as a side benefit
  • Provide surprising facts and additional resources

 

Earning an instructor’s diploma to teach Qi Gong (or Chi Kung, it’s Chinese for “skill with breath”), speaking to women’s groups on “Better Breathing Means Better Living,” my research on the topic and my firsthand experience in improving my breathing give me the background I need to write credibly and convincingly.

Magazines that have published my works dealing with improving the quality of one’s life include, but aren’t limited to Daily Meditations, Evolving Woman, The Phoenix, New Vegetarian and Natural Health (Australia), Woman at Work (Malaysia), and Her Business (New Zealand).

I can write the article for the general interest issues or slant it as a December (holidays) stress buster.

Sincerely,

Beth Fowler

Blog readers, you’re welcome to use my query as a template or springboard for your unique query. All the best!

***

Article by Beth Fowler, author of the beloved coming-of-age novel “Ken’s War.”

Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQjZBjqFNzs&feature=youtu.be

 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

Cool Advice from Editors about Queries: Part 2

Beth Fowler headshotDon’t send another query until you’ve read this roundup of advice from editors.

According to the editors I interviewed, freelancers are irritating editors with lukewarm queries. Queries that sour an editor’s opinion of a writer can kill potential sales.

An Exemplary Query: The basic components of a solid query comprise a salutation to the editor by name, an introductory paragraph establishing familiarity with the publication, and the topic of the proposed article. The second section summarizes (tantalizingly) the gist of the article. Next come the author’s qualifications to write about the topic, and then relevant publishing credits are listed. A polite final line and signature round out the letter.

Editors would give a query containing the basic elements, as this one does, a thumbs up.

 

“Dear Francesca Kelly:

 

I’ve been an enthusiastic fan of Tales from a Small Planet for three years. I feel that the attached essay, in Rich Text Format, about everything going hilariously wrong during a scuba diving expedition in Bali captures the right tone for your magazine.

 

As an expat living in Bali, I want to stress that this essay isn’t a tourist travelogue, but a real glimpse of what local life is like where I live. Using incidents from my own experience, I’ll show how foreigners can go hopelessly astray without someone local to help them.

 

Going Places, Destinations and Islands Ho! have published my articles.

 

I look forward to hearing from you at your convenience.”

 

An actual query would also include the author’s first and last names and all contact information. These can be automatically inserted in e-mails with the signature function. “I’m always impressed when a writer provides several contact numbers and addresses,” an editor said.

 

…Furthermore: “Include your byline on the article you submit,” said an editor of a natural health magazine. “Don’t send me articles full of grammatical errors and misspellings,” another editor reminded authors.

 

“Nothing’s more refreshing for an editor than to read a query that takes him completely by surprise,” Betsy Lerner wrote in The Forest for the Trees: Editor’s Advice to Writers (www.booksnbytes.com/reviews/lerner_forestforthetrees.html).

 

A small magazine editor agreed. “I like a twist. I like to guess. I love surprises, especially when stories involve mundane topics.”

 

In How to Write Attention-Grabbing Query & Cover Letters, John Wood wrote that queries should be professional, novel, provocative and creative, focused and customized. Authors, when querying, want to show that they are reliable and qualified.

 

Follow editors’ advice and their positive replies to your hot queries will grow.

***

Article by Beth Fowler, author of the beloved coming-of-age novel “Ken’s War.”

Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQjZBjqFNzs&feature=youtu.be

 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

Cool Advice from Editors about Queries: Part 1

Beth Fowler headshotDon’t send another query until you’ve read this roundup of advice from editors.

According to the editors I interviewed, freelancers are irritating editors with lukewarm queries. Queries that sour an editor’s opinion of a writer can kill potential sales.

Number One Gripe: Many editors echoed Francesca Kelly of Tales from a Small Planet (www.talesmag.com), when she said, “Know my publication and read the writers’ guidelines.” Poorly targeted queries expose a writer’s arrogance or ignorance.

“Don’t send me queries on subjects I don’t publish,” advised another editor. “It’s obvious those authors haven’t read our newsletter nor our writer’s guidelines.”

An editor for a magazine targeted to home-based business owners said that potential contributors can gain an understanding of the type and style of articles a magazine publishes by reading back issues or viewing archived articles at the magazine’s website.

She went on to say, “Writers who submit queries on topics such as ‘Combating Office Politics’ and ‘Is Your Boss A Jerk?’ (pretty funny when you consider our readers are self-employed) prove they’re ignorant regarding the type of editorial submissions we’re looking for.”

A freelance editor based in the D.C. area said, “I appreciate a writer that is sensitive to the publication’s demographics – submits a story that targets readership. It makes everything a whole lot easier for everyone.”

Don’t Pester Editors: After assurance of anonymity, an editor of an international magazine told me, “We’re busy and we’ll get back to you when we can. We remember the names of people that have bothered us and it’s not in a good way.”

The editor of a healing and recovery magazine said that she is more likely to show interest and give time to writers and their work if they have shown respect for her. She added, “Don’t put me on your e-mail distribution list.”

After a vacation, she returned to combat a deluge of 800 e-mails. She begged writers to hold off sending e-mails.

An acquisitions editor at Tor Books (www.tor.com) said, “If an editor says she will get back to you in two months, give her a few more weeks. I don’t want to work with someone who’s always asking, ‘When are you going to do me?’ ”

Busy editors appreciate writers who resist the urge to ask about the status of submitted material until a reasonable period has passed, who send in their best work the first time (as opposed to submitting minor changes and revisions after the piece was accepted) and who don’t ask questions that are answered in submission guidelines.

E-mail Etiquette: “Don’t think that because you’re querying by e-mail, you don’t have to be polite.” The editor of Tales from a Small Planet (http://www.talesmag.com/writers-guidelines) bristles at messages like “Hi! Thought you might like to read this!” with a link to an essay on the writer’s website. This editor is “not inspired to use my limited time to follow up.”

Too many writers put “submission” or “article for you” in e-mail subject lines. When an editor wants to locate that e-mail later, but it’s buried in tons of other e-mails with identical subject lines, well…”It helps if the subject is what the article is really about,” the travel mag editor said. Travel writers who type “buying pottery in Belize,” or “Korean street food,” for example, in subject lines make e-mail editor-friendly.

Editors are reluctant to open attachments that come without an introduction in the body of the e-mail. “As our e-mail volume gets higher,” one editor warned, “I’ll just delete these.”

An editors’ perspective on e-mail etiquette: “I expect writers to present the same information they would in a written query letter: who they are, what they’ve written and why they think their work fits our publication.”

 

Stay tuned for Part 2.

***

Article by Beth Fowler, author of the beloved coming-of-age novel “Ken’s War.”

Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQjZBjqFNzs&feature=youtu.be

 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

Tips for Earning Money Writing Globally: Part 2

Beth Fowler headshotPart 1 listed half a dozen sure-fire ways to get published internationally. Here are more that have worked for me.

Gesture judiciously: Describing gestures adds life to personality profiles and fictional characterizations, but gestures don’t necessarily impart universal meanings. Thrusting fingers upward in a V signifies an insult, victory, two or peace, depending on where thrusting occurs!

When gestures are important, global freelancers include explanations that flow naturally in context. (“Making a circle with finger and thumb, the captain indicated that the trip was successful.”)

Be worldly: I once read a query promoting an area of India as an ideal tourist destination …never mind that two so-called religious factions were killing each other’s devotees. Worldly freelancers demonstrate global awareness and intercultural sensitivity. Being worldly means not sending pork recipes to a publication with a Muslim audience and not using nicknames (Yank, wetback). Lazy journalists use phrases such as “inscrutable Chinese” and “friendly natives.” Being worldly means banishing dogmas, romanticized images, stereotypes and prejudices. Read articles about cultural customs at http://www.executiveplanet.com.

Write the truth: Hundreds of magazine and newspaper editors speaking about what they look for in articles concurred, “We are unhappy with writers who get their facts wrong.”

Don’t assume that a “fact” in magazines, newspapers, online and on TV is accurate. Inaccuracies get repeated. Calling a monstrous hodgepodge “Frankenstein” is a common mistake. Frankenstein was the monster’s creator’s name. The monster killed his creator, therefore, Frankenstein is a person who is destroyed by his own works.

Re-verify facts with interviewed subjects, check multiple and unbiased sources, proofread final drafts against your original notes, and ask a nitpicking, skeptical, truthful reader to review your manuscript. Check on-line reference resources such as http://www.refdesk.com.

Write the right editor: You live in France. You want to pitch an idea about hand-knit sweaters to Gentleman’s Quarterly. A query addressed generically to “Dear Editor” shouts “Amateur!” So you open GQ and see 28 editors listed. Six handle fashion. One is the “European Editor.” Aim for editor-in-chief, and you risk irritating this VIP who’d delegated some of his editorial load to capable sub-editors, and you risk snubbing the fashion editor and the European editor.

Some individuals of the editorial team might have left after the magazine you have on hand was published, so verifying the appropriate recipient is wise in any case. Contact the magazine and ask to whom to address your query. If you send something to the managing editor and an assistant editor replies, continue communications at that level.

Nancy Flannery, an Australian journalist, author, editor and publisher, told “Southern Write” (www.sawriters.on.net) readers, “Attention to detail, visualizing the needs of the reader as well as conforming to the publication’s house style, integrity of one’s own voice, reasonable observance of spelling, grammar and syntax rules are surely still important. If text doesn’t flow and doesn’t have entertainment or information value, then it won’t be read.”

She ought to know. Nancy received her first check (that’s cheque Down Under) for writing when she was 12 years old.

***

Article by Beth Fowler, author of the beloved coming-of-age novel “Ken’s War.”

Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQjZBjqFNzs&feature=youtu.be

 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

Tips for Earning Money Writing Globally: Part 1

Beth Fowler headshotWhen editors in other lands see your work, they ask, “Is this foreign writer professional?” And, “Does this foreigner’s work fit our publication?”

Read on to learn how to get a si, oui, ja and hai.

Multiply earning power: I sold one article to magazines in Australia, Malaysia and the United States. By offering rights to one country at a time (i.e. First Australian Rights), you can re-sell an article to different countries. Offering reprint rights multiplies the earning power of one article, too. The chances of, for instance, a reader in Scotland seeing the article reprinted in New Zealand is so remote that editors of (off line) national publications accept second or reprint rights.

Write their way: “Study our publication before submitting,” is excellent advice for global freelancers to follow before sending manuscripts over the border. Is it travelled or traveled, lift or elevator? Style preferences are in submission guidelines, but basics that citizen writers know aren’t.

Malaysia and Australia, two English-speaking countries use British spellings. The Philippines and Taiwan use American spellings in English-language publications. Find help with American and British spellings at http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/words/british-and-american-spelling.

Manage metaphors: UN members published a document depicting an owl to symbolize wisdom. The image flopped because in Asia owls symbolize stupidity. Metaphors, similes, idioms, clichés, slang and jargon are gobbledygook when they have unintended connotations. Avoid them.

Cite specifics: In anticipation of a trip to England, a Bombay couple scanned a travel article in which a British author had characterized London in July as “red hot.” The Indians shivered for a fortnight because London temperatures never rose above 50 F (10º C).

Global freelancers replace relative words (hot, heavy, tiny, expensive) with specifics (32º C, five tons, one centimeter, HKD$200,000).

Write comparisons of relative scale that appeal to readers’ experience. For instance, because Indonesians play badminton more often than basketball, a Western journalist writing for a Jakarta newspaper described a building as ” . . . five times the length of a badminton court.”

Convert consistently: As an editor, I’ve received manuscripts with inconsistent measurement systems. Inches inched along with centimeters (and centimetres), Fahrenheit warmed up to Celsius, and miles traveled with kilometers. Global freelancers use the system the publication uses and are consistent within one document. On the other hand, international publications include two measurements, as in “A 20-mile (32-km) path follows the coast.”

Global writers specify which country’s dollars are quoted by inserting the country’s name as in “$5 million Hong Kong,” or “HKD$5 million,” or including a statement: “All prices in Hong Kong dollars.” Find currency and measurement converters at http://www.convertit.com/Go/ConvertIt.

Hold the humor: A Singaporean reading an American editorial remained stone-faced at the journalist’s supposedly humorous reference to Governor Christie’s weight. Who’s Governor Christie? What’s weight got to do with anything? Trans-cultural humor requires intimate knowledge of psychology, zeitgeist, politics, history and language. What’s so funny about a chicken crossing the road?

If an amusing anecdote is integral to developing a theme, recruit a local from the country whose ribs you hope to tickle to review the piece. Rewrite or delete accordingly.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of how to make money freelancing globally.

***

Article by Beth Fowler, author of the beloved coming-of-age novel “Ken’s War.”

Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQjZBjqFNzs&feature=youtu.be

 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.

 

 

 

Writing Your Writing Goals Makes a Difference

Ruth, left, has met her goals and has written more. Visit https://www.facebook.com/#!/buckleupforbrittany to find out more.

Ruth, left, has met her goals and has written more. Visit https://www.facebook.com/#!/buckleupforbrittany to find out more.

(This blog is based on a writers’ workshop conducted by Beth Fowler)

Do you normally set goals or let things just happen (or just not happen)?

What kinds of things (if any) have you set goals for in the past?

What are some of your beliefs about setting goals?

Which beliefs need to be re-tooled? For example, I was taught, “If you start something you should finish it.” I no longer believe that.

A goal is worthless if ________________(fill in the blank until you run out of ideas).

According to one study, people who write their goals are 42 percent more likely to achieve their goals.

Ruth, shown in the photo, set goals and has taken steps to reach them. See for yourself at https://www.facebook.com/#!/buckleupforbrittany

Cite some examples of how God (or the universe or whatever entity you think runs the big show) has supported your writing goals so far.

Now, write your writing goal and steps you’ll take to reach it.

Be specific when setting your writing goal. Include dates, amounts, numbers, names. Someone else would be able to measure if you achieved your goal because of the objective, concrete way you state it here.

 Example: Send out a query a week for 8 weeks to print magazines that pay freelance writers.

 Example: Submit my story about adopting a baby from China to YorkFest Literary Competition, Spring 2015

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What steps will you take to reach your goal?

Example: 1. Write rough draft query “template.” 2. Read submission guidelines for magazines. 3. Read articles in targeted magazines. 4. Tailor query to magazine’s guidelines and audience.5. Send queries. 6. Log queries sent and responses received.

 

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

 

Article by Beth Fowler, author of the beloved, coming-of-age novel “Ken’s War.”

Visit https://www.facebook.com/kenswar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQjZBjqFNzs&feature=youtu.be

 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.