How to be Published in a Magazine

Everyone wants to be published, but then that’s not a problem.

Just write your own blog and off you go!

For most writers that’s not enough, because sadly, we have to put food on the table, so the question isn’t really ‘how do I get published’ but ‘how do I get paid.’

At a recent conference of the American Society of Journalists and  Authors, one very useful session covered precisely that topic, but  so we’re clear, there are some very very good reasons to seek out magazines and have them publish your work. We’re not talking about 10, 20 or even 50 dollar articles here, we’re talking about companies who pay $400-$600 for a story which can be a short as 600 words.

Here’s a sample of what some of the editors of prominent magazines have said about using freelance writers.

Scott Olster, from Fortune.Com likes to be pitched story ideas on companies whose names are ‘on the tip of people’s tongues’ . He likes to see a point of view or a new angle and would expect some details in the pitch explaining how you’re going to get the story and how long it will take. You’ll also be expected to check that the magazine hasn’t already published something similar. For anyone used to having to chop up articles to meet length requirements, the good news is, you don’t have to. Anything from 600-1300 words is fine.

CNN Money has a small business section which is the domain of editor Tania Padgett. It is also the only section of CNN money to use freelancers. Tania is looking for freelancers to pitch stories about entrepreneurs and what they’re doing, and she wants to see pitches with no typos or spelling mistakes.  The reward? Seventy five cents per word for a 500-600 word story.

DailyWorth.com may not be quite so well known as the two magazines I’ve mentioned, largely because it’s not an online publication but an email newsletter dedicated to personal finance for women.  MP Dunleavey is the editor in chief and is looking for short sharp articles, around 200 words, that have a definite point of view on something in the news, and they pay up to $200 per article.

But don’t forget the most obvious.  If you want to be published in a magazine, you need to read it first to make sure your idea fits. Then and only then, do you pitch.

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How to Freelance: Writing Content for Clients

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 09:  A  customer types...

Freelance Writing is still one of the best ways to make money online, and given the web’s amazing appetite for more and more content, it doesn’t look its going away anytime soon. So, if you want to succeed in the freelance writing business, what should you do?

Writing for clients is not like writing content for yourself. There are several differences, but the most important are

  • Communication.
  • Deadlines

Here’s one way to approach a writing  job.

Before You Start

Be prompt in your replies to inquiries. Politely mention upfront that you will expect to be paid in advance.

Be clear about what you can do, what the customer can expect and be especially clear about price and delivery dates.  if you need information from your client before you can proceed, be clear what that is and when you need it by and be sure to point out that your delivery date is dependent on that.

Make sure you know what the client wants before you start. Lets say they ask for an article of 300-400 words. Find out how it is to be used. I’ ve had several clients ask for 300-400 word articles and then discovered they intend to submit the artilce to ezine articles.com. Ezine only accept articles of 450 words or more. Be especially careful when it comes to web pages and blog posts.  Many clients expect a short text, 300 words or so, but in some cases, often call pillar or anchor pages, they want something a lot more meaty.

Clients usually supply a subject, a title or a keyword. Some provide all three.  If there’s anything about the brief that you don’t understand, clarify it before you start. If you are asked to write an ebook, its a good idea to agree a table of contents before you start, but if the client is looking for an outline, that should be a separate stage of the project.

Once you’ve agreed on what you’re going to write and when, ask for payment. If your client is unhappy, then you may simply have to pass up the work.  It may seem simple to wait until the client is happy before requesting payment, but I have spent a month writing content for a website only to be told when I delivered that the customer had changed his mind and didn’t want the work. This is rarely a problem with articles because of the short timescale involved. Ebooks however can take time and research. Having a client walk away because he changed his mind about the project and didn”t let you know is not acceptable, but it does happen.

Research Your Article.

I always start with the wikipedia entry. The trick is not to stop there. Wikipedia articles usually have links to other articles about the subject. That’s where the useful information is usually found. Best of all, consult a book. I try to write about subjects I know something about, and I have a LOT of books at home I can use to find information. Good article writers are also, typically, good researchers.

Once you have some facts, you may want to research your title using the google keyword tool. If your client has provided a title or keyword this may not be appropriate, hoewver if you are developing a series of articles around a keyword or idea, the keyword tool can provide you with useful direction. For example, I was working on some articles for a client where the keywords I was given were ‘sofa table’ , ‘wood sofa table’ and ‘distressed sofa table’. The word distressed led me to the whole design concept of ”shabby chic’ which gave me  ideas for other articles.

In addition to using the keyword tool you may want to use a simple google search. Type in your keyword and then type a space and see what comes up. If you do this with ‘sofa table’ for example, you get

  • sofa table with storage
  • sofa table plans
  • sofa table ikea
  • sofa table height

all of which are good topics to cover in an article, or even develop articles around.

The last part of your article research is to find out what Google thinks about the keyword you’ve been given. Put it in the Google search box with a ~in front. This will give you some search results, but more importantly, you’ll see in bold the words that Google thinks are related to your keyword. Write them down. You’ll notice that they often include the plural of your keyword, but sometimes you’ll find a word which is a little different. For an article I wrote on ‘unusual bouquets’ I studied the output and found the  equivalent words were ‘unusual, unique, interesting, odd,bouquet, bouquets’, but nothing at all about flowers. This useful information helped the page reach no1 on Google in what is a highly competitive (wedding) market.

Once you’ve made a note of facts and keywords in an ideal world, you should forget both. Close your notes and begin to write.

Writing

How much do you know? If it’s a lot, you can develop and article around a single fact. Go into some detail and cover it thoroughly. If you don’t know a great deal, divide the subject. List articles are always popular in article directories and there are an endless number of possible lists.

Three things to know before you buy …‘  is always a good one because it’s easy for a reader to see why they should read; buying the wrong thing could be a waste of money. Another useful title is ‘Three ways to … on a budget

Do not fall back on the old idea of telling your reader what you’re going to tell them, then telling them, the telling them what you told them. The ideal article plan is much more like this.

    • Identify the reader and what they will gain from reading.
    • Give some useful information and show how it can be used.
    • Remind the reader what they have gained (what they can now do) from reading.

Always,always, always deliver on the title, and try to make it interesting, but not to the point of making it false. ’43 killer headlines that will skyrocket your profits’ has had its day. Noone believe that anymore, and that includes you and your client.

Develop a brief outline, use a conversational tone and don’t forget to spell check. Don’t use jargon.

The ideal writing process takes three days. Plan on day 1, write on day 2, proof read and edit on day 3. Some of the worst writing I have ever done has been when I carefully, deliberately and repeatedly used the clients keyword. Sometimes clients think this is the way you should write for the web, you may have to gently convince them otherwise or give them what they want on the basis that the customer is always right. Forget the keyword and just write well. When I’m finished I always check that I’ve included all the related words I found in my Google search. Articles can be quite formal, blog posts are typically informal and web pages can be either.

Meeting Your Deadlines.

Clients can be very forgiving once you have built a reputation with them, and may even wait to get your writing in preference to others. Try to set realistic deadlines and don’t over commit. It’s easy to do, the more you write the more you earn, but it is easier to increase your price when clients see that what they get is very high quality. If you find that you can’t make a deadline, contact the clients and explain. Never ignore it.

If your client gives you some anchor text and lets you have carte blanche when it comes to the article, your artistic freedom comes at a price. It’s your job to come up with ideas and article topics.  Fortunately it’s not that difficult to come up with a months worth of content at a time.

If you communicate with your clients, deliver quality writing and always stick to your deadlines, you’ll find its relatively simple to build a base of customers who are also fans. As a last step, asked each one for  a testimonial and you’ll be well on your way to making a good income writing and working from home.

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Advice Advise: Common English Mistakes

There are some words which are just downright confusing and advice is one of them.

It’s fine on its own, but then you think, ‘wait a minute! Should that be a c or an s?’ And from that point on it’s downhill all the way.

The difference is very simple.

Advise is a verb, its something you do.

Advice is a noun, the name of something.

When you advise (verb) someone, you are giving advice (noun).

Did that help?

Let’s look at some examples.

A verb is a ‘doing word’ so if you’re talking about something someone did or does, the word you want is advise.

I wouldn’t advise it‘ means ‘I really don’t think you should do that.’

‘He advised me to go ahead‘ means ‘He said I should go on.’ and

Advice AdvisePlease advise me of your current position.’ means ‘Please let me know where you are right now.’

Advice is a noun, it’s a thing.  When we talk about advice we say that we  ‘give’ it.

‘What is your advice?’

‘He gave me some advice.’

‘I’d appreciate your advice on this.’

Confusion arises because of the way the words can be used.

Can you advise me?‘ means much the same thing as ‘Please give me your advice’, it’s just a different way of saying it, but Please give me your advise’ would not be correct.

Equally, ‘I wouldn’t advise it‘ could be ‘That would not be my advice.’

If I advise you, it means I am giving you advice

If it’s something you do, it’s advise with an s.

If it’s something which you (or someone else)  gives or receives, then its advice with a ‘c’.

One phrase you will see all over the web is ‘please advise.’  which simply means ‘please tell me what you think.’ You will see it spelled both ways, but only ‘please advise’ is correct.

If you find youself getting confused, remember one is a noun and one is a verb, and if you see it used with the word ‘give’ it is always the noun, advice.

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Finding Inspiration For Writing

Some days, you sit down at the keyboard and just can’t think of anything to write.

Some days, you sit down to plan your writing, and can’t find anything to put in the plan.

This is not writers block. Writers block is when you know what you’re writing about, you just can’t find the words.

This is lack of inspiration.

So how do you go about finding inspiration for your writing?

In commerce there’s an old saying. Find out what people want. Sell it to them.

In writing it’s the same. If you’re in factual writing you might put it this way

Find out what people want to know, then tell them.

With fiction it might be

Find out what people want to imagine – and give it to them.

There are lots of people giving advice to writers, the piece I like best it ‘write about what you know‘.

It sounds a bit limiting, but it isn’t. It doesn’t mean you can’t do research and learn new things. It means you need to put some of your own personal experience into your writing. Don’t just hand out information, illustrate it where you can with personal experience.

When it comes to fiction, draw on your own experiences, to make what you write real.

The truth is that sources of inspiration are all around you in your life, here are a few that Ive actually used this year.

1. Movies. I was writing fashion articles for a client and ran out of ideas. My daughter suggested watching ‘The Devil Wears Prada‘ and by the end I was typing furiously into my notebook.

2. Songs. I cant listen to songs while I write ‘cos I get caught up in the lyrics, but I was struggling to finish a list of places to write travel articles about while listening to the soundtrack of  ‘Chess’ which my husband and I saw in London quite a few years ago. Not only did I get one suggestion from the song ‘One Night in Bangkok’ I realised that chess tournaments are often held in interesting locations, looked them up and finished my list!

3. Blog posts. There are some blogs which are consistently well written and informative and often give me ideas for posts or articles for myself and for clients. Most recently I visited and old friend, SteveScottSite and, reading through some recent posts read some information about ebooks which lead to my recent ebook post.

4. A nice hot bath. My bathroom is full of lovely scented bath products, towels and soggy notebooks. I don’t know why I get some of my best ideas in the bath, but I do.

5. Books. I like to read lots of very different books, both fact and fiction. My favorite author is Dorothy Dunnett whose historical fiction is meticulous. I first read her ‘Lymond Chronicles’ when I was at University, and I still have the books (much thumbed) on my bedside table.   They have inspired a lot of articles in a lot of different ways, more recently I read the Ramesses books by Christian Jacq and they provided inspiration for an article I wrote for a client on organic skin care products.

6. Emails. Sometimes inspiration is really easy because someone will email me a question. Then it’s easy to write something which answers the question.

7. Chatting. It’s not a solitary life in front of the computer unless you want it to be. I chat to people on skype and instant messaging, and often we’ll come across something we don’t know, or something we want to know more about. If I’ve got a new insight as a result of the chat, I’ll write about that.

8. Life. Sometimes stuff happens, and sometimes it’s bad.  Whatever sort of experience it is, you can use it when you write.  Last night I nearly gave up writing this blog because I thought I’d been told my approach was all wrong. I posted to a forum I belong to and got lots of encouragement. I spent more time on the forum and realized that people have problems finding ideas for their writing, the result? This post.

9. Magazines. When I start work for a new client, I like to get hold of a magazine about the topic I’ll be writing about. It’s useful to find out what sort of things people want to do and want to know. You can learn a lot from the articles, and even more from the adverts. When you’re new to a topic this is a great way to put together a content plan. Recently I’ve been writing a lot of articles about flowers. By looking at the magazines and adverts I’ve seen new pieces of flower arranging equipment that I didn’t even know existed, so Ive just ordered a box full and will be trying them out in the next few weeks, again for a series of articles.

10. Wikipedia. Wikipedia is an amazing resource, not always because of the information it contains, but because of the information it can lead you to. An article researched in wikipedia alone is not a good idea. Starting your research with Wikipedia is. But that’s research. When you’re looking for inspiration, wikipedia works in several ways.

  • Look up the current month. May, for example, like all months is very interesting. I’ve written about Japan, Zombies and Dentistry this month, all because of wikipedia. Did you know May was Zombie awareness month? Yesterday, to my shame, I missed International Towel Day. I wont let that happen again.
  • You can also look up the day, and get inspiration from that, but if that doesn’t do the trick, Wikipedia has another secret weapon;
  • The Home page with its ‘featured article’ and
  • the random article feature. You may not find anything in the first one or two you see, but just keep clicking, and you’ll find something you can relate to your subject.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I’d love to know!

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Freelance Writing Work: Where Does Your Duty Lie?

So, the thing is, I want you to buy something.

Something quite expensive.

You’ll have to part with some money, but of course I’m not going to tell you how much. I’m going to let you guess.

I’m going to write some stuff in red, and in big letters

and that way you’ll know that it’s really good.

I’ll even throw in some pictures of happy smiling people who bought the product before you.

And I might include some italicised ‘quotes’ from those previous customers.

You can tell I’m a serious copywriter, can’t you?

Somewhere along the line I’m going to talk about your pain. Some sort of problem I think you have and then I’ll cut to the chase by telling you that my new product is the solution you need. It will solve your problem at a stroke.

And, it’s quite likely I’ll use some of these words

easy, powerful, foolproof,fast,effortless, simple, straightforward, proven.

I’ll use those words because they work. Copywriters know they do, because they’ve tested them.  They’ve also tested long copy vs short and concluded that they need to write really quite a lot of words to overcome your ‘resistance’.

And last of all I’ll probably give you a cast iron, money back guarantee. I’ll do that quite genuinely, because I know, from tests, that even if 100% of buyers are unhappy, only a very small percentage ever bother to do anything about it. Once I’ve got your money, I’m mostly going to keep it.

You’re probably wondering if I’ve gone nuts and finally lost it. What exactly am I talking about?

Well, if you look at the top of  this page, you’ll see the site has a banner. On the left hand side there’s a weird looking thing which looks a bit like a man, or a bit like a bird, and it’s sitting in a chair. What do you think? Not your sort of thing?

What you’re looking at is Thoth. I set out to look for something representative of writing. Thoth was the patron of Scribes in ancient Egypt. But he was also a lot more.

He’s an Egyptian God with the head of an ibis, and the body of a man. The ancients believe that Thoth was the inventor of writing, the God of Wisdom, creator of magic as well as patron of scribes.  He was not a lowly god; his wife was Ma’at, the embodiment of truth and order.

What is interesting is that in the mind of the ancients at least, the roll of scribe was linked with the truth.  So for me, Thoth is something of an ideal, something to serve as a reminder that when we wield words, we have a duty to wield them properly.

  • What we write should be accurate, as accurate as it can be.
  • What we promise should be something we know we can fulfill.
  • And while we play with words to grab the attention, we should be careful not to play with the truth.

Every legitimate product is designed for a purpose, so it is likely that there is a problem it will solve. The problem is that we have all become immune to internet hype, and many seem to  believe that the solution is to promise even more and make prices even higher.

I don’t read long sales letters any more, and if they won’t tell me how much the product costs, I’m not interested. And I’m not alone. The time of the internet hypester is coming to an end.

As a writer on the internet it’s important to serve your clients interests, to describe a product in a positive way, to show how it solves problems, to explain what it will allow a buyer to do and how it will enhance his or her life.

But it’s also  important to keep a sense of proportion. A customer whose expectations have been met is more likely to buy again.

And if the product just doesn’t do what the seller says it does, and the seller is well aware, what is the writers duty then?

That’s an easy one.

Comments please.

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Join A Forum? Why?

Ebiz Millionaire and Scam buster Chris Malta

There are lots of forums on the web. Some are useful others are not. Some are filled with helpful, supportive members, other just seem to want to sell. What’s striking about most of them is that they have lots and lots of members, but few of them every post anything.

And that’s a shame.

I’ve mentioned BNI and their motto before, ‘Givers Gain’. You might as well say ‘what goes around comes around’. I know the web is supposed to be full of scam artists and snake oil salesmen (and it is) but my own experience has been that when you try to be genuinely helpful, you win.

My first experience of forums was in late 2009 when I went to a seminar run by Chris Malta. If you’re  a newb online and looking for a way to build an independent income, Chris has a lot of good advice to share, his webinar isn’t cheap, but it last ALL DAY and I can’t recommend his forum too highly. I think of it as ‘home’.

When I joined the forum I posted a little introduction and then, like most people, I read posts. But I didn’t make any.

The reason, was lack of confidence. I wasn’t sure what to say, or whether I’d be ridiculous. Slowly though, I got to know the personalities and realised that when they said ‘there are no stupid questions’ they actually meant it. So I began to post.

I like to think that some of my posts were useful to other people, but I know that ALL of the posts, and their replies, were useful to me. There is no way to measure how much I’ve learned and the debt of gratitude I owe to the forum members, most especially Brendan Will, John Blackwood and John Rowe.

Forums are not books. They are not meant to be read.

They are conversations. If you want to learn, you need to join in, be part of the dialog.

But there’s another good reason you should join a forum. If you work online full time, (and if you don’t, that’s almost certainly your aim), you can find yourself with noone to talk to. The life of a writer, or for that matter an ecommerce store owner or blogger, can be pretty isolated.

And that’s where a forum really excels. You can make friends and contacts. You’ll find people who can sympathize when things go wrong, and help you celebrate when they go right. And when you’re really puzzled your ‘forum mates’ can offer a new perspective, a different view to help you find your way around a problem.

My working day is spent in a lovely sunfiled room. My dog sits under my desk and I have no lack of conversation. Google talk and skype connect me to those I’ve met online, and I often share ‘virtual coffee breaks’ with others on twitter. When I need to concentrate hard, I turn off skype and google talk. The people I talk to do the same. We understand, we help each other.

And when we give, we gain.

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