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Writing and Publishing The Short Stuff
Platform Building 101: Discover your Specialty
Writing for the Web
Invest In Your Writing Career Today
Archive for June, 2009
By Christina Katz
Here’s the difference between writing for fun and writing practice, for me. Writing practice implies that…
you are writing for a specific audience.
- you are writing frequently enough to see improvement in your craft.
- you are working with an editor or at least some kind of editorial process, even if it’s one you’ve set up for yourself.
- you are seeing improvements in your writing as a result of your efforts, not just writing lots of words that will never see the light of publication.
What if you are uncomfortable pitching yourself or your work? Here are some strategies to employ if pitching doesn’t come naturally:
- Create a query form letter you can use over and over.
- Verbally bounce your idea off someone you trust before you commit it to paper.
- Have a set checklist you use to go over your pitches and make sure they are as thorough as they can be.
- Writer Mama contains resources for all of these steps.
Got platform? I worked my buns off for over a year to write a step-by-step guide on how to grow a platform from scratch alongside your writing career that would help every writer. I sure hope you have a copy!
A key point of the book is: we are all 100% responsible for our writing careers. Does this describe you? If not, and you’d like to work through the platform process with me step-by-step, Platform 101 starts in August.
A lot of mom writers are telling me that they are attending writing conferences this summer — hooray! So what can you do before the conference to get the most out of it?
- Re-read Chapter 22, Count Down Days to a Conference, in Writer Mama for tips on conference preparation.
- Read Mary Andonian’s “Writing Conference Success column in The Writer Mama archives.
- Take care of all your logistical issues far in advance of the conference (i.e., babysitter, transportation, etc.) to insure that you’ll have some time before the conference to plan which sessions to attend and otherwise create a personal plan to get as much as possible out of the conference. After all, if you are going to invest your hard-earned money into your writing career, you’ll want to get as much out of it as possible.
- Trust what happens and the people you meet. Make the most of every encounter and learning opportunity. Have a great time and you are sure not to be disappointed!
Happy summer, mamas!
Sometimes it can seem like editors are speaking a foreign language. After college, I worked on staff at a regional magazine. The editors were always talking about “the book.” And I kept thinking, “What book? We publish a magazine.” Come to find out, “book” is editorial lingo for “magazine.” Don’t ask me why.
You may encounter such puzzling terms even as a freelancer. For instance, an editor might say, “The front of the book is a good place to break in.” The front of the book, often abbreviated as FOB, refers to the short, newsy items in the first pages of a magazine, after the TOC (Again with the abbreviations! That means “table of contents.”) Cooking Light calls their FOB section “First Light”; The Writer calls it “Take Note”; and Amtrak’s Arrive magazine calls it “First Class.”
But while short FOB articles — sometimes called “fillers” or “shorts” — are a good way to break into some magazines, that’s not true for all publications. To my knowledge, Working Mother writes their news and trends section in-house. When I was pitching Men’s Health, they did not give bylines in their FOB section. The best way to find out such information is to study the most recent issue of the magazine you’re targeting, or call the editorial offices and ask whether they accept freelance submissions for that section.
After a magazine’s FOB section, you usually find department pieces and columns. These are the regular sections you see in every issue. Often, these are written by staffers or contributing editors. Match up the bylines to the masthead to learn if this is the case with your target publication. In some cases, though, department pieces are ideal for freelancers. They’re usually longer than FOBs but shorter than features, and since they’re in every issue, editors need more of them.
“The well,” also called “the feature well,” refers to the middle part of the magazine where the longest articles are found. These are usually, but not always, reserved for big-name writers with longstanding relationships with the magazine. Even so, it doesn’t hurt to aim high. If an editor rejects your feature pitch, you might reply with an offer to focus on a smaller piece of the subject matter for an FOB or department piece. Or it could happen the other way around. I once pitched a department piece on “girlfriend getaways,” only to have the editor assign it as a feature. Score!
By familiarizing yourself with the anatomy of a magazine, it will become clearer to you which sections are the best bet for freelance submissions.
Tags: Writer's Digest/BEA Writers Conference
With emphasis on platform, networking and social media, The Writer’s Digest Conference is an innovative and ground-breaking conference, featuring the industry’s top forward-thinking speakers, leading sessions on topics relevant to the current and future state of the publishing world.
Chris Brogan, social media genius, is the keynote speaker.
Other speakers include Kassia Krozser, editor/publisher of BookSquare.com; David Mathison, whose online sales success is the new business model; Mike Shatzkin, the industry’s top publishing consultant, Seth Harwood and Scott Sigler, whose own podcasts and videocasts have made them superstars in the business; and many more, plus the editors of Writer’s Digest!
Complete program information, including speaker bios, special events related to the conference and registration, is now available here.
The oft-quoted recommendation of eight eight-ounce glasses a day is only that — a recommendation. You may need more than that, especially if you exercise vigorously, or you may need less. The rule of thumb is to check your urine — if you’re drinking enough fluids, your urine should be straw-colored. Deep yellow means your body needs more water, so drink up.
Author, speaker, and consultant Kelly James-Enger is a certified personal trainer and the author of books including Small Changes, Big Results: A 12-Week Action Plan to a Better Life (with Ellie Krieger, R.D.). Her book, Ready, Aim, Specialize! Create your own Writing Specialty and Make More Money, is aimed at novice freelancers; Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer’s Guide to Making More Money helps experienced writers boost their bottom lines. Visit www.becomebodywise.com for free articles about freelancing and more information about her.
You just received your conference brochure in the mail. What to do? The first thing I’d recommend is go online and print another copy of the brochure from the conference website. This will be your working copy: the one you will dog-ear, mark up, highlight, and scribble on. Your goal this month is to profile the agents and editors listed in the brochure, and map out your workshops. If you already have your list ready, spend this month reading books on how to pitch. We’ll catch up to you in August.
Most conferences have a limit on how many pitches you can buy. Plan on picking four agents and editors and learn as much about them as you can. Here are a few sites to help you:
HINT: If you don’t find your agents’ or editors’ names, try using their agency or imprint names.
PUBLISHERS LUNCH www.publishersmarketplace.com
Publishers Lunch is self-described as the most widely read daily dossier in publishing and known as “publishing’s essential daily read.” This is a free e-newsletter that gives you the latest, greatest info on everything publishing. My favorite part is the weekly deals. They describe who’s selling what, for how much, and by whom. Scan their weekly list. Is your targeted agent there? If so, what is she selling?
HINT: If you have the means, purchase a subscription to the companion of Publishers Lunch, Publishers Marketplace. This is a site dedicated to publishing professionals and acts as a clearinghouse. It is only available to registered members for a $20 monthly fee. Membership is month-to-month, so you can always use it short term to glean the most up-to-date info on your targeted agents/editors.
Bill’s List might take you a while to navigate, but once you figure out how to search on it, you will find information GOLD.
HINT: Check out the “No Dumb Questions” section to find questions (and their answers) you don’t have the guts to ask.
PREDITORS AND EDITORS http://anotherealm.com/prededitors/
This is a wonderful site that acts as an industry watchdog. They reveal scam artists and other folks who would not act in your best interest if they should happen across your manuscript. Compile your target list and then go here to feel better about your choices. I just searched on my agent’s name and saw that she was “recommended.” I’m feeling better already.
HINT: If you can’t find the agency name, search for your agent or editor by their first name. As stated on their website: P&E lists agents by first name just like businesses because businesses don’t have last names.
Mary Andonian is former agents and editors coordinator for the Willamette Writers conference, one of the largest writing events in North America. In past years, she was also program coordinator and co-chair. Mary is represented by the Reece Halsey North Literary Agency and is a monthly columnist for the hit e-zines, Writers on the Rise and The Writer Mama. She has completed two book: Mind Chatter: Stories from the Squirrel Cage and Bitsy’s Labyrinth and is currently at work on her first screenplay, a romantic comedy. Mary is the mother of two girls and is the Brownie Girl Scouts leader for Troop 1102. Please visit her at: www.maryandonian.com.
Tags: Writing the Life Poetic
I saw Ricki Lake’s “The Business of Being Born,” became well-versed in the “cascade of interventions” that are likely to happen at a hospital birth, and decided I wanted to give birth at home. We chose a naturopathic physician / midwife who seemed in line with our philosophy and approach to birth and hunkered down for the tidal wave of birth to arrive.
What I know now that I could not have known then is that preparing for birth is like packing a backpack for a trip to the moon. It’s an exercise you go through to give yourself the illusion of control, to feel that you have some inch of influence over gravity’s relaxing grip as you orbit unfathomably through space.
What I know now that I should have known then is that agreeing to proof a book in layout two weeks after giving birth is a bad, bad idea.
It went down like this: I labored for 60 hours at home — from a Monday to a Wednesday–until it became clear that my son’s head was stuck at an angle and wasn’t budging. We raced to the hospital where some other complications were identified, and within 30 minutes the surgeon lifted a perfect little boy body over the C-section curtain. As my son Theo’s life untwined from mine into his own breath and being and I watched the nurse performing his Apgar test, it slowly dawned on me that I was no longer in labor, that I was no longer pregnant — that my son had birthed me into motherhood.
Theo and I spent the next five days learning each other’s rhythms in the bright spotlight of around-the-clock, nursing supervision. A week later as I was surfacing from the haze of heavy-duty narcotic painkillers, euphoric awe and interminable exhaustion, the PDF proof arrived. I printed it, put it in a binder, got out my highlighter and my Pilot V Ball Grip pen. Then, I sat down to dinner, started crying and just couldn’t stop. My concerned husband and mother in law quickly made a plan to relieve me of baby duty for the night and sent me into private quarters to sleep.
What I realized during that blessed night of honest-to-goodness sleep — my first peephole of contemplation since Theo’s arrival — was that giving birth had initiated me into the superhero, secret society of motherhood. I had tapped into the universal power shared by women everywhere who simply do what has to be done, with love and with gratitude. I had endured three days of unmedicated labor; what was proofing a 264-page book at the nadir of depletion compared to that?
The next day, I returned to the dinner table, wiped my bleary eyes, and I proofed that book with the hormonally-enhanced ardor, focus and determination that only a new mother can.
Next month: The utter obliteration of mind, desk and to-do list in the first three months of motherhood.