Archive for the 'Abigail Green' Category

The Freelancer’s Phrase Book: “Byline”

By Abigail GreenAbby Green
Is there any greater thrill than seeing your very own name in print? Unless it’s in the obituaries or police blotter, that is. I’m referring to seeing your byline accompanying an article you penned yourself. I’ve been at this for more than a decade, and I still get a little burst of pride when I spot my byline — probably because I know how much hard work went into getting to that point!
 
If you’re trying to build your clip file and get recognized for your work, obviously you want to focus on publications that give bylines. Not all do, however. Some magazines run writers’ bylines for feature articles, but not for shorter pieces like the front of the book sections. And some publications give a credit rather than a byline — meaning your name may be listed in tiny italics beneath the piece rather than in 18-point type at the top. Of course, the font size and location on the page of your byline is up to the graphic designers.
 
Many publications also include short writers’ bios, such as “Abigail Green is a frequent contributor to the magazine,” or “Freelancer Abigail Green lives and writes in Baltimore.” Some may even plug your book, blog or website. When you’re studying markets for your work, take note of how bylines are handled so you’ll know what to expect.
 
A word of caution: if at all possible, confirm the spelling of your name before your article goes to press. I have been dismayed to see my hard-earned byline as “Abigail Greene” and other interpretations. Once an article of mine even appeared with another writer’s byline. Turns out the designer had pasted in the wrong name. Fortunately, they were able to correct the error on a color printout so I can still use the clip. For even more peace of mind, ask to see the galleys (the pre-publication layout of your article) before the magazine goes to press.
 
Byline or credit, small type or large, above the text or below; these may seem like trivial issues, but for writers, getting credit — and recognition — for our work is vital. Just make sure to keep your increasingly recognizable name out of the police blotter, OK?
 

Abigail Green has published more than 150 articles and essays in regional and national publications including American Baby, Baltimore Magazine, Bride’s, Cooking Light, and Health. Her work also appears in the new book, “A Cup of Comfort for New Mothers.” (Adams Media, 2009). Abby holds a B.A. from Vassar College and an M.A. in publishing from the University of Baltimore. She writes the “Crib Notes” column for The Writer Mama e-zine and the “Understanding Personal Essays” column for Writers on the Rise. A mother of two boys, she blogs about parenting, publishing and more at http://diaryofanewmom.blogspot.com. She also teaches the six-week e-course Personal Essays that Get Published.

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The Freelancer’s Phrase Book: “On Spec”

By Abigail GreenAbby Green
Back in my March column, I discussed submitting queries versus complete articles. If you recall, I gave a few examples of when a freelancer might submit a piece to a publication “on speculation” or “on spec” for short. Basically, that means the writer has no contract and no guarantee of payment or publication. Essays will usually only be considered on spec; and for timely travel stories and short pieces, it’s often in a writer’s best interest to write them first and then submit them.
 
Even though it’s always preferable to have a contract in hand before writing an article, there are perfectly legitimate reasons to write on spec. Let’s say you’ve nabbed an interview with an elusive subject — the Dalai Lama, maybe, or Brad Pitt. Chances are good that you’re going to be able to sell your piece somewhere, so it’s not a huge gamble to go ahead and write up the interview. This scenario brings up another point: always have backup markets in mind when writing on spec.
 
I currently have an essay under consideration at a national parenting magazine I’ve been dying to break into. I floated my idea past the editor before I wrote it, which is always a good idea if you can do it. She liked the concept, but said I’d need to submit the piece on spec. My essay is now making its way up the chain of editors. Of course I’m hoping it’s accepted, but if not I have at least three alternate markets in mind that might buy my essay.
 
When is it not a good idea to write on spec? If your piece is so specific to your intended market that you can’t think of another angle or publication that may buy it, it’s probably not worth it. If your op-ed is on a topic that’s going to be old news by the weekend, it may not be worth your time.
 
Sometimes, though, submitting a piece on spec can actually help you get your foot in the door. I pitched Self magazine a half dozen ideas that were shot down for various reasons. Then I submitted a first-person essay on female friendships. They bought it. Alas, it never ran. But I did get a big fat check for more than $1/word-and at the time, that was worth more to me than the clip.
 
I firmly believe that Self purchased my essay because I submitted it on spec. After all, the piece was already written, so even as a new-to-them writer, I wasn’t much of a risk. Next time, maybe they’ll even publish my work!
 
Abigail Green has published more than 150 articles and essays in regional and national publications including American Baby, Baltimore Magazine, Bride’s, Cooking Light, and Health. Her work also appears in the new book, “A Cup of Comfort for New Mothers.” (Adams Media, 2009). Abby holds a B.A. from Vassar College and an M.A. in publishing from the University of Baltimore. She writes the “Crib Notes” column for The Writer Mama e-zine and the “Understanding Personal Essays” column for Writers on the Rise. A mother of two boys, she blogs about parenting, publishing and more at http://diaryofanewmom.blogspot.com. She also teaches the six-week e-course Personal Essays that Get Published.

The Freelancer’s Phrase Book: All About the Hook

By Abigail GreenAbby Green
Every published article has to have a hook — something that draws the reader in and keeps their attention. Sometimes, your hook will be obvious. Say, new research has just been published, or a new book or movie has just come out on your topic.
 
Other times, you may have to invent a hook. This may strike you as silly. If it’s a good story, it should stand on its own, no gimmick necessary, right? Sure, if you’re writing about an injured hiker whose life was saved by a courageous dog, that may be enough to pique the interest of an editor and a reader. But in most cases, editors will want to know, “Why will our readers care about this story now?” Let’s repeat the key words in that statement: “why,” “our readers,” and “now.”
 
Anniversaries and observances are common hooks. Every year when May rolls around, headlines trumpet Mother’s Day-related stories. In July, it’s Independence Day. October is breast cancer awareness month. In September 2006, it was the fifth anniversary of 9/11. If your story is related to a bicentennial, you’ve struck gold.
 
That answers the “why now” question. Another way to hook readers is to spell out in your query letter or your story’s lead what’s in it for them. For example, I recently wrote an article for a doctors’ magazine on places like MinuteClinic that are popping up in supermarkets and pharmacies to treat people with common minor ailments without an appointment. Doctors are busy people, so I had to make clear immediately why they needed to read my article: “Quick-access clinics are becoming a reality. Better learn to compete.” Why should the magazine’s readers care about my story? Because they may be losing patients to these types of clinics.
 
Now, we’ve all seen published stories that have no apparent hook. These are often the evergreen articles I discussed in the May column. So why would an editor purchase an article that’s not pegged to a specific time of year or to any new information? Packaging. Just like a beautifully wrapped package can entice us to open it even if we know it’s only socks from Aunt Millie, an attractively packaged article can sell a tired topic.
 
Bridal magazines are masters of packaging. They cover the same topics over and over and over again. I once pitched an article on bad bridesmaid behavior. A topic as old as time, right? Except I packaged it as “The Five Most Common Bridesmaid Personality Types.” Suddenly, an old topic became fresh again. Thanks to a clever hook, a potentially dull article became interesting again.
 
Get creative when trying to come up with hooks for your articles. Repeat to yourself, “Why should readers care about this story now?” What would make someone in a supermarket checkout line read your article instead of the six next to it? What would make an editor buy your story immediately instead of filing it for later? The answer is your hook.
 
 

Abigail Green has published more than 150 articles and essays in regional and national publications including American Baby, Baltimore Magazine, Bride’s, Cooking Light, and Health. Her work also appears in the new book, “A Cup of Comfort for New Mothers.” (Adams Media, 2009). Abby holds a B.A. from Vassar College and an M.A. in publishing from the University of Baltimore. She writes the “Crib Notes” column for The Writer Mama e-zine and the “Understanding Personal Essays” column for Writers on the Rise. A mother of two boys, she blogs about parenting, publishing and more at http://diaryofanewmom.blogspot.com. She also teaches the six-week e-course Personal Essays that Get Published.

The Freelancer’s Phrase Book: Anatomy of an Article

By Abigail Green

To continue a theme from last month, sometimes the “editorialese” that freelance writers encounter can seem like a foreign Abby Greenlanguage. Terms like “head,” “deck,” and “lead” — not to mention their alternate spellings, “hed,” “dek” and “lede” — can leave you scratching your head. So let’s break it down, shall we?
 
First off, I’ll tackle the spelling. Editorial lore posits that the odd spelling “lede” was adopted when newspaper type was set in lead, to keep from confusing the word for the metal with the word for the beginning sentence of an article. Similarly, “hed” and “dek” jump out at spellcheckers and proofreaders.
 
Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s talk about what some of the most common terms mean. I’ll use the traditional spellings.
 
Lead: The first few lines of an article that introduce the story. Traditional leads use the five W’s: who, what, where, when, why (and how). Study your target market to see what types of leads are used. If articles usually start with anecdotes, use an anecdotal lead in your query or submission.
 
Head or header: Short for headline–a title or description of a story. Again, study your target market: Are headers short or long? Clever or straightforward? Try to match their style.
 
Deck: A sentence or few sentences below a headline that summarizes the article.
 
Subhead: Titles or descriptions that break up different sections of longer features.
 
Graph: Short for paragraph. A “nut graph” comes after the lead and clearly lays out the point of the article. Think of it like the thesis statement of a term paper.
 
Call-out or pull-quote: A small selection of text from a longer article pulled out and quoted in a larger typeface.
 
Sidebar: A shorter, secondary story related to a major one and run at the same time.
 
Wondering why you should care? Editors regularly use these terms and will assume you know what they mean. Also, freelancers are increasingly expected to supply their own heads and decks. Even if they’re not required, including them in your articles makes editors’ jobs easier–and you look better.
 

Abigail Green has published more than 150 articles and essays in regional and national publications including American Baby, Baltimore Magazine, Bride’s, Cooking Light, and Health. Her work also appears in the new book, “A Cup of Comfort for New Mothers.” (Adams Media, 2009). Abby holds a B.A. from Vassar College and an M.A. in publishing from the University of Baltimore. She writes the “Crib Notes” column for The Writer Mama e-zine and the “Understanding Personal Essays” column for Writers on the Rise. A mother of two boys, she blogs about parenting, publishing and more at http://diaryofanewmom.blogspot.com. She also teaches the six-week e-course Personal Essays that Get Published.

The Freelancer’s Phrase Book: Anatomy of a Magazine

By Abigail Green

Sometimes it can seem like editors are speaking a foreign language. After college, I worked on staff at a regional Abby Greenmagazine. 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.
 
 

Abigail Green has published more than 150 articles and essays in regional and national publications including American Baby, Baltimore Magazine, Bride’s, Cooking Light, and Health. Her work also appears in the new book, “A Cup of Comfort for New Mothers.” (Adams Media, 2009). Abby holds a B.A. from Vassar College and an M.A. in publishing from the University of Baltimore. She writes the “Crib Notes” column for The Writer Mama e-zine and the “Understanding Personal Essays” column for Writers on the Rise. A mother of two boys, she blogs about parenting, publishing and more at http://diaryofanewmom.blogspot.com. She also teaches the six-week e-course Personal Essays that Get Published.

Evergreen = More Green in Your Wallet

Abby GreenBy Abigail Green
Last month I talked about lead time, and timing your pitches to coincide with a certain season or event. But what about those story ideas that could run almost anytime? Editors have a term for the types of articles they can always use: evergreen. How many times have you seen stories like, “Walk Off the Weight” or “Tips to Improve Your Memory” or “Top 10 Super Foods” or “Secrets for Better Sex”? Hundreds, I’d bet.
 
Some subjects, like these, are perennial favorites. On the one hand, that beats trying to come up with the latest, greatest trend that an editor has never heard of. On the other hand, neither editors nor readers want to see the same old tired topics recycled again and again. “Fresh” is a favorite editor catchphrase. The publications that have the hardest time staying fresh are the ones that run the same stories year after year, like wedding, pregnancy, and home décor magazines, to name a few.
 
So how do you make an evergreen idea fresh again? Find out what’s new about it. Has a recent study come out on the topic? A new book? Can you tie it to current events or pop culture? I once sold an article on a several-thousand-year-old Indian interior design practice called vastu. What’s fresh about that? I pegged it as “the new feng shui” and interviewed an expert with a new book coming out. Bingo!
 
Other topics I’ve written about again and again include wedding planning and staying fit while traveling. Not much changes from year to year, but I can always include a fresh anecdote or a new book or product. Do a Google News search on your subject. Better yet, set up Google Alerts to e-mail you news on specific search terms. (On Google.com click on “more” and then “even more” to find the Alerts page.) Go through your Rolodex and call your contacts to ask what’s new in their industry. Consider major milestones that may renew interest in a topic – say, the tenth anniversary of an event or the bicentennial of a town. Dust off some of your old stories and see if there’s anything happening in the world that makes them fresh again.
 
With a little bit of research and creativity, evergreen stories can put a lot of green in your wallet.

 

Abigail Green has published more than 150 articles and essays in regional and national publications including American Baby, Baltimore Magazine, Bride’s, Cooking Light, and Health. Her work also appears in the new book, “A Cup of Comfort for New Mothers.” (Adams Media, 2009). Abby holds a B.A. from Vassar College and an M.A. in publishing from the University of Baltimore. She writes the “Crib Notes” column for The Writer Mama e-zine and the “Understanding Personal Essays” column for Writers on the Rise. A mother of two boys, she blogs about parenting, publishing and more at http://diaryofanewmom.blogspot.com. She also teaches the six-week e-course Personal Essays that Get Published.

The Freelancer’s Phrase Book: Lead Time

Abby Green

By Abigail Green


Who, besides Santa and seriously organized people, starts thinking about Christmas in July? Freelance writers. That’s because they know if they have any hope of selling a holiday-themed article, they’d better keep the magazine’s editorial calendar in mind.

Most magazines decide on their editorial line-up months or even a year or more in advance. How far ahead they work is called “lead time.” A magazine’s lead time is usually spelled out in the writers’ guidelines, and it varies greatly from publication to publication. For instance, Yankee magazine requests that seasonal topics be pitched one year in advance so photos can be arranged. The Christian Science Monitor, on the other hand, will sometimes publish a timely article the week it’s submitted.

This means that for most publications, you can’t send out a timely piece a month or even two months beforehand and hope the editor will find a slot for it. By then it’s too late-unless you’re submitting to newspapers or you’re pitching a magazine for next year. But even then, it helps to consider a publication’s lead time.

Some magazines make their editorial calendars available to writers. Hint: On a magazine’s Web site, if you can’t find the editorial calendar in the writers’ guidelines, look in the “For Advertisers” section. You might learn, for example, that a special vacation issue is planned for June and that the deadline for editorial copy is in March. Then you can fire off your “Teen Travel Tips” article at the end of February and have plenty of time to follow up with the editor. Sending the right idea-at the right time- just might make the difference between selling your story or not.

Abigail Green has published more than 150 articles and essays in regional and national publications including American Baby, Baltimore Magazine, Bride’s, Cooking Light, and Health. Her work also appears in the new book, “A Cup of Comfort for New Mothers.” (Adams Media, 2009). Abby holds a B.A. from Vassar College and an M.A. in publishing from the University of Baltimore. She writes the “Crib Notes” column for The Writer Mama e-zine and the “Understanding Personal Essays” column for Writers on the Rise. A mother of two boys, she blogs about parenting, publishing and more at http://diaryofanewmom.blogspot.com. She also teaches the six-week e-course Personal Essays that Get Published.

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