Archive for the 'Freelance writing' Category

The Freelancer’s Phrase Book: Submit or Query?

Abby Green

By Abigail Green

Seasoned freelancers don’t write entire articles and then send them to editors, hoping they’ll buy. And for good reason: If no editor buys their submission, the writer has spent a significant amount of time and effort for nothing. Plus, you need only check the writers’ guidelines of most any magazine to find that few accept unsolicited submissions (e.g. completed articles); most accept only queries.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and the “no unsolicited submissions” rule is no different. Some types of articles, including essays and humor, will only be considered in their entirety. If you’re submitting an essay, you should still go ahead and draft a compelling cover letter, rather than simply stating, “Here’s my essay for your consideration,” and hoping the editor reads it all the way through. The point is, you want to entice the editor to actually read your submission since, after all, she didn’t commission it.

It often makes sense to submit other types of articles in their entirety, as well. Let’s say you’re pitching a short article (under 300 words) or a tip. In that case, your query is likely to be longer than the piece itself, so you may as well send the whole thing. The key is to avoid a “take it or leave it” attitude in your cover letter. I usually write something like, “Interested in the following piece on pet pedicures for your Beauty & the Beast section? Right now it’s 175 words. Of course, I’m happy to tailor it to your needs.” That shows the editor that you’re open to revisions, even though you’ve already written the article. (FYI, only once in all my years of doing this did I have an editor respond, “This is great, I’ll take it. Send me an invoice.”)

With travel stories, it also makes sense to submit a completed article instead of a query. When my husband and I went on a “babymoon” last year before our first child was born, I decided the trip would make a good travel article. So I wrote up the piece and sent it out to a few dozen travel editors when I got home. One bought it, cut it down by a few hundred words, made some minor edits, and my babymoon story ran in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune soon after. Had I sent a query, I could be on my third child by the time I got an assignment!

If you are just starting out and looking to earn those all-important first clips to accompany future queries, be sure to check out your local/ regional parenting publications. They will often purchase a well-timed, well-tailored article submitted four-six months in advance. You can find a database of member publications at Parenting Publications of America (

Abigail Green is a freelance writer in Baltimore. Over the past 12 years, she has written for national, regional and online publications including AOL, Bride’s, Baltimore Magazine, Cooking Light and Health. She blogs about the lighter side of pregnancy, parenthood and potty training at Diary of a New Mom. She also teaches the six-week e-course Personal Essays that Get Published.

Freebie: Buy Writer Mama over the Holidays for $265 in Tip Markets

Yup. That’s right. If you purchase a new copy of Writer Mama between November 15 – December 30th, on January 2, 2008 I will send you a list of seven (7) tip markets worth 265 bucks.

Why would I encourage sophisticated writer mamas to stoop to writing basic tips? (This seems so beneath us, doesn’t it?)

Well, if you’ve never been published, it’s pretty cool to have one of your first efforts land you in a national magazine. And, writing tips is a foundational writing skill you will use a million times during your writing career. And, if you think tips are easy to write, they aren’t quite as easy as you may think! That’s why I wrote a ENTIRE chapter on the topic in Writer Mama. (My students concur, btw, right after they try writing them.) And, when you submit tips, you have to study the magazine, which is another absolutely necessary skill that publishing writers must master.

So basically, what I’m offering you here is an opportunity to start the year off right. You’ll get the inside scoop on how to craft a winning tip (that’s in the book, see chapter seven, “Tip Off Everyone).” The markets that pay for tips, including e-mail addresses. And it costs you nothing but pocket change (a new copy of Writer Mama is only about ten bucks) and a trip to your local bookstore cafĂ© to review the kinds of tips typically published in the recommended magazines.

So, what do you say? Want the opportunity to earn your first $265 as a publishing writer?

To receive the list, you MUST mail or email me A COPY of the original receipt. Don’t send your original because it’s tax deduction for you. If your book is a gift from someone else, ask for the receipt (not a gift receipt) or ask the giver to send the recipt to me with a note to send you the tip markets list. I will give away more than one list for more than one purchase, just send me a friend’s name and email with your receipt.

Offer ends December 30, 2007. Tip markets mass-emailed on January 2, 2008. Send your receipt copies and your name and email address to:

Christina Katz, PO Box 1354, Wilsonville, OR 97070

Or email me at:

Sorry, no exceptions. The only other place to access the tip market list is by signing up for my class, Writing and Publishing the Short Stuff (Especially for moms). More info on that here.

Gold Star: The Best Short Article on How to Pitch, Ever

I am doing some housecleaning today…on my websites and blogs.

I’ll tell you what, there are a lot of tasks that are website and blog-related that I find fun. The kind of stuff I am doing today (transferring data) does not fall under the “fun” category.

But there are some real bright spots. Like this short article, “Pitch it Good” by Abigail Green that comprehensively answers the question: “How do I pitch my article ideas?”

If I were you, I would turn it into a checklist (like some that I offer in Writer Mama) and use it to check your work before you submit.

Need more help than this with query writing? Sign up for my Pitching Practice Class that begins on August 15th. In it, you’ll write six queries in six weeks and, as a result, you will master the art of pitching…your way, not according to a rote form.

Okay, I’m not allowed to blog any more until I get this drudgery done. Back I go. Pinching my nose…

How to Write with Your Kids Home for the Summer

Happy summer/almost summer, moms!

I sent this list of tips out in my Writer Mama e-zine the other day. If you don’t want to miss a single writer mama tip, click on the little envelope at the top right of my blog and join my e-mail list.

And please, share your suggestions for getting work done with kids at home by commenting here. 🙂

I realize that spring-into-summer is a bittersweet transition for many mamas, who may be wondering, “How the heck am I going to get my work done with the kids off from school?”

So, here are a few tips:

1. Make sure you know what you need and don’t need to accomplish. If you are like me, you need a break as much as you need to get more done. So be sure to prioritize vacation and down time. Then prioritize what you will write this summer in a numbered list. You may not get it all done, but aim to get your top priorities done, at the very least.

2. Communicate how things will be to the tribe. No doubt the kids are curious about what’s happening this summer. Resist the urge to just highlight the fun stuff. Instead tell them about the fun stuff AND THEN paint them a clear picture of how they can help you accomplish your goals. If they don’t know what you have in mind, they can’t help you (in an age-appropriate manner, of course).

3. Build in a system of rewards. For example, if the kids go out to play in the backyard in the morning, you can write on the back porch (or whatever works). Then they can watch a movie or you’ll take them to a movie in the afternoon (or whatever reward they’d appreciate). That’s win-win-win.

4. When you get an assignmnet due to their cooperation, celebrate! Cupcakes after dinner or some such achknowledgement of your hard work and their cooperation really just means more excuses for parties. And it’s summer, so there’s nothing wrong with that!

5. A deal is a deal. Speaking of deal-making…get your partner to double-dog dare you to make a certain amount of money this summer from writing to help keep you focused on the bottom line when a day at the beach sounds more fun than a query letter. But after you send it, go and enjoy the beach!

Yes, writing is often hard work. But it’s deeply satisfying too. And mothering is fun + summers are wonderful. So let some of the playful spirit of summer spill over into your writing career instead of putting it aside for three months!

I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the results.

And if all else fails, go ahead and take a break. But first sign up for one of my classes that begns in August or October. I’ll help you get your writing career in gear, so you can rekindle your writing rhythm.

Before you hit the road: Sign up for fall writing-for-publication classes!

I bet you’ve already got one foot out the door for the long weekend. Yahoo!

However, before you turn your thoughts turn completely to sunshine, barbeques and the beach, you might want to get a jump on registration for Writers on the Rise fall classes.

Why? Well, for one thing, our e-mail classes are the best value for the best price on the Web. Seriously, if you can find another class that offers as much for as little I will eat my eMac.

This fall is your last chance to take advantage of these classes at these prices. Effective January 2008, the price for all WOTR classes will go up to $199.00 (except for first-time classes).

Check out this awesome line up and then don’t drive off into the sunset without saving your place. I feel quite certain that every class will fill (as has been the case regularly).

2007 WOTR Classes:

Poetry For The People

An E-mail Class with WOTR Managing Editor Sage Cohen

October 3 – November 14, 2007

Jump to Course Description

Writing & Publishing the Short Stuff

August 15 – September 26, 2007

October 3 – November 14, 2007

Jump to Course Description

Platform Building Basics for Writers

October 3 – November 14, 2007

Jump to Course Description

Pitching Practice: Send Six Queries in Six Weeks

(Prior query experience suggested)

August 15 – September 26, 2007

Jump to Course Description

How Pitching Practice Works (Word Doc Download)

For more information and to sign up, visit: 

What Editor’s Want: American Idol-Style

Editors want what the judges on American Idol want. And writers can assess their strengths and weaknesses through the lens of the four finalists on American Idol.

Try it. It’s fun.

Melinda: The Technician
As an editor I know how refreshing it is to work with a writer who is technically excellent. What I mean is a writer who turns in appropriate, well-written, polished writing every single time. And impeccable technicians are generally conscientious. They turn in work on time or early. They are impeccable and that makes them a pleasure to work with. Sort of like Melinda on American Idol. Let’s face it, she’s spot-on most of the time. If you are a Melinda-writer, you can plan on steady success in your writing career by virtue of your technical excellence.

Blake: Uniqueness in Action
As an editor I also know that I love to receive a submission that is fresh, with a unique take or spin, especially if it’s not self-conscious, but rather playful or just left-of-center. I am usually willing to put in extra time with a Blake, in order to nurture a fresh voice. But a Blake can’t be arrogant or that just spoils all the fun. Not all editors will go the extra mile for a humble Blake, but I will every time. A Blake-writer is the underdog. The one you can’t help rooting for. The one who reminds you not to forget your own uniqueness.

Lakisha: She Moves Us
As an editor and a reader I naturally gravitate towards writing that moves me. Writing that has some heat, a strong emotional through-line, or that inspires me. If it gives me chills when I read it, as Lakisha often does when she sings, well, heck, I’ll follow that writer just about anywhere. The ability to move people can’t be co-opted. It’s a gift. It’s a rare writer who can stay steady and passionate at the same time. As an editor, I’m inclined to forgive a mistake or two for a writer, who can give me chills the way Lakisha can.
Jordin: Pure Promise
Though many writers are under the impression that only the Melindas get the contracts, I am sure I am not the only editor who is inclined to encourage a writer with potential, even when current work is less than perfect. I’m not just talking about talent. I am a firm believer that talent is NOT what launches or sustains writing careers. Let’s just call it a sparkly quality. Something subtle—an energy or glow—that suggests good things to come. Conscientiousness can also entice an editor to take a chance on a Jordin-writer.

I think all writers probably share the qualities of the four American Idol candidates to a certain degree

Which Idol are you most like?

Writing is a fairly competitive business where so much of success depends on determination and perseverance. How might you draw forth some of the powers of the other Idols?

Know your strengths. Address your weaknesses. And leverage the skills you have.

In Writer Mama, I call this playing the strongest cards in your deck.

That’s what the candidates on American Idol do and that’s what writers do too.

Feature Writing Class with Linda Formichelli

Linda Formichelli asked me to pass this info on to you about her upcoming class. Linda has been a great example of freelance success and authorship for me over the years.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have not taken Linda’s class, so I cannot answer questions about how the class is structured or whether it is like the classes I teach. If you are interested in registering or learning more, please contact Linda directly. I’m sure she’s happy to answer any and all questions. Here’s the course description:

Linda Formichelli, co-author of The Renegade Writer and The Renegade Writer’s Query Letters That Rock, teaches an 8-week e-course on how to break into magazines. The next session starts on Monday, May 21. In eight weekly lessons, Linda will walk you through:

  • Coming up with a salable idea
  • Finding markets that would be interested in your idea
  • Finding the right editors to send your idea to
  • Interviewing people for the query letter (the proposal that sells the editor on your idea and yourself as a writer)
  • Writing a winning query letter
  • Getting your query out the door!

Students have landed assignments with Writer’s Digest, Woman’s Day, For Me, E: The Environmental Magazine, Pizza Today, Michigan Out-Of-Doors, and more. For more details, please visit To ask Linda questions about the course, e-mail

[Please note: Maybe this goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway since we are living in a new world of affiliate marketing, paid reviews, and referral fees. I am recommending Linda based on her terrific track record and integrity and not because I’m getting a kick-back. This is also not a paid advertisement.]

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