In the first two parts of this article, I shared the key beliefs that helped me go from being out-of-work with no future, to fully supporting myself with my writing. In this third and final post, I’m going to share some tips that will help you become a professional writer.
Five Tips To Help You Sell Your Writing Now!
1. Build publication credits
The key to building a professional writing career is getting publication credits. Credits say three things about you as a writer: that you know how to work with an editor; that you can write; and that you can meet a deadline—which is non-negotiable in the publishing world.
It doesn’t matter where you got those credits, or even if you got paid for your writing (from an editors’ point of view); editors just want to know that you have experience. And sometimes to get that experience, those publication credits, you may need to write for free—which is the only time you should ever consider it. Writing for free devalues all writers.
Writing is a profession. And professional writers by definition get paid. Think about it. A plumber wouldn’t work on your pipes for free. Your talent and time are valuable. So if you do it for free, ensure you receive something in return like credits, increased exposure, or promotion.
And there’s a difference between simply posting writing online somewhere, versus posting on a juried or reviewed site. It’s best if there’s some sort of gatekeeper, an editor or review process that you must go through in order to be published. It has to do with credibility and the quality of writing, and most editors will make this distinction.
Once you get your first credit, use it to get the next bigger one. I started out writing for a provincial magazine. I used those credits to get a weekly column and eventually a position as a regular contributor to a national newspaper. And those credentials, along with an anthology credit, helped me successfully pitch my first children’s book.
You can go directly to your dream publication. Make big moves when they feel right. And if your idea and query is solid, an editor may take a chance on you. But this method allows you to improve your craft and build confidence while learning about the industry.
2. Target the right publication or website
Researching target markets and ensuring they are a match to your writing style and the story you want to tell is the single most important thing you can do to get a “yes” from an editor.
And don’t limit yourself to consumer magazines. Trade publications are a very lucrative market. They’re hungry for content and it’s a great way to repurpose stories.
3. Deliver a quality product
If your desire is to be published in magazines, print or online, a query is usually your first contact with an editor. Query writing is an art and is as important as the story itself, because if you can’t sell the idea, you won’t sell the story. So it’s crucial that you make a good impression, a professional impression.
Keep your query to one page if possible. Ensure you have the most current contact info as well as the correct spelling of the editor’s name. This may seem like a no-brainer, but mistakes on basics like this happen a lot; and lack of attention to details will speak volumes about your writing to an editor.
Open with an engaging fact or question about your subject to hook the editor, followed by a brief paragraph about the story you intend to tell. Include details as to proposed word count, story angle and who you will interview. Let the editor know why their readers will be interested in this story. End with a brief and relevant bio. Be sure to include anything that demonstrates why you’re the best person to tell this story.
Then, deliver what you promised—polished, to word count, and on time. Nothing kills a writing career faster than someone who turns in sloppy work, or misses deadlines.
Queries are also used for agents and editors of traditional publishing. And if you publish independently, hire an editor. You only have one chance to make a first impression on your audience. You want your book to be as polished and professional as any book that may be published through a traditional route.
4. Visualize yourself as a successful writer
Studies show that for professional athletes, visualization is more crucial than even skill or talent. Visualization is important for writers, too. Before author Wayne Dyer writes a book, he has his publisher design a mock-up of the cover which he keeps in view as he writes.
See yourself as a successful writer. See yourself sitting in your chair writing at your computer. Feel the excitement at the thought of seeing your books and your name in print.
5. Go within
Remember, this is your message. The message you came here to share. The message someone else is waiting to read that will make a difference in his or her life. So be open to sharing yourself on the page. Be vulnerable and aligned with who you really are, not a facsimile of how you think a coach or a speaker would present themselves to the world. Readers and editors respond to real, so don’t give them anything less than your Self on the page.
Approach writing by feeling your way there—not only feeling the words, but feeling the spaces between the words. Go within and allow your Self to guide you. If you write from this heart-centred space, it will never steer you wrong.
Write. Share. Transform.
This is it. This is your time. Sparkle and shine like only you can. Write what is begging to be written, that only you can write. Then share your unique voice. It will transform not only your Self and your life, but, by extension, the world.
And try to enjoy a glass of Limoncello every now and then.
Did You Miss It?
This article first appeared in The Empowerment Manual (Visionary Insight Press, 2015). To read Part One and Part Two of Write. Share. Transform. You can catch up here: