Writing for Magazines: The Query and the Follow Up

covers-imageThere are many different ways to practice your writing craft, and writing for magazines is one that is very rewarding. Not only does magazine writing offer you a great platform to write, it also gives you the opportunity to work with different editors, get feedback on your writing, and of course, get paid!

One of the great things about writing for magazines, in addition to the above, is there are so many different publications out there, from consumer publications we’re all familiar with such as Redbook and Southern Living, to the free publications you find on the news rack at our grocery store. And then there’s the whole realm of niche publications, for antique car fanatics, cat lovers, or quilters, to name a few, and the world of business to business publications where you might find yourself writing about the latest technology used in making mattresses or tips on how to attract customers to your aquarium store.

To get started in the world of magazine writing, first you need to get an assignment, and unless you happen to know an editor, you’ll be sending out a few queries. Here are some tips on querying editors.

  1. Do your research. Look on the magazine’s website for an editorial calendar so you know what topics they’re interested in and when they’ll be published. Remember, magazines work ahead, so for example, a parenting magazine editor might be preparing the back-to-school issue in May.
  2. Don’t write an entire article. Come up with a few ideas that are well thought out, and write about a paragraph or two on each idea explaining the topic and how you would approach it.
  3. Do follow up. Persistence pays off in the world of magazines. Editors are busy people, and often they’ll read your email but not have time to respond. Keep track of when you send queries, and two weeks after your first email, send a follow up email to let the editor know you’re still interested. It won’t hurt to send another email again in a few weeks if you still haven’t heard from them. You never know when the email you send could happen to arrive right when they’re looking for one more article to fill up an issue. And sometimes, just the fact that you’ve emailed a few times will help them remember your name when it comes time for new assignments.

To learn more about writing for magazines, check out my video on the All About Writing page. This page is for members only, so subscribe today to take full advantage of everything All About the Authors has to offer.

When Do You Know You Need an Editor?

You’ve spent IMG_2233months, perhaps years, writing your manuscript. You’re revised, rewritten, edited, heard criticism from your writers’ group and beta readers. Isn’t your book done? Can’t you send it off to publishers now? How can you tell if you need to hire a professional editor?

One sign of needing an editor is if you feel that the manuscript is “the best I can do.” That’s not the same as knowing it’s great and really a wonderful novel. If you think, “It’s okay, but I don’t know how else to improve it,” that’s a big sign that a professional editor can be of help.

Another sign is if you think it is wonderful but… there’s that one little thing. Maybe it’s a plot hole you’re hoping readers will ignore, or a character you know just isn’t gelling or a climactic scene that falls flat. All of these are issues an editor can help with.

Is the book too long? If you’re considering trying to get a contract with one of the big traditional publishers, your manuscript must be a certain length. If it’s falling short, an editor can suggest more content that she thinks is missing from the plot. But we find the opposite problem to be true for most novelists: the book is running thousands of words long, and the author has tried but can’t find any more cuts to make from the book. A professional editor is not wedded to your each and every word: we are wedded to making the best, most compelling story, and if there is extraneous material, we can find it and excise it.

And of course if you’re planning to self-publish, you definitely need an outside editor. After all, you’ll be missing out on the advice from both a literary agent and a publishing house editor that you would have gotten in the traditional route. But there’s no reason that means you have to put out a book that’s flawed. Independent editors are here to fill that gap. You might not know what it is you need help with—after all everyone has their blind spots—but editors can help with so many concerns, big and small. A fresh pair of eyes can notice things you overlooked or had always planned in your head to include but forgot to actually type in.

After all this book will be out in the world with your name on it. Do you want it to be anything less than perfect?

 

Building your fan base means more readers!

writing-with-pen-3Where are you in your author journey? Did you know that marketing your book begins about the same time as writing your book or at least one year to six months before launch? Many authors are faced with this conundrum: if no one knows who you are, how will they buy your book? Traditional publishers also look to their authors to develop a following on their own. And, having an established following may be part of why an author is chosen for publication.

My name is Priscila Goudreau-Santos and I’m a Publicist and Marketing Specialist now living in Charlotte, NC.  I also specialize in book and author publicity. My background includes working as a journalist, public relations specialist and communications expert for a number of clients. I started my own business in 1996 and since then have been approached by many authors — both published and yet-to-be published writers who are asking for help in getting the word out about themselves and their books. How do you begin crafting your message and marketing strategy? It’s all about building your fan base…including social media networking, websites, blogs, and traditional press releases and media contacts.

First of all, how do you brand yourself? How do people find you or see you as different from others.  Set yourself apart from other authors by asking these questions:

  • How am I unique?
  • Why did I write my book?
  • Who is my market (including age group, gender and preferences)?

These are just some of the questions you should ask to find out who is your target and how do you reach them.

Next, formulate a marketing plan targeted to your audience. It sounds overwhelming task but it’s a lot easier to do it in steps. This centers around your Author Platform or (brand or position) where you chose your key message: religion, conservation, healthcare, intrigue, Sci-Fi, etc. What are you trying to say?

Then, make sure that you do what marketers of products do best by branding your image or message with colors or photos. If you use the same color, picture and message in all of your marketing and publicity, your fans will begin to recognize you. In the Carolinas, when you see a black panther with bright blue trim, do you think of the Carolina Panthers? And, the catch phrase says it all: Two States. One Team.

Next, choose the way that you’d like people to connect with you by choosing to create a website or blog. There are different websites that allow you to create your own website free of charge such as Wix.com or WordPress.com or you can hire a professional to help with the technical and creative aspects. You’ll want your vision to portray you and your book in a unique way that you like. If you like it, chances are your followers will like it, too.

Then, use this platform to launch social media that will further connect with your followers. It’s all about connections. Again, choose ones that you like and use and that your followers use. Using all the tools in the toolbox, start to think ahead to using traditional media like press releases, social media and other elements and how they all work together. For example, if you send out a press release announcing your book launch, make sure that you make this announcement on your social media as well. There’s so much competition for everyone’s attention that you have to repeat your message often and on as many channels as possible.

Be creative and have fun. Use videos to set your campaign apart that you can post on your website, in your blog or send via link to your fans. If pictures are part of your message, then set up a Pinterest site and ask your followers to join and pin pictures to your boards. Make your campaign as interactive as possible. There are so many creative ways to set yourself apart and get noticed.

5 Keys to a Successful Blog

keyboard_computer_hardwareAs a writer, whether you are published or aspiring to be a published author, it is important to have a blog of your own. It’s a great way to build credibility within the publishing world, practice marketing yourself, and also practice your writing!

Thanks to many great tools on the Internet, creating a professional looking blog is relatively easy. Both Blogspot  and WordPress have nice looking templates available for use, and the website pretty much walk you through signing up and setting up.

Once you have created a place to blog, there are a few things to keep in mind to help it be successful.

  1. Set a schedule and stick to it. Your followers will appreciate knowing when to be on the lookout for fresh content, and it also shows editors that you are able to stick to a deadline.
  2. Publish good content. This isn’t a journal, where you write stream of conscious on whatever pops into your head. Try to make posts interesting and about something people will enjoy reading. It might be helpful to have a theme for your blog, to tie things together. Just don’t make your theme too narrow, or you’ll run out of things to write about in a few months.
  3. Keep it short and sweet. People reading on their computers or tablets don’t like to have to scroll down a lot to read a blog. Entries of 400-800 words are optimal. Some successful blogs even have entries that are only a few sentences!
  4. Add pictures to your entries. Not only does this break up the content, it helps with marketing your blog on social media. Research shows people are more likely to click through to a shared link on Facebook if there was a picture with the link.
  5. Network! Once you have your blog up and running, you want people to read it. Get out there and share it. Use the tools on your blog host to have automatic updates on LinkedIn and Twitter. You can also setup automatic updates on Facebook, but I prefer to post those manually, which gives me more control over what is said. That way you can ask questions or write statements that provoke a conversation or shares, and get people involved in your blog in an interactive way. And of course, use email and word of mouth to let people know you’ve entered the blogging world!

 

For more tips and information on starting a blog, check out my video “Blogging 101 for Writers” in our Author Resource Center.

Traditional v. Self-Publishing

Whether or not to self-publish is a big decision as you can’t undo it once it’s done. Yes, there are always stories about wildly successful books that started out as self-published but later were traditionally published, such as:

What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Nelson Bolles

The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans

The One-Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson

The Joy of Cooking by Irma RombauerLife's Litt

Life’s Little Instruction Book by H. Jackson Brown

Juggling for the Complete Klutz by John Cassidy (actually this author then started a publishing company, Klutz Books)

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

The Shack by Wm. Paul Young

But what is rarely noted in these stories of amazing self-publishing success, is that the prize at the end of that road is: traditional publishing. Like Amanda Hocking has said, running a publishing business is not for the faint of heart or for those who want to focus on writing, even if it is financially successful. (She started publishing with St. Martin’s Press once her books became bestsellers.) There are both pluses and minuses to both routes that ought to be fully considered before making a decision. And the fact that traditional publishing is a slow process shouldn’t be the deciding factor (have some patience!) Many books were rejected a lot and went on to be huge hits, such as:

Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen was rejected 140 timesZen and

The Help by Kathryn Sockett, 60 times

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Persig, 121 times

Carrie by Stephen King, 30 times

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, 76 times

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, 26 times

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, 38 times

And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street by Dr. Suess, 27 times

So you may have to have persistence and you will certainly need a thick skin in this business.

follow link Where to Self-Publish

The hows of traditional publishing will be covered in a later podcast and video, but a few details about self-publishing for now. First of all, Amazon is not the only game in town. And you really need to think twice before going with Amazon as that will exclude nearly all other book outlets, even if you don’t do an exclusive deal with Amazon (independent bookstores and chains like B&N do not like to purchase from a competitor, which Amazon is, and frequently will refuse to carry books printed by them.) There are a lot of companies to look into with a lot of options, here is a sampling of some of the larger ones:

Many of these companies offer package deals that may include editing, copyediting, ISBN, cover design, and marketing.

http://southernmarylandwoman.com/category/uncategorized/?filter_by=popular Other Questions to Ask

And a few other decisions you will need to make:

  • Will you be publishing an ebook? A print book? Both? Will print books be printed in a large quantity (offset printing) or one at a time (print-on-demand)?
  • Doing your own marketing and publicity:
    • What are blogs that review self-published books? Should you pay for a book blog tour?
    • What traditional review companies accept self-published books for review? How much does it cost? How much advance time do they need before the publication date?
    • How can you target your audience?
    • What social media outlets work best for you and for your book? How can you raise your level of visibility?
    • Should you hire an independent publicist?

It may sounds like I think everyone ought to go with traditional publishing and that’s certainly not true. I self-published a book myself in fact! It’s called The Insider’s Guide to a Career in Book Publishing. And you can read a post on my personal blog about the cost of that process. I just think the majority of writers make this decision without all the facts in front of them, and it’s a decision that needs to be fully explored and thought over carefully.

What Type of Editing Do You Need?

You’ve written your last sentence and hit save (twice—just to be sure it worked). Time to celebrate! You’re finished, right? Well, no, you’re not. Now it’s time to dig in and get dirty. You still have niggling doubts that your main character isn’t likeable or that your explanation is clear as mud. Maybe you’ve gotten less than positive feedback from critique group members or early readers. And it could be that you still have no idea what a comma splice is, but you know you’re guilty of committing this grammar crime.

The problem is that you don’t know exactly what your problems are or how you can fix them. That’s when you know it’s time to hire an editor. Sometimes you don’t even realize that you need an editor, but you have a wise friend who’s told you that you do. You trust this friend. And that’s good because your friend is right. Having your book professionally edited is one of the best things you can do for your writing career. Without a solid manuscript, you’re dead in the water. A great query might prompt an agent to request your manuscript, but without solid writing, you won’t snag a contract. Same goes for self-publishing. You can’t compete in a saturated market without a well-written book. A professional editor can give you advice that propels you to the next level.

So you fire up Google, search for editing services, and just stare. Who knew there were so many different types of editing? What services do you need?

Let’s clear up some of this confusion. While there are many types of editing available, the basic services you may need are developmental editing, line editing and/or copyediting, and proofreading.

Whether you plan to self-publish or find a literary agent to represent you, a go to site developmental edit is a good idea. Developmental editing, also called structural or substantive editing (those sneaky editors—calling the same service different names), addresses the big picture elements of your manuscript. In fiction, these are character analysis, point of view, setting, timeline, story arc, pacing, and tone. In nonfiction, editors look at organization, style, point of view, pacing, and comparative analysis. The editor will mark up your manuscript, pointing out the good and the bad, with lots of viable suggestions to improve your manuscript.

Line editing and copyediting are often confused and thought to be synonymous. These services do have a few differences though. A line edit is a more intense service, and the editor will provide a hands-on approach to make your sentences crisp, eliminate jargon, or make dialogue sound belietrack changesvable. Sometimes an editor will provide line editing during the developmental editing phase, and you’ll need a separate copyedit after revisions. But if you hire an editor for a line edit only, this service should include a copyedit. So what does a copyedit include? Copyediting addresses manuscript issues at the word level: grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, treatment of numbers, consistency, and repetition. A copyeditor will point out a confusing sentence. A line editor will rewrite the sentence. You definitely need a copyedit (and possibly a line edit) if you plan to self-publish a quality book. However, if you hope to publish traditionally, you can hold off on this service.

If you’re still a little confused about whether you need a line edit or a copyedit and what that should include, you’re in good company. Editors don’t always agree on this either. That’s why it’s important to nail down exactly what your editor is going to do, regardless of what she calls it.

Proofreading is a final look at your manuscript before it is published. A proofreader will catch typos, inconsistencies, and issues with formatting, such as bad line breaks. You should not need a proofread until your book has been formatted and is ready to make its way into the world.

Now that you know what the basic editing services entail, you should be able to decide what service(s) you need. Figuring out the service you need is helpful when you begin the search for an editor because many editors specialize. If finding the perfect editor sounds daunting, there will soon be a video on this very topic, so stay tuned.

All About the Authors – A Force of Five

group photoIt all began several years ago with the founding of the Charlotte Chapter of the Women’s National Book Association and a lot of serendipity. That’s where Carin Siegfried (the first president) and Betsy Thorpe (the first vice-president), met. A few years later, Betsy reached out to Carin to encourage her to start freelance editing after Carin left the Charlotte-based book wholesaler Baker & Taylor. Both had worked in New York City at Random House (Betsy) and St. Martin’s Press (Carin) before moving to Charlotte. Next, also through WNBA, Carin and Betsy connected with Nicole Ayers, another freelance editor, and they would discuss their work and best practices. Nicole had over a decade of experience teaching writers and working with a National Writing Project affiliate before she turned to freelance editing. Carin also discovered that a college friend, Karen Alley, had begun freelance editing after a career that included work as an assistant editor in book production for Digital Text Construction, and time as editor of two separate magazines, the IGA Grocergram and Carolina Gardener. Carin encouraged Karen to join WNBA. And, in 2013, Priscilla Goudreau-Santos, a freelance publicist, writer and editor with over 20 years of public relations, journalism, and marketing experience including book publicity, also joined WNBA and a dynamic alliance was born.

These five book professionals met often at WNBA events, and also at social get togethers. This year, they decided to launch All About the Authors, a platform for writers to learn more about the publishing process and meet editors and publicists who are experts in the business. These savvy book pros knew from their clients and from workshop attendees how much confusion there is about the process of getting a book from one’s head into printed form. And between them, they have a great deal of knowledge that can help. Combined, we’ve worked with authors whose successful books have included a New York Times bestseller, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, a Kirkus Books Best Indie Book, an iBook Pick of the Year, and a Red City Review Book Award Finalist. So they decided to make their knowledge available, for authors to learn about publishing from the comfort of their own homes.

All About the Authors will take authors through every step of the process, both big and small. We encourage you to send us questions if you have them. We know writing a book and getting it published is a confusing and daunting task, and we strive to make it more understandable. We want to break it down so you will know that it is possible. With our guidance, you can determine which path is right for you to achieve the results you want, and we want to help you get there. That’s our vision and our mission.