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Turning Your Expertise and Creativity into Cash
Kelly Boyer Sagert
If you’re reading this, you probably want to get published in magazines or other sorts of publications, either online or in print, but are stuck in what seems to be an impossible situation. Editors want to see dazzling query letters with tantalizing tastes of deliciously exclusive information. To write the type of letters that will grab their attention, one of the best strategies is to get cutting edge information from experts and so you’d like to be able to just call these experts up and ask them a few questions. But, too often, experts are busy people who ask you if you have a contract with a magazine yet. When the answer is “no,” they’re often too busy to help you.
What a catch-22! Editors want a stellar query letter, but you can’t get experts to help. Experts want to hear that you’ve got a commitment from an editor, but you can’t create a high enough quality query letter without their help. What a mess!
Or, the editor wants to see clips (examples of previously published material, either online or in print) but you don’t have any yet – or at least not the type that would help you break into a particular publication. After you hear editors’ requests for clips for the second or third or fourteenth time, you want to scream – “I don’t have any clips because I can’t get published and I can’t get published because I don’t have any clips!”
It might feel as though published people are like the snooty members of an exclusive club who only socialize with and help out other members. So, what is an unpublished or under-published writer supposed to do without the elusive membership card?
The first three steps to success are simple:
1) Take a deep breath.
2) Resolve to stop playing this cat-and-mouse game.
3) Decide instead to create a winning strategy.
And, here are three parts of the solution:
Solution, part 1
First, right-size your early publishing expectations. Which publications are you submitting your queries to? Good Housekeeping, Entrepreneur and Parenting? If so, know that hundreds to thousands of other people are doing the exact same thing during any given time frame. Know that many experienced and accomplished writers get ignored or rejected by the mammoth publications. So, no matter how outstanding your idea or query letter, it can get crowded out simply because of the overwhelming number of submissions and queries that each of these magazines receives.
Solution, part 2
During the earlier days of your publishing career, focus on finding respectable mid-tier publications that will look good on your resume and will help you to accomplish your goals without so many barriers. If your ultimate goal is to publish in Parenting, as just one example, focus first on getting your work into a quality regional parenting publication. That doesn’t mean you have to give up your big dream. It simply means that you are creating a strategy to build the types of clips that Parenting will want to see. You are creating an effective step by step plan.
Solution, part 3
Next, stop trying to find experts. That’s right. Instead, focus on your own expertise. What knowledge do you have that would put you into the expert category? Make a list of your education, work experience, hobbies and the like. Also look at the friends and family members who support you and would be glad to assist you with your writing quest. What are their areas of expertise?
To carry our Parenting example further, let’s say that there are three sets of twins in your extended family. Each of the sets of parents belongs to a different parenting-of-multiples support group, which gives you access to all sorts of other potential interviewees. This, all by itself, gives you the raw material that you need to query regional parenting publications without stress. Simply call up these family members, chat about whatever idea you have for a magazine article, gather information and succinct quotes from your interviewees, and then write your query.
Action item: Before you go any further with this course, stop and thoroughly brainstorm both lists – meaning your areas of expertise and those of supportive family and friends – and write down your ideas. You’ll be glad you did and will probably be surprised at all of the resources right at your fingertips. When you’re done, move on to part 2 of Turn Your Expertise and Creativity into Cash.