Getting the Contract

So you want to write for a living but you don’t know where to start? Make connections. Get out into the publishing industry. Introduce yourself to editors and publishers of the newspapers and magazines you would most love to see your work published in.

Once your professional connections in the community are established, make cold calls. Introduce yourself to editors you plan on pitching your ideas to. (Research the publications you plan to approach before doing this.) Be brave. Be bold. Be brilliant. Make your pitch.

You have a few short minutes to grab the editor’s attention with a headline grabbing or thought provoking story. You have to be able to sell your skills and your story in (practically) the same breath. Pitches should only take a few minutes over the phone. The first part is simply introductions, followed by the pitch: explain what you’ve written (or what you would like to write) and why you think this publication is the best match for your story. If you think it will take you longer than a few minutes to explain what your story is about and why it’s important to readers, you probably need to narrow the focus of your article or story.

Can’t reach the editor by phone? Write a query letter. This is good practise for writers because it is a formal way of introducing yourself and your qualifications in print, while potentially convincing the editors reviewing your work why their readers are going to be interested in what you have to say.

Query letters require that you know yourself well enough to write your bio in say, 50 words or less. You need to be able to establish that you have credentials in the publishing industry as a writer, and if you don’t it is important that you list all the skills you have that make you a great writer. Send a piece on spec. (You write the article first and hope it gets picked up by the publication following your query.)

Your query should also include a copy of your C.V. and anything outlined in the publications guidelines for submitting your work. Not following submission guidelines may cost you potentially getting a contract. Attention to detail is everything in this industry.

Response times for queries vary from publication to publication. Keep an eye, or two, on your in-box.

Following acceptance of articles, writers are often presented with standard writing contracts granting different rights upon publication, to the publisher. And voila, you’ve got one more piece to add to your portfolio, or you’ve launched your career as a writer. Congrats!

What are you waiting for? Write or submit your query or spec piece for that potentially award winning article or short story you’ve got in your mind, on a media device or elsewhere. I’d love to hear how things go for you.

Previously published in The Ink Never Runs Out

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