Archive for the 'Ask Wendy' Category

Ask Wendy: Your Writing and Publishing Questions Answered

By Wendy Burt-ThomasWendy Burt
Q: Some publications’ guidelines say, “send clips with query.” I have a few published pieces, but how do I choose which ones to send?
 
A: My first preference as a magazine editor would be to see clips that are relevant to the topic you’re pitching-no matter how small the publication that printed them. While clips from well-known, national publications can be impressive, they’re not always relevant. After all, if you’re pitching an article maintaining your faith to “Today’s Christian Woman,” you would probably be better off just mentioning in your query that you were published in “Men’s Health”-not including the clip on “25 Ways to Please Your Man.” If you don’t have a clip that’s relevant to the article you’re pitching, choose the clips that show off your best writing. 
 
 
 The Writer's Digest Guide to Query LettersWendy Burt-Thomas is a full-time freelance writer, editor and copywriter with more than 1,000 published pieces. Her work has appeared in such varied publications as MSNBC.com, NYTimes.com, Family Circle and American Fitness. She is the author of three books: Oh, Solo Mia! The Hip Chick’s Guide to Fun for Work It, Girl! 101 Tips for the Hip Working Chick (McGraw-Hill, 2003); and The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters (Writer’s Digest, 2008). Visit her at http://www.GuideToQueryLetters.com or her blog, http://askWendy.wordpress.com.

Ask Wendy: Your Writing and Publishing Questions Answered

By Wendy Burt-ThomasWendy Burt

Q: Should I interview experts BEFORE I query a magazine or wait to see if the article is assigned?

 
A: As a full-time freelance writer, I’ve learned that time is money. With that said, my personal preference is to NOT interview any experts until I know I’ve got a paid assignment. What I do recommend, however, is that you LINE UP interviews before you query a magazine.
 
You’ll need to clearly explain to potential interviewees that you’re pitching an idea to a magazine with no guarantee that the piece will be assigned, but that you’d like to cite them as your experts in your query letter.
 
Two exceptions to the rule: 1) If a fabulous opportunity arises to interview someone (e.g. a celebrity or a famous anthropologist who’s about to embark on a 6-month African safari), interview them while you can; and 2) If you’re not sure that your expert is the right source for your article, do a pre-interview scouting session. 
 
The Writer's Digest Guide to Query LettersWendy Burt-Thomas is a full-time freelance writer, editor and copywriter with more than 1,000 published pieces. Her work has appeared in such varied publications as MSNBC.com, NYTimes.com, Family Circle and American Fitness. She is the author of three books: Oh, Solo Mia! The Hip Chick’s Guide to Fun for Work It, Girl! 101 Tips for the Hip Working Chick (McGraw-Hill, 2003); and The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters (Writer’s Digest, 2008). Visit her at http://www.GuideToQueryLetters.com 

or her blog, http://askWendy.wordpress.com.

Ask Wendy: Your Writing and Publishing Questions Answered

 
By Wendy Burt-ThomasWendy Burt
 

Q: I’m thinking new publications might be an untapped resource for freelance writers. Where can I find out about magazine launches?

A: Yes, new magazines can be a great place for experienced AND beginning writers to break in. Although most new magazines do have a staff in place, some are still interested in using freelancers but may not know where to find them. Also, new publications aren’t as likely to be saturated with queries as those that are already established. Here are some places to learn about new launches:

  • www.MrMagazine.com. Samir Husni is probably the leader on what’s new in the publishing world. He also interviews editors and publishers so you get a behind-the-scenes view of what’s going on at certain magazines. He also has a blog that is updated much more regularly than his website.
  • www.mediabistro.com  Although most people think of Media Bistro as a job site for those in the creative industries, it’s also a good place to find out about magazine launch parties. (READ: launch party = new magazine) 
    http://www.minonline.com Min Magazine and Min Online are dedicated to leaders and branding experts in the magazine industry. Although access to some material is limited, you can view quite a bit about magazine launches for free.
  • http://crazedlist.org  This site allows you to search ALL cities on CraigsList.org at once. Do a search for “new magazine” in the “jobs” section. Sometimes the ads will be for salespeople, but that doesn’t mean you can’t track down the publication with a Google search and pitch a query.
     
 

The Writer's Digest Guide to Query LettersWendy Burt-Thomas is a full-time freelance writer, editor and copywriter with more than 1,000 published pieces. Her work has appeared in such varied publications as MSNBC.com, NYTimes.com, Family Circle and American Fitness. She is the author of three books: Oh, Solo Mia! The Hip Chick’s Guide to Fun for Work It, Girl! 101 Tips for the Hip Working Chick (McGraw-Hill, 2003); and The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters (Writer’s Digest, 2008). Visit her at http://www.GuideToQueryLetters.com or her blog, http://askWendy.wordpress.com.

 

 

 

Ask Wendy: Your Writing Questions Answered

Wendy Burt

By Wendy Burt-Thomas


Q: What is the difference between writing for print vs. online publications?

A: The main difference is in the rights that you’ll be selling. When you write for online publications (e.g. Salon.com), you’re selling electronic rights (often referred to as “e-rights”). This can make it more difficult for you to resell that article to larger print publications because they view it as work that is already accessible to…well, the world!

For the most part, larger consumer magazines want to purchase AT LEAST First North American Serial Rights (meaning they’re the first to print it in North America) or First World Rights (first to print it in the world). In addition, many large print publications now have their own online version that uses many if not all of the same articles. In other words, a print publication like Men’s Health that wants to buy your article on “Why Your Heart Loves Dark Chocolate” also wants to run the article on its website. Men’s Health is paying you $1/word because they want ALL rights: First World Rights, electronic rights, reprint rights and the rights to OWN your article.

Smaller-circulation magazines and newspapers (such as local, regional and trade), however, may not have online versions of their publications. This means that you’re likely only being asked for one-time or regionally exclusive rights (i.e.,”don’t sell to any other publications in Boston”). So you could sell the same article (at say, $100 each) to a 55+ newspaper in Houston, New York City, Boca Raton and Atlanta while still retaining ownership of the article.

Selling to online publications and websites is fine; just make sure the money is worth it. Once your piece is on the Web, it may be more difficult to resell.


The Writer's Digest Guide to Query Letters by Wendy Burt-ThomasWendy Burt-Thomas is a full-time freelance writer, editor and copywriter with more than 1,000 published pieces. Her work has appeared in such varied publications as MSNBC.com, NYTimes.com, Family Circle and American Fitness. She is the author of three books: Oh, Solo Mia! The Hip Chick’s Guide to Fun for One (McGraw-Hill, 2001); Work It, Girl! 101 Tips for the Hip Working Chick (McGraw-Hill, 2003); and The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters (Writer’s Digest, 2008). Visit her at http://www.GuideToQueryLetters.com or her blog, http://askWendy.wordpress.com.

Ask Wendy: Your Writing Questions Answered

 By Wendy Burt-Thomas                         
                                                                                     Wendy Burt
Q: I’ve been trying to get a book deal but keep getting ‘near-misses.’ Can you interpret some of these rejections?
 
Rejection #1:
“We only publish authors with platforms.”
Translation: We’re a small publishing house with no budget to promote you and you didn’t convince us that you’ve got a way to do it yourself.
 
Rejection #2:
“We only work with experts in their field.”
Translation: We don’t feel you’re qualified to tackle this subject.
 
Rejection #3: “The book didn’t quite live up to our expectations.”
Translation: We liked your original idea/sample chapters, but the book didn’t hold my interest. 
Rejection #4: “This isn’t right for us, but have you tried…”
Translation: This is a good piece of writing and even though it’s not a match for us, I’m willing to refer you to someone else.
 
The Writer's Digest Guide to Query LettersWendy Burt-Thomas is a full-time freelance writer, editor and copywriter with more than 1,000 published pieces. Her work has appeared in such varied publications as MSNBC.com, NYTimes.com, Family Circle and American Fitness. She is the author of three books: Oh, Solo Mia! The Hip Chick’s Guide to Fun for One (McGraw-Hill, 2001); Work It, Girl! 101 Tips for the Hip Working Chick (McGraw-Hill, 2003); and The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters (Writer’s Digest, 2008). Visit her at http://www.GuideToQueryLetters.com

 

Ask Wendy, Your Writing Questions Answered

Wendy BurtBy Wendy Burt-Thomas

Q: I was assigned an article for a national magazine. I turned in the piece and got paid, but then the magazine folded. Can I resell the article?

A: I’m assuming from your question that you sold “all rights” (as opposed to reprint rights, in which case you wouldn’t need to ask this question). Based on that assumption, you’ll have to look at your contract to see if you sold the rights to the magazine or the publisher. One publisher could own several magazines (or several hundred!), so a contract with a publisher that is still in existence is still a good contract. A contract with a magazine that no longer exists, however, means there’s no entity left to own the rights to publish your work. (With that said, I’m no contracts attorney, so when in doubt, try to reach your former editor to ask.) Even if you did sell it to the publisher, you may be able to get permission to resell the piece if it was never printed in the magazine.


The Writer's Digest Guide to Query Letters by Wendy Burt-ThomasWendy Burt-Thomas is a full-time freelance writer, editor and copywriter with more than 1,000 published pieces. Her work has appeared in such varied publications as MSNBC.com, NYTimes.com, Family Circle and American Fitness. She is the author of three books: Oh, Solo Mia! The Hip Chick’s Guide to Fun for One (McGraw-Hill, 2001); Work It, Girl! 101 Tips for the Hip Working Chick (McGraw-Hill, 2003); and The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters (Writer’s Digest, 2008). Visit her at http://www.GuideToQueryLetters.com or her blog, http://askWendy.wordpress.com.

Ask Wendy: How much do publications pay?

Wendy Burt

By Wendy Burt-Thomas
Q: I can’t always find writer’s guidelines. Is there a way to estimate how much a publication pays writers?

A: Although no advice is foolproof, I can tell you some tricks I’ve learned along the way from BOTH sides of the fence-as a freelance writer and as an editor of magazines and newspapers.

1. Look at the type of paper used. Generally, newsprint is going to pay less- maybe $.10/word. The thicker the paper, the more the publication will pay. You’ll also want to look at the finish; is it matte or glossy? (Think about when you process your family photos.) Glossy paper is more expensive so generally a glossy print magazine will pay more. Also, is the publication black and white or color? Color is much more expensive to produce, implying there’s a bigger budget to pay writers.

2. Look inside for the circulation. The general rule of thumb is that the larger the circulation, the more money they can pay writers. However, sometimes you’ll find niche publications with a smaller circulation (e.g. something mailed only to 5,000 plastic surgeons in the region) that will pay writers relatively well.

3. Look at the ads. If you see ads for cosmetic dentistry, Botox, boutique jewelry stores and high-end artwork, they probably have good pay rates. That’s because almost all publications (except nonprofit mags) are supported by advertising revenue. And the more disposable income the reader has, the more money the publication can make selling space to businesses that can afford to shell out big bucks to advertise. Writers usually get paid more with the trickle down effect.


The Writer's Digest Guide to Query Letters by Wendy Burt-ThomasWendy Burt-Thomas is a full-time freelance writer, editor and copywriter with more than 1,000 published pieces. Her work has appeared in such varied publications as MSNBC.com, NYTimes.com, Family Circle and American Fitness. She is the author of three books: Oh, Solo Mia! The Hip Chick’s Guide to Fun for One (McGraw-Hill, 2001); Work It, Girl! 101 Tips for the Hip Working Chick (McGraw-Hill, 2003); and The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters (Writer’s Digest, 2008). Visit her at http://www.GuideToQueryLetters.com or her blog, http://askWendy.wordpress.com.

Ask Wendy: Your Writing Questions Answered

Wendy Burt

By Wendy Burt-Thomas
Q: I just got an acceptance for an article that may turn into a regular column. The editor asked me to send a bio. What exactly should I send?

A: Because your column isn’t confirmed yet, my guess is that the editor isn’t looking for something to add to the contributor’s page, but rather a bio to go at the end of your article. Look at a past issue to see the length of other writers’ bios. If you have something to sell or promote (ebook, book, newsletter, website or blog), do it here. (If you don’t have any of the above, read Christina’s new book, Get Known Before the Book Deal to see why you should.)

A simple, two-sentence bio might read:

“Wendy Burt-Thomas is a freelance writer in Colorado Springs. She welcomes your writing questions at http://askWendy.wordpress.com.”

When you’re confirmed as a columnist, your bio will likely be longer, perhaps more relevant to your experience writing that particular issue’s column, and likely accompanied by your photo and/or email. Check out the contributor’s page in Oprah’s O Magazine or Shape magazine to see a good example of this.

The Writer's Digest Guide to Query Letters by Wendy Burt-ThomasWendy Burt-Thomas is a full-time freelance writer, editor and copywriter with more than 1,000 published pieces. Her work has appeared in such varied publications as MSNBC.com, NYTimes.com, Family Circle and American Fitness. She is the author of three books: Oh, Solo Mia! The Hip Chick’s Guide to Fun for One (McGraw-Hill, 2001); Work It, Girl! 101 Tips for the Hip Working Chick (McGraw-Hill, 2003); and The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters (Writer’s Digest, 2008). Visit her at http://www.GuideToQueryLetters.com or her blog, http://askWendy.wordpress.com.

Ask Wendy: “I haven’t heard back from the editor about my query…”

Wendy BurtBy Wendy Burt-Thomas

Q: I mailed a query out a couple of weeks ago but haven’t heard back from the magazine. How long do I wait before following up or moving on?

A: Many magazines that have writer’s guidelines (or at least a listing in the “Writer’s Market”) will tell you how long they take to respond. I would first see if you can find this. Also, you can assume that the larger a publication, the longer it will take to get a response, because they’ll generally have more writers querying and/or sending submissions. And finally, since you sent your query by mail, it will likely take longer to respond than if you had sent it by email due to the dreaded ‘slush pile.’ (I’m not suggesting you send queries by email. Only do so if the guidelines say e-queries are acceptable.)

With that said, I recommend that you give it a couple more weeks (unless your piece is super-timely) and then follow-up with a short email. Phone calls are ok with smaller publications. If you still don’t hear back within, say, a week, go ahead and query another publication for that idea.

Wendy Burt-Thomas is a full-time freelance writer, editor and copywriter with more than 1,000 published pieces. Her work has appeared in such varied publications as MSNBC.com, NYTimes.com, Family Circle and American Fitness. She is the author of three books: Oh, Solo Mia! The Hip Chick’s Guide to Fun for One (McGraw-Hill, 2001); Work It, Girl! 101 Tips for the Hip Working Chick (McGraw-Hill, 2003); and The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters (Writer’s Digest, 2008). Visit her at http://www.GuideToQueryLetters.com or her blog, http://askWendy.wordpress.com.

Ask Wendy: Should I Send My Social Security Number?

wendywotr.gifBy Wendy Burt-Thomas

Q: Why do some places ask you to submit your Social Security Number with your submission? Is it safe to do this?

A: Magazines need your Social Security Number because if they pay you, they are required to report it to the government. My opinion is that you should NOT include your SSN with a submission, even if it’s requested in the writer’s guidelines. (Fraud experts believe that stolen SSNs are the leading cause of identity theft.) To get around the issue, simply write “Social Security Number provided upon request” to indicate that you read the writer’s guidelines but would prefer not to disclose the information until necessary. Upon acceptance, you should be sent a contract in which you provide all your information to receive payment. If possible, mail the contract back rather than scanning it and emailing it. I’ve never heard of an editor rejecting a piece simply because the writer did not include her Social Security Number.

The Writer's Digest Guide to Query Letters by Wendy Burt-ThomasWendy Burt-Thomas is a full-time freelance writer, editor and copywriter with more than 1,000 published pieces. Her work has appeared in such varied publications as MSNBC.com, NYTimes.com, Family Circle and American Fitness. She is the author of three books: Oh, Solo Mia! The Hip Chick’s Guide to Fun for One (McGraw-Hill, 2001); Work It, Girl! 101 Tips for the Hip Working Chick (McGraw-Hill, 2003); and The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters (Writer’s Digest, 2008). Visit her at http://www.GuideToQueryLetters.com or her blog, http://askWendy.wordpress.com.


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