Thursday, April 30, 2009

Finding An Expert

Guess what? You can find experts to interview, even if you've never published an article. Here's how I secured my very first interview (which led to an article I sold to RPPs multiple times).

1--Prepare the article and/or interview questions. I prefer to have an almost completed article sitting in front of me before I request an interview with an expert. Why? If the article is complete, I can choose my questions based on what I have already written. The answers complement my article and it doesn't take long to plug in the expert's responses. On the same note, I fully prepare my interview questions before I request an interview. If an expert is willing to answer my questions immediately, I better have those questions prepared!

2--Geography. I chose to attempt an interview with a psychologist in Georgia for my first RPP article. Why Georgia? I was in Georgia, visiting my parents, I am from Georgia and I knew that Georgia had at least 3 RPPs. It was just a comfortable place to begin. The second expert I interviewed was in Baltimore. Why? Because Baltimore's Child was the first RPP to publish my work and I hoped to continue working with them by acquiring an interview with a local source.

3--Find the expert. Instead of closing my eyes and pointing to a name in the phone book, I decided to look for professional associations that would include, as members, psychologist from Georgia. I found the Georgia Psychological Association online. 

4--Request the interview. Once I had my target association, I went to the "contact us" option on the website. In my subject line I put, "Interview Request." In the body of my email, I simply stated that I was working on an article, gave the article title, and said that it would be submitted to Atlanta Parent, as well as other regional publications. I indicated that I would need a psychologist that worked with pre- and post-partum clients so that his or her expertise would correlate with my subject matter. I had a favorable response within an hour. (I was so excited I could hardly respond to the email!).

5--Follow Through. As soon as I had a name and contact information for my expert, I ran with it. I emailed immediately (as it was to be an email interview). I again explained my purpose for the interview, thanked the expert for her time and posted the questions right then and there in the body of the email. I also gave her a deadline for her responses by saying, "I will need your responses by May, __, in order to meet my deadline. Yes, I did have a deadline--I set the deadline for myself in order to complete the article, submit and get busy on the next one.

6--Follow Up. My expert was a pleasure to work with and I let her know that. I sent her (and my contact at the Georgia Psychological Association who set up the interview) a hand-written thank you note right away. As soon as the article was in print, I sent a another brief note of thanks, my business card and a copy of the article with instructions about how to locate it online. I sent both of those contacts holiday cards as well. Do I want to work with them again--you bet. Do I hope they remember me--you bet.

7--How Many Sources? I have found that interviewing one source per article has worked well for me. I typically include some anecdotes from real people in the article, too. 

8--Identify the Source. If I am submitting an article to Kansas City Parent, but my source is from Atlanta, I simply omit the location of the source. Instead, I say Dr. Who is a pediatrician with over 20 years experience. 

There are so many smart, educated people who want to share their knowledge with others. Most of those people are working in fields where they are already striving to help people every day. If you present yourself with confidence and treat others with respect, I believe that you can land interviews with the experts of your choice. 

How do you find experts? I'd love to know!

Next Thursday I will write more about my experiences with RPPs, so come back for a visit! Until then, happy writing.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Submitting To Regionals

As mentioned in my previous post, I enjoy writing for regionals.  Today I want to share how I submit my manuscripts.

Buy the List: I purchased Brette Sember's e-magazine, "Selling to the Regional Parenting Publication Market." Included with this e-zine is a comprehensive list of email addresses for editors of regional parenting publications (RPPs). Even if you don't purchase the e-book, I recommend the list. You can purchase updates to the list, which includes new markets, on a monthly basis from Brette's website.

Organize the List: My RPPs list is organized into chunks of 10 or 12 so that I don't get targeted as a spammer. Each time I work with an editor, I move him or her from my generic lists to a "warm leads" list. More about this in a minute.

Writer's Guidelines: I do not follow specific writer's guidelines for my initial manuscript. I simply keep my work right at 800 words and send it in the body of my email as a double-spaced document, alone with a standard cover letter. However, if I enjoy working with an editor (the clip is high quality, my check arrives when it is supposed it, and/or my ideas click with the editor's ideas), I move those editors into my warm lead group. Now I have a narrowed-down list of publications. I can begin to pay more attention to writer's guidelines and tailor my submissions for different publications. Just the same, I send that original manuscript to the big list.

Sources: I typically cite only one expert in my manuscripts. One source = one interview = less time. I have interviewed sources all over the country. If I work with a magazine in Texas on one article (but my source is from Atlanta), then I might try to find a source in Texas for my next article in hopes that that magazine will work with me again. I find my desired expert and request the interview, explaining that I will be offering the finished product to multiple regional parenting publications. I mention that I have had success with this in the past and I refer them to my blog. On a few occasions, I have not received responses for interview requests (email), but I have been granted interviews far more frequently than I have been ignored.

Sell as a Reprint: A few times, I sent my original manuscript to one RPP at a time and asked if they would like first rights. I don't bother anymore. If I want to sell first rights, I will simply query a national publication. My experience is that most RPPs want good work (obviously), but simply don't have the budget to pay first rights for an unsolicited manuscript.

There is an exception to every rule and I am telling you what works for me.

I would love to hear about your experiences with RPPs and I invite you to join me next Thursday as I discuss ways that I have found experts and how I go about the interview process.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Advice From Cup Of Comfort Editor...

I enjoyed reading this and thought it was a good reminder for any type of submission.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Writing For Regionals

Thanks to my online writer's group for inspiring today's post!

I enjoy writing articles for regional parenting publications (RPPs). I have found what I consider to be a great deal of success in this endeavor, especially for a new writer. True, the pay is not as "good" as a national publication, nor do I receive much notoriety from friends--in fact, most people don't realize how many articles of this sort I have managed to place since June of 2008, but the clips and the cash eventually begin to add up.

Here are reasons I write for RPPs.

1-- I am a mom first. I still have a child at home five out of seven days a week. Writing for RPPs allows me to go at my own pace. The only deadlines are the ones I impose upon myself.

2--I choose the topic and the experts. Have my topics always been a hit? NO. Have I always secured the interview I wanted? NO. However, I have sold at least one copy of every single article I have ever submitted. Better yet (maybe) is that I have learned what works and what doesn't work.

3--Less stress. I send RPPs the entire manuscript. Either the editor likes/needs my work, or she doesn't. I have had great success selling articles months after submitting them. I believe that regional editors keep well-written articles on file & access that file on a regular basis.

4--Help an editor, help myself. When I started submitting articles to RPPs, not one single editor knew anything about me. Providing the entire manuscript allowed the editor to know if my work fit their publication. Better yet, they knew the article was complete before their deadline. My favorite part of working this way is--when I hit send, my work on that article is done. The opposite is true with querying--when you send a query, the work is just beginning.

I frequently get caught up in wanting and needing to make big bucks and feeling validation by publication in a national magazine. This desire was only fueled by my essay in Southern Living.

However, RPPs are a great place for me right now. It is steady and comfortable AND I firmly believe that I would not call myself a freelance writer today if I hadn't found the opportunity to write for regional publications. 

Join me next time when I talk more about HOW I submit to regionals!

Friday, April 3, 2009


Epiphany: an intuitive discovery or realization (thanks, Webster's)

I love epiphanies. I had one today.

I write a monthly column about a topic that is very far removed from my life right now. I hang on to the column for many reasons 1--one clip a month, 2--working with an editor, 3--working on my craft, 4--income. However, I struggle. I struggle with making the column exciting, I struggle because I know I could do better, and I struggle because I know my peers are reading that very column every month. 

In comes my epiphany.

My focus has been entirely too narrow. I have taken a few key words and zoomed in on them like a bull's eye on a target. I have not allowed myself to create because I am too worried about being creative.

I am about to write my best column for this magazine yet. 

Do you focus too closely on key words? Do you allow your view to become so narrow that you don't see the big picture? If so, I hope your epiphany is on its way! 

Better yet, how do you AVOID getting too focused on a certain word or key words? How do you bring the "big picture" into your writing?