By Carol Tice
Today, I hit the mailbag to answer a question from WM reader Anna McDonald. Here’s her situation, and her question:
I live in a very wealthy area and have a blog on a women’s view of sports. Because of my connections in the community and the population that I live around I am getting some positive feedback.
My goal is really not to run a successful blog, I do not have the talent or time for such an endeavor.
However, I would like to be a freelance writer for periodicals. I am having a bit of difficulty figuring out how to begin this. I have contacted the local sports editor for the newspaper in town and they have said they are not interested in hiring right now. Do you have any suggestions for me? I strongly believe I have a very unique niche. My website is www.thegirlfriendsbatterseye.com.
As I see it, there are really two issues here: The first is that Anna has the impression that it takes more time and talent to write your own blog than it does to get published in print newspapers and magazines. I’m going to have to respectfully disagree.
When you write your own blog, you can write about anything you want, at whatever length you want. You edit it, and you publish it if and when you like. That’s sure a timesaver!
Maybe Anna is saying she doesn’t have the promotional and marketing talent to draw traffic to the blog and make it earn, and certainly that’s a skill unto itself. But generally speaking, getting bylines in print publications is a great deal more challenging than writing for yourself, as you have an editor to please.
But on to the meat of Anna’s question: How to break into periodicals?
It appears that many parts of this challenge have been handled by Anna — she located a local newspaper editor, approached them, pitched them, and got a response. The catch is that the answer was no.
Your experience here is pretty common, Anna. A lot of the people I’ve mentored go through this process. They want to get published. They contact the local paper. They are rebuffed. Then, they give up.
Which is sad, because your local paper is just one of thousands and thousands of possible markets for your work. What you have to do next, Anna, is lather, rinse, repeat until you find a publication that’s interested in your sports column. (Still think your own blog takes more time?)
Having a column with a point of view can be a real moneymaker. If you can find a single place to publish it, you can then try to syndicate it nationally from there. Syndicated columnists can appear in dozens of publications in different cities, leveraging the same column each week to earn more from each paper.
Another possibility is to try other publication types besides a daily paper. What about a women’s magazine, a sports magazine, or an online magazine or e-zine in one of those niches? A natural way to build up to your goal might be to go from your own blog site, to having your blog appear on a larger sports-blog portal somewhere for perhaps a modest per-post fee, and then use that greater visibility to sell an editor on a newspaper or magazine column. Crack your Writer’s Market and start browsing for more places to pitch. Approach other online sports bloggers and see if you can guest post or become a regular blogger on their site for more exposure.
There are fewer columnist slots out there than there are places for reported stories–just take a look at your newspaper. Then take a look at the sportswriting in your newspaper’s sports section. In most papers, it’s some of the best writing in the whole paper–funny, snappy, literate, sharply observed. If you think you can play in that arena, write crackling-hot columns and keep sending them out to editors until you find one willing to take a chance on you.
For a success story in doing this type of move-up, I’d point you to Jenny Isenman–Jenny from the Blog–who has leveraged her hilarious parenting-in-suburbia blog, Suburban Jungle, into a range of paid blog, TV and print gigs.
This post originally appeared on the WM Freelance Writer’s Connection.