Many excellent writers with important thoughts to communicate to the world never find an audience. They never attempt to find an audience. As writers, too often we talk ourselves out of marketing what we’ve written. Most of the time fear lies beneath our procrastination.
We make excuses to avoid the risk of rejection by telling ourselves we’re too shy, selling our work takes too much energy or if we marketed our work and our ability as writers, we’d be selling out. If you find yourself holding back, perhaps it’s time for an attitude adjustment.
I’m a quiet/shy/introverted and sensitive person and I don’t have the ability to fast talk editors into buying my articles.
If you’re a quiet soul, take heart. The sort of selling that magazine writers do usually doesn’t involve actually meeting editors face to face, unless you happen to live in New York or plan to write for local publications in your area. Because you’ll be using snail mail, email and fax to pitch your ideas at first, and the phone only after you’ve established a relationship with an editor, for the most part you get to control the intensity and degree of interaction.
Even when you do have face-to-face meetings with editors, substance and flair, not hype, will get you assignments. Sensitivity is a definite marketing and sales plus, since sensitive people are able to pick up on subtle nuances and are experts at noticing unspoken needs of others.
I want to write and I shouldn’t have to spend so much time and energy on selling my work.
We know you’d rather be writing. Writing is what gives you fulfillment and joy. Maybe it’s your reason for being on the planet. No matter how much you’d rather be writing, you probably also want people to read what you’ve written. Saying what you came here to say loses its charm when there’s no one to listen. Since you’ve enrolled in this class, it’s obvious that you want your work to see print and wouldn’t be offended at the prospect of taking a few checks to the bank.
Because readers aren’t likely to come knocking on your door asking to look at your latest article, it’s up to you to get out their and find them. The only way to build an audience for your work is to get published and that means selling it to editors. If you’ve been fantasizing about hiring an agent forget it. Agents don’t represent authors who write articles rather than books, so you’re on your own unless you make the shift to book-length projects.
Fortunately, you don’t have to love marketing and selling to do it. It may not be fair that marketing and selling is such a critical component of a writing career, but it is the reality of the situation just the same. Most of us don’t get a big thrill from brushing and flossing each day either, but we do it because we know if we don’t we’ll lose our teeth. Few of us take delight in cleaning the oven or taking the car in for an oil change or writing out the checks for our monthly bills, but we do them too.
Thinking about doing these mundane tasks, but not getting around to actually doing them is what saps our energy and steals our time. All the effort we waste moaning and groaning about how we hate marketing selling our work and all the time we devote to pouting about how rotten our lot is, all the verbal abuse we give ourselves because we aren’t moving toward our goals, is more depleting than marketing itself.
I refuse to sell out and become a hack writer.
The idea that writing good, solid prose from the heart and being paid for it are mutually exclusive is a myth, no doubt propagated by writers whose work wasn’t that good or who were too intimidated by the marketplace to even attempt to sell it.
You don’t have to become a hack writer in order to sell your work. You do need to be aware of what editors are willing to buy, which is ultimately what readers are willing to read. In practical terms that may mean that you’ll need to write shorter articles than you do now, add anecdotes and interviews, or cut back on the polemics. You might need to find a different slant for your articles or lighten up on the tone. If your goal is getting your ideas in the public eye and the public mind, you know you need to meet the reader more than half way.
Even if the subjects of your articles aren’t popular, you can still find markets for them. The process may take a little longer, but if you persist they will eventually find a home.
Take some quiet time to make a list of all the reasons you tell yourself for why you don’t research markets for your work and submit it. When you’ve finished, read over your list and substitute the words like “can’t”, “won’t” and “don’t” with “I choose not to.” I don’t have the time or energy to market becomes I choose not to have the time or energy to market. Preface your negative beliefs, such as nobody will like what I’ve written with “I choose to believe.” Actions, attitudes and beliefs are choices. If you choose not to try to sell your writing, that’s fine. If you want to be published, but procrastinate marketing, that will only make you miserable.
Think about your goal as a writer. Brainstorm some small steps you can take to move through the inertia and negative thoughts that hold you back. Do one of them. Do two of them. Before you know it, you’ll be moving toward your goal.
Resources for Writers:
American Journalism Review http://184.108.40.206/ contains a small database of interesting magazines and newspapers that could be potential markets and also posts articles about current trends in journalism. Their media news online page lists links to about a dozen sites covering the buzz in journalism.
American Society of Journalists and Authors http://www.asja.org/index9.php is the largest organization of professional freelancers. Although membership requirements are steep, if you want to make money writing, these folks provide serious help. Non-members have access to many sections of the site and can download pdf versions of the newsletters that are filled with practical advice for working writers. In order to see the markets, you need to join and gain access to the members’ version of the newsletter.
Columbia Journalism Review http://www.cjr.org/ publishes journalism news and feature stories on its Website. Their mediafinder link indexes magazines, newspapers and television stations. The Who Owns What pages help you get an in depth picture of who controls the US media. Their resource guides deal with everything from how to cover criminal justice issues to where to find even more links to magazines. This is an all around excellent resource.