You can make money by selling interviews to magazines and other publications that serve collectors. I have done this 3,500 times over the past 40 years, on diverse topics such as arrowheads, Burma Shave signs, and Tiffany buckles.
“But I’m not an expert,” you might say…about dolls, or tractors, or knives. But, collectors are, and they will gladly fill you up with all the information on their hobbies that you need to write and sell articles.
Editor Cathy Scheibe of Toy Farmer magazine told me that a writer’s job is to “just be accurate.” Isn’t that the hallmark of all nonfiction writing?
1. Find a collector among your family, friends, or other groups you‘re in. By asking a few questions, you’ll be surprised how many you’ll find. Through people I know, I’ve written articles on heirloom seeds, a painter of Botswana stamps, and farm toys.
Other collector sources include senior centers with woodworkers, painters, or other hobbyist groups. Check local newspapers (or online) for hobbyists in your local area. Attend collector shows–the U.S. is rife with them–for gems, Barbie dolls, old automobiles, and dozens more.
2. Research possible magazines and websites to query in the collector‘s subject matter: Blade magazine for knives; Model Railroader for toy trains; Good Old Days for as-told-to reminiscences. The opportunities are almost endless.
3. Study the magazines. Determine if collector interviews are for a single item (a rare John Deere toy hay loader worth $5,000,) a line of items (Barbie dolls,) or an entire collection (all Indian artifacts in a collection.) Often any of the three will work, depending on the hobbyist.
4. From the collector, obtain enough information for the query letter you’ll be sending to editors. Ask about photos.
5. Write a query based on your magazine study.
6. After a “yes,“ reply from the editor, interview the collector in depth.
7. Write the piece.
8. Forward it to the collector for corrections; the collector is the expert, and you want the piece to be accurate, so allow the collector to change whatever they choose.
9. Rewrite and submit to the magazine with photos.
1. For the interview, create at least 20 long-answer questions. Avoid “yes” or “no” questions. Always end with “Anything else you’d like to add?”, which often elicits powerful answers.
2. Plan on a 30-60 minute interview, by phone or in person.
3. Record everything.
4. Jot down other questions that always arise during the interview, and ask them later.
5. Strive for personal stories from the collector. They are gold, and enliven any article. One story involved a tractor collector who found a bale of marijuana in the tool box of an old tractor he brought across the Canadian border; or a woman who took her husband to court; and a man who refused painful knee physical therapy though he knew it would cripple him.
6. Provide photos like those in the assenting magazine. Pictures are crucial, and make or break your article. Take them yourself, or ask the collector for samples. Or, have the collector have them taken, using your guidelines.
Advantages of Writing Collector Articles
1. They are plentiful, and found in many magazines.
2. Each article requires interviewing only one person.
3. Once you’ve sold to a magazine, they will be eager for more. I have sold 324 interviews to one magazine, 299 to another, and 110 to yet another. That’s 733 articles sold to 3 magazines.
4. I’ve made up to $350 per article. More likely is a per-word payment (perhaps 10 cents) + payment per picture ($5-10.)
Some Possible Magazines to Sell to:
I‘ve published collector pieces in Antique Power, Antique Toy World, Antiqueweek, Woman’s World, Toy Farmer, Toy Trucker & Contractor, Toastmasters, Farm Collector, Farm & Ranch Living, Rock & Gem, Gas Engine Magazine, Collector’s Journal, Ignition, and many more. Follow these guidelines, and you can become a collector, too–of checks in payment for your pieces.
A fulltime freelancer for 38 years, Bill Vossler has published more than 3,700 articles, short stories, poems, nostalgia pieces, one play, and many memoir chapters in 246 magazines, and 16 books. He is finishing his memoir, tentatively titled, Prairie Chronicles: A Boy’s Lifelong Search for His Father, and Ways to Avoid Work.
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