Freelance Success Story By Karen Johnson Zurheide

As an author of two books for parents and dozens of magazine pieces in over 20 different publications, plus spiritual lessons for adults and greeting card copy, I am here to testify that most of the advice put forth in books and websites for writers–like, for instance–is true and well worth following. Here are two standard recommendations that have helped me to dramatically increase my publishing success rate in periodicals in recent months:

1. Resell ideas

2. If at first you don’t succeed, try again

I write primarily on family and social issues. When an editorial team says “yes” to an article of mine, that usually means they see it as addressing a timeless concern in a fresh way, or they see it as addressing a new concern facing people today. Either way, they are eager to get this information out to their readers. And if they feel that way, chances are another editorial team will too. So I re-spin my successful topics and usually manage to sell them more than once. Not only does this strategy get me sales, it is very time-efficient.

On the other hand, when an editorial team says “no” to one of my pieces–especially when I have been invited to write the article and they have given it some consideration–I don’t let things stop there. Someone thought my original idea was a good one. But maybe it was redundant with other recently published or purchased pieces. Or perhaps my style didn’t capture the editor. Or maybe my writing wasn’t quite up to the quality they were seeking. So I reconsider my approach to the core idea. I think about who else might be interested. Then I query another publication, perhaps on the next rung down on the circulation/pay scale. And most of the time, I go on to make a sale.

But in addition to these two tactics and other great professional advice available from sources like, I have found that some of what my mother taught me may be almost as important to my writing success, such as:

1. Be nice to everyone, as it all comes back to you–including clerical workers and people at editorial lower levels

2. Say please and (especially) thank you–displaying an attitude of gratitude and appreciation–goes a long way

3. Say what you mean–being clear and straightforward eliminates confusion and saves time for busy editors

4. Get your work done on time–being early is even better, and reliability is almost as valuable to an editor as great writing

5. Go out of your way to help others–connecting with editors in ways both teamlike and personal makes yours more than just another article in a gigantic stack

Thanks in large part to my mother’s training, I’ve developed some very friendly and productive relationships with editors who have become repeat purchasers of my writing. I can contact these folks directly, run ideas by them, and usually get very prompt responses. They know me as a solid, reliable writer. By cooperating together in this way, not only do editors get the articles they want while I make another sale, but we save each other precious time and unnecessary hassle. (Thanks a lot, Mom!)

Based on this experience, my advice to writers everywhere is to multiply your successes, be undaunted by your failures, and above all, follow your mother’s instructions.

Karen Johnson Zurheide is co-author of In Their Own Way: Accepting Your Children For Who They Are (Augsburg, 2000) and author of Learning With Molly (Spectacle Lane Press, 1997). She is also parenting columnist for Christian Networks Journal and for soon-to-be-launched