Who would have guessed that an article I sold for $200 the first month after subscribing to WritersWeekly.com would lead to a six-figure book deal seven months later? Certainly not me, but after all, that’s the exciting thing about a writing career – one never knows what opportunities may be around the corner, and dreams sometimes really do come true.
Some WritersWeekly readers subscribe already knowing that the path to being a published writer isn’t an especially easy or fast one, but many of us first subscribe looking for the golden ticket – the writing gig that will immediately raise our career (and our bank accounts) to the next level.
Back in September 2005, when I was 24, I developed an idea for a book called Body Dramaóa useful, funny, photographic and frank body and health book for young women. I was extremely passionate about getting it published not only for my writing career, but also because I felt that today’s young women desperately needed an unairbrushed and medically accurate reality check on how a woman’s body is supposed to look, smell, feel, and behave.
Three years had passed since my writing had been published anywhere, and I wanted to refresh my clips before pitching Body Drama to publishers. To find available publications, I scoured Craigslist, joined message boards and signed up for WritersWeekly.com. I dusted off my three-year-old clips, attached a confident query letter, and I emailed any publication that I felt my writing style might fit.
Twenty minutes after sending out the first pitches, I began compulsively refreshing my web browser, just waiting for that golden ticket to magically appear. Nothing. The next day – nothing. The day after that – nothing. Soon, I stopped eagerly refreshing and started frantically sending out more pitches. I heard nothing back. Apparently, taking time away from one’s writing to serve as Miss Virginia wasn’t a good enough excuse to be able to slide right back into the journalistic scene, and rightfully so. My clips were stale and it wasn’t going to be easy for me to get back into the game.
American Cheerleader was featured in the 9/28/05 Paying Markets section of WritersWeekly.com, and as a former cheerleading captain, I truly enjoyed crafting my pitch to them for an article on American leaders who used to be cheerleaders, including President Bush. However, they only paid $200 per article, and I had my eye on the larger publications who offered $1 a word or more – after all, a girl’s gotta eat! On October 4th, I woke up to an acceptance email from American Cheerleader – they liked my story idea and wanted me to write it for their spring issue (see my 10/12/05 WritersWeekly letter) to the editor). I was pleased but admittedly less than thrilled – they were the only ones to ever respond, and it wasn’t going to be possible to pay Manhattan rent with just $200. I realized that if I wanted to take my writing career seriously, I would have to seriously alter my budget. So I swallowed my pride (and my last New York pizza slice), moved back home to southern Virginia, and started working on Body Drama.
As luck would have it, that first American Cheerleader article came out the week my agent and I were in New York pitching Body Drama to publishers, so when asked about my writing experience, I could proudly present a hot-off-the-presses, gorgeous glossy spread in a magazine targeted to the ideal demographic for Body Drama. It was all I had, but it was enough. Now, two years later, Body Drama is in stores everywhere this month, along with my second article for American Cheerleader, which shares how Body Drama candidly and comfortably discusses issues and concerns that all young women (including cheerleaders) deal with, like ruined hair, razor burn, bad breath, and period bloating. They are also doing a book giveaway!
So if you find yourself frustrated because you can’t yet crack the big nuts, keep in mind that the smaller publications may not pay that much up front, but the experience and exposure you gain, as well as the relationship you cultivate with them, may be worth significantly more than you can possibly imagine.
Nancy Redd is the author of Body Drama: Real Girls, Real Bodies, Real Issues, Real Answers, the first-ever photographic self-help health book for young women. Two weeks after graduating from Harvard with an honors degree in Women’s Studies, she won the title of Miss Virginia, going on to make the Top 10 and winning the swimsuit competition at Miss America 2004. Nancy has been named one of Glamour magazine’s Top 10 College Women, L’OREAL’s Beauty of Giving Young Woman of the Year, and one of Harvard magazine’s Top Six Seniors. Nancy once won $250,000 on Who Wants to be a Millionaire and donated 10 percent of her winnings to 4-H, the nation’s oldest youth development program, where she was a member of the National Board of Trustees until her 3-year term expired in October of 2007. Email Nancy at nancy-at-nancyredd.com or visit her website at www.nancyredd.com – she would love to hear from you!
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: Our 17-year-old daughter has her own copy of Body Drama and she loves it (so do her friends – I heard them all talking about it in her room the other day). It’s fully illustrated with color photos and covers several topics that parents may be too embarrassed to discuss with their daughters. I wish it had been published years ago!