I am a niche sports writer. When paired with research assignments, fact-checking, and German translation, it keeps the bank balance tipped in the black. Like many writers, I look for appealing projects outside of my genre to keep from falling into a repetitive morass. It is a satisfying change which sharpens writing skills. While not a consistent source of income, my side projects are enjoyable undertakings, garnering larger audiences in publications such as The Atlantic, Asia Times, Film International, or Yahoo.com. On one occasion, a story came out of the blue, or more specifically out of a train tunnel.
Every winter, I visit family in Germany. In our spare time, the wife and I journey by train to historic cities in France, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland. This led to a fortuitous observation that many fellow passengers were immersed in books. As an avid reader, it occurred to me that it would interest Americans what European bibliophiles are reading. Interview opportunities abounded as travel between destinations is often boring. The people were amenable to questions about their book (after I explained my intention to write a feature story), and Europeans are exceedingly accommodating of questions from visitors.
Back in America, I fashioned a query, sending it out once a week to allow editors time to consider the idea. I sent five disparate queries on Sunday evenings in hopes they would find a refreshed editor on Monday morning. The story was directed at book lovers so I contacted literature and culture section editors. They are easy to find in mastheads, or are sometimes noted within editor biographies. After three weeks of querying, the literature editor at The Christian Science Monitor found the pitch appealing, offering $200 for a 750-word count feature. From that point forward, the only difficulty was trimming the interviews down to meet the word count.
Given the cordial nature of the relationship I struck up with the editor, I felt comfortable pitching her again three months later. This time within my usual writing niche of soccer. The second contact was informal. I asked if the publication would be interested in a top 10 list of soccer books for the upcoming World Cup, citing relevant figures about the worldwide scope of interest the competition engenders. She readily accepted given the rapport we established during our first project.
Upon return from my next European vacation, I will, of course, repeat this winning formula.
Martin Mulcahey is a graduate of United States Navy Mass Communication School, and has 25 years experience writing clean and concise content. He has been published by The Atlantic Magazine, ESPN.com, Asia Times, Yahoo.com, Stars and Stripes Newspaper, Navy Times, Film International, and Bleacher Report.
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