All I wanted for my third birthday were pencils and paper, my parents say. That writing passion still burns. At nine, I won poetry trophies. By 19, I was selling articles and poems to national magazines and newspapers for money. A teenage essay I wrote sold to the New York Times Op-Ed page. Soon after, Reader’s Digest sent me a check for reprint rights to excerpt that essay. When I married, I sold several short pieces to Modern Bride. I also sold dozens of opinion and inspirational articles to national religious magazines. The checks kept on coming. And they still do.
Now, I write a column, “Herbal Extracts,” for the San Diego Union-Tribune, and freelance for other publications. I’m also working on a book project that has caught the eye of a successful publisher.
My point is not that I’m some kind of genius. It’s that since I do it, I know you can, too. Here’s how to WRITE, for MONEY, and see your work IN PRINT.
First, write a lot, about whatever interests you, in a notebook or journal. I keep notepads and pens in every room and every purse or pocket, because ideas are ethereal. Jot them down or they vanish like smoke. Jot ideas, jot phrases, jot observations and passing thoughts. I’ve sold mere whisps of prose, just a few well-chosen words or a sudden poetic fancy, to Reader’s Digest’s Picturesque Speech.
Secondly, if you want to sell, go for attention-grabbing ideas, crisp titles, and tight writing. Intrigue editors and fascinate readers. Research your ideas if necessary, and then write. Edit to keep it lean. Then, send it off to a prospective publisher.
Third, mind your markets. Read e-zines that encourage you to write and sell your work for money. Scour writers’ magazines. Devour marketing books such as Writer’s Market. Read everything you can about writing and selling your words. Find out who’s buying, what they’re buying, how much they pay and when they pay. Even if your writing skills are still in the youthful stage, you can sell the right piece to the right market.
You may be a better writer than you think, as my New York Times/Reader’s Digest experience proves. Write in sickness and health, trial and turmoil, until death do you and your notebooks part. Then market, market, market.
Toss rejection forms out as fast as they come in, and move on to the next market on your list — after you re-read the rejected story, tighten and brighten it up. Then get it back out ASAP.
As I write, each piece is my sweet baboo. But when I market, my mind set changes. My work is product for sale. Sentiment has no place in the marketplace. Write it, send it, forget about it, and write something else. Jump into new project(s) right away. When working hard, I may have as many as ten or eleven articles out at once.
The secret is to write and market, then write and market something else, come hell (rejection slips) or high water (money)!
Never write for free, unless for a worthy cause. For example, I’ve contributed to a favorite nonprofit gardening magazine, prestigious and classy in that specialty. But be willing to write cheap now and then, too, especially for your favorite e-zines that pay something on acceptance.
Don’t write for pays-on-publication (POP) markets if you can help it. Professional writers want money, on acceptance, for their work. POPs might pay you, eventually. Or they might never publish your story, never pay, or vanish altogether. Don’t encourage them. Professionals don’t gamble with their product.
Finally, never turn down a paying (on acceptance) job. Once, I got a food article assignment from an editor at the same magazine publishing group as another editor who’d bought numerous gardening articles from me. He offered a princely sum. BUT he needed the story within 24 hours, with original recipes. Sick in bed with severe bronchitis, I accepted the assignment anyway, wrote the story 5 minutes at a time, rested in between, and got it there within 24 hours. That editor paid me well for many assignments thereafter — as did a third and fourth editor at that magazine group.
So write, for money on acceptance. Learn the marketplace. Then send your product out. If you try these methods, I know that you too can WRITE and SELL and SEE YOUR WORK IN PRINT!
Terry Tucker Hinkley has written since childhood, and has sold 700 + articles to national magazines and newspapers. She wrote a pamphlet for a health publisher, which sold out two printings, and she was a staff writer for five years for the magazine The Herbalist (alas, now extinct, R.I.P.). Currently she sells her work to e-zines, magazines, and newspapers, and writes her own column, “Herbal Extracts,” at the request of the San Diego Union Tribune. An editor at a major publishing house has asked to see her current book project.