Do you believe that getting published is only about finding a good idea, pitching it to the right market and writing the article? While this will certainly help, there are other factors that come into play before a manuscript is accepted for publication. Understanding these allows you to reap rich dividends.
Make your query meaty: You’ve often been told that the query letter is your first introduction to a new editor. But most writers do a Goldilocks on this one – they either send in a letter that’s miles too long and that never seems to convey the idea anyway, or one that is so short and abrupt that it would shockingly shrink a 2000-word article to a single sentence pitch. A good query is meaty – just the right balance of facts, data and of course, intriguing information that is sure to entice the editor into learning more. The art of expressing your idea in a pithy, action-packed couple of paragraphs will prove to be a challenge for your writing muscle; it will also help your bank account!
How much is too much? Beginners are often wracked with indecision over how much to charge for their work. They either give it away or demand an astronomical rate. If the magazine is open to negotiating pay, consider factors such as circulations, advertisement rates, even the quality of their printing before you quote a price. The first two can easily be researched on the magazine’s website.
Higher circulation would, of course, mean more revenue through subscriptions and advertisements. This would give you an idea about the actual size of the publication venture. If the magazine is a glossy printed on high quality paper, you can be sure that it is fairly well-budgeted. Established magazines have a good consumer base. Their subscription rates as well as advertising would be healthy. In such a scenario, you can negotiate more. This information would be critical in helping you estimate your charges.
Perfect your timing while negotiating pay: After months of steady work for a single publication, you should take the next step and cash in on your reputation. After the editor has expressed satisfaction with your work, thank him and request that they consider an increase in your payment from the next assignment. However, psychological timing matters here. I’ve received requests from writers to increase their pay just moments after they’ve missed an important deadline, hemmed and hawed over some excuse and inconvenienced me a great deal. This approach won’t work unless you’ve been extremely professional all along.
Nurturing Relationships: Do you keep in touch with your editors, even if you’re not actively working with them at the moment? It is thoughtful to send out cards for Christmas, New Year’s or any memorable occasion, such as the magazine’s anniversary. You can also mail with brief feedback on other articles featured in the magazine. This will help establish a comfortable working equation with the editor and will also allow them a certain degree of familiarity with you. If the editor moves to another publication, you can be sure he/she will rely on your help even as they fulfil their new responsibilities. Be sure to strike the right note here – be sincere, warm and friendly, but avoid sending in a barrage of email that’s far too personal!
The editor’s time is money – for you! Turning in a clean copy can save a great deal of time and energy for editors. And this can translate into frequent well-paying assignments for you. Be sure to request the magazine’s style guide. Research their tone, syntax, style and spelling, more so if your submissions are for an international audience, where cultural differences can lead to varied nuances in meaning.
Don’t be a Writing Diva: I’ve noticed that writers tend to be sensitive bunch, especially when it comes to their work. In order to constantly improve the quality of your writing, you’ll need to view your work objectively and allow it to go under the editor’s scalpel if required. Feel free to offer suggestions, but don’t blow a gasket for every altered comma or period.
A deeper understanding of these issues will allow you to work regularly with clients to reap a steady income. So, go ahead. Build lasting success on these firm foundations!
Kamala Thiagarajan is the Editor-in-Chief of Windows & Aisles, the in-flight magazine of Paramount Airways, a domestic airline in India. A writer with over ten years of experience, she has over four hundred articles in print in leading publications across the globe. Some of her writing credits include The Reader’s Digest (Indian edition), American Health and Fitness, Highlights for Children, Massage Magazine, Emirates Woman, Kuwait This Month, Parabola and many more.