When I first started writing, I began as an article and story writer. I was fortunate enough to sell the very first article I submitted to what was then FARM WIFE NEWS, but later became COUNTRY WOMAN MAGAZINE.
It was a reflective piece on life as a farmer/rancher's wife. Called "Making Hay While the Sun Shines," it was more than a thrill to see it published. One thing I did well with that first submission is that I studied the market....and from that experience I learned that to build your career you have to look for opportunities, and from those opportunities (even if small), you can build your credits and marketability.
Expanding your network and author recognition requires even more work these days as authors look to the variety of media, including social networks and internet exposure. We, at Prairie Rose Publishing, are SO fortunate to have a number of savvy individuals working on our behalf! I know that Cheryl and Livia and Kathleen, in addition to the authors themselves, have made a HUGE "dent" in the marketing world, and we all benefit. Thank you, Ladies! I'm so thrilled to be a part of Prairie Rose.
To add to what PRP has done for us, I thought I'd prepare a list of three strategies that have helped me break into a variety of different marketplaces. Simple but effective, I know many of PRP's authors have probably done one or all of these things, but for writers looking to expand their exposure and network, I offer these as successful tips. Out of these strategies have grown connections to people and opportunities I could not have cultivated otherwise...
1. STUDY THE MARKET: As noted in the first paragraph, I learned early one that TARGETING your writing to your AUDIENCE is critical. Study the publications, if you're submitting to magazines or ezines or anthologies. I successfully marketed a number of children's story devotions to a Christian publication, Keys for Kids. Those stories were then 'resold' three times --- to family and children's devotional anthologies published by Tyndale. Though I didn't make a lot of money on any of them, I have the credits and those early credits did open doors to more marketing later. I have since written for several national/regional/educational/and Christian publications.
Bottom line: I studied the publications and even highlighted other authors' stories to isolate the relevant patterns *if there were any* for submissions. I also took notes on every magazine's author guidelines. NEVER ignore those -- although a number of authors seem to. I also looked for content that had not yet been covered by other submissions; in the case of the Keys for Kids' devotionals, themes and/or scripture topics that seemed to have been overlooked. I looked for the niche or open place where my stories might just jump up and be different. It seemed to have worked :-)
2. LOOK FOR ALTERNATIVE MARKETS: In looking for new publications to query, I went way beyond what I normally would have picked up in the newsstands myself. That is, in looking at, for example, magazines on family life or kids, I went to the Writers' Market Guide that offers listings for family, children, teens, Christian (or Inspirational) and TRADE magazines, like TOY magazines and even REGIONAL magazines. Instead of just browsing, I literally walked, page by page, through the various categories, looking for tips that the individual agents/publishers/or publications were searching for.
RE: the Writer's Market Guide, I may not purchase a new copy every year, but I do pick one up at least every other year....it has articles and tips, and listings for everything including agents, book editors, trade magazines, etc.
If you've never studied or picked up a copy of the latest Writer's Market guide, check it out (I find it an invaluable tool and an essential for every writer and author!).
Bottom line: Do not overlook random and unique places to sell your stories or articles.
ANOTHER market I cultivated included creating and writing a COLUMN for families in our local newspaper. It was a column I designed and then "pitched" to our local editor/publisher. As a teacher and parent and writer, I put together brief articles on ideas from school/discipline/activities/historic and educational opportunities and locations, etc....I put together a list of 52 ideas and then sold that to the editor. It was a hit with readers and it lasted for a couple years.
Bottom line: I used what I knew I could offer and put together the pitch to sell it. Again, I looked for a niche and specialized marketplace where I could "sell myself." Of course, nowadays, with the number of blog ideas, a writer can develop her own niche online....and I've done some of that, too.
A THIRD unique market I cultivated, and continue to write for, is our local NPR radio station, JEFFERSON PUBLIC RADIO's "As it Was" historical series. I have mentioned this before, but this credit has benefited me in many ways. It's a daily broadcast (heard twice a day) and it is heard over hundreds of miles. It's a popular series and each month contributing authors write essays (I routinely write 3, sometimes 4 essays) on unique, little-known historical tidbits from the region, known here as the State of Jefferson. Because I have co-authored FOUR books on the "mythical, magical" State of Jefferson (three with Arcadia, one with Old American Publishing), this series has put my writing and my name in front of many people. I also write monthly for JEFFERSON BACKROADS, a regional publication that is free to travelers and locals and is found all over the area.
In exchange for my monthly historical column, eg: one on Gold Mining, I get free advertising and promotion for my books.
One recent result of all of this interconnectedness is that I've been interviewed for an PBS special coming up this Fall on the State of Jefferson, and I was called and interviewed on History Channel's "How the States Got their Shapes" in 2011. Both producers told me that they listened to my essays, as well as researched my books. And I was also contacted recently by a production company on doing an interview on Black Bart.
My credibility rating obviously jumped as a result of those links!
Moreover, these links have led to other engagements: I have now appeared at a regional conference as a guest speaker on the State of Jefferson and the history of the area and I've appeared at a local conference on Joaquin Miller, sponsored by a nearby museum as well (see program).
JPR writings and my State of Jefferson books.
Bottom line: Don't underestimate the power of connecting "forces" or interlocking and related opportunities. Many of the engagements that have flowed from these connections were not ones I pitched or pursued, but they grew out of the combination of writing and writing-related "jobs" I've taken on. Again, some (most) have not been paying "gigs" but they have LED to paying gigs!
3. DON'T OVERLOOK OPPORTUNITIES BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT "PAYING" GIGS: As stated above, two of my writing "jobs" are not paying jobs, but they have led to so many other paying jobs and offer incredible name recognition and promotional opportunities -- as well as to speaking and television opportunities -- that I do not view these as "Gimme" writing jobs. I see them as workable and awesome trades. I get what I'd otherwise have to pay for and I get it in a far bigger way than I might have been able to afford -- at least on the regional scene. For me, however, this regional scene spans portions of two states and about 20 counties in those states.....and the stretch actually goes beyond that.
Bottom line: Don't be so arrogant as to assume that everything you write must garner cash... sometimes garnering credits or promotion is worth far more than a paycheck.
For more about my books, visit: www.gailjenner.com or http://prairierosepublications.yolasite.com/gail-l-jenner.php