Sell That Article Before You Write It

It always amazes me to learn that someone will spend hours writing an article and then try to find a publication to buy it. That’s really a backwards way to go and often a waste of time.

Consider this: Although you may have great interest in the subject you’re writing about, the publication may not have the same interest. I can name at least three other reasons why you should sell that article before you write it.

1.  The editor may have a similar article scheduled for publication or in his inventory.

2.  Yours may be a topic that the editor hates — or one that’s not popular with the readers. Remember this truth: editors know what their readers want to read in the publication and that’s always foremost in their editorial planning. (Did you check the editorial calendar?)

3.  The subject of your article may be one that is regularly covered by a staff member, or it may be a specialty of a writer who is one of the magazine’s trusted freelancers. (A careful study of the writer’s guidelines and several back issues of the magazine can give you a clue about this).

Those reasons don’t apply for humor or very short articles. A query usually is not needed for those pieces but you still need to check guidelines and back issues to see if the publication uses similar pieces before submitting yours.

Otherwise, a query is your best route to a sale. Sometimes, even when a query is rejected, the writer still can make a sale. I recall twice when the timing of my queries was off. My queries were turned down because both editors had already assigned similar articles to other freelancers — but both also ended up assigning me articles on different subjects for upcoming issues, and one of them was a cover story! The editors knew my work because I had written for them previously. A well-crafted query may also earn you an assignment for a different article, whether or not you have already written for a particular publication.

© 2009 Laverne Daley

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