A Gem of a Website

A website that I would classify as a Gem is one that is friendly, easy to read, and offers good, practical help to others. Susan Johnston’s website, The Urban Muse, definitely fits that category.

Every time I visit her site, I take away something valuable. That happened again today when I read her (Sept. 8, 2009) post, “Give Yourself a Raise.” (The site was voted one of the “Top 10 Blogs for Writers 2008/2009.”)

In “Give Yourself a Raise,” Susan not only assures freelancers that they can ask for more money for their work, she even provides sample letters to illustrate how to go about doing that.

“I know it’s scary to ask for more money, but you won’t get what you don’t ask for,” Susan says.

Here’s one of her sample emails to an editor:

Hi Sally, I’m so glad you liked my last piece! I love contributing to the magazine, and I’m excited to get started on this next assignment. Since this is my fifth profile for you and readers have sent great feedback on my work so far, I wondered if we could discuss a pay increase? I hope to continue contributing, but these pieces are fairly research-intensive, so let me know if you have any flexibility in your budget. Thanks!
Susan

Now that’s the kind of down-to-earth help that freelancers can appreciate.

You can read Susan’s entire post here.  You can also sign up there to get her monthly tips sent to your email inbox.

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© 2009 by Laverne Daley

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A Look at Grit Magazine Today

Yesterday one of my favorite ezines, Writer’s Weekly, helped me reconnect, in a way, with an old friend, Grit Magazine. In my early freelancing days, Grit bought a number of my articles, and those clips led directly to my getting a part-time university media relations job (plus many feature articles in the school’s publications and lots of other great experience). So Grit holds a special place in my career memories.

In those days back in the 80s, Grit bought articles about small town people and their interests. Now it has morphed into a different kind of publication, focusing on topics of interest for those living in rural areas, on farms or ranches, or those interested in the rural lifestyle.

According to the guidelines published in Writer’s Weekly, Grit is

“looking for useful, practical information on livestock, gardening, farm equipment, home-and-yard improvement and related topics. We also offer some nostalgia articles in each issue — what it was like living on the farm in the Great Depression, how the family kept the peace during holidays, etc.”

Payment varies from $75 for short, newsy articles for Grit Gazette to $750 or more for long feature articles. The magazine negotiates with writers individually rather than paying per word. You can find the publication on most large newsstand.

The complete guidelines are here.

I’m going to spend some time with those guidelines because I think I’d like to submit again to Grit. It was a good experience writing for them.

I’d like also to put in a plug for Writer’s Weekly. I’ve been getting the ezine in my inbox for some time now and I’ve added some recent clips from varied publications to my portfolio as a result. You might want to go take a look at Writer’s Weekly, too.

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© 2009 by Laverne Daley

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Researching Profile Articles

Over the years, I’ve paid for lots of shoes and cornflakes by writing profiles.

Among those were profiles on a banker who wrote poetry in his spare time, a physician who fights against the dangers of tanning beds, a ball player who started a popular automobile publication, a restaurant operator who is an expert on Japanese arms and armor, a college professor who is an advocate for children. You get the idea — my profiles focus on one aspect that makes a person unique.

I know there are writers who produce full-blown profiles of people, interviewing them several times, often interviewing their friends, family and co-workers as well. Some writers spend days with a subject before producing a single word of their article. Their profiles may cover many pages in a publication and bring the writers big bucks.

I prefer to write relatively short pieces focusing in on an individual and a particular interest in his or her life. Some pieces run as few as 200 or 300 words; others make require 1,500 to 2,000 words to tell their story. And although the payment is less than some other writers get, editors seem to like my shorter articles. I think they are easy to sell, they can bring in steady income, and sometimes I can sell multiple versions of the article to non-competing publications, all based on my original research.

Usually I had read bits about of these people and wanted to know more. Much of the information I use comes from interviews, backed up with research from news articles, reviews, and internet sources. In every case, I know it’s vital to do my homework before the interview.

Early in my freelance writing career, I soaked up everything I could find about profile writing, especially tips about interviewing. I’ve saved much of that information, including the following that I found in an article by David A. Fryzell, a New Mexico publisher, five or six years ago. I think you’ll find the tips helpful, too.

1. Research your topic thoroughly before the interview, looking especially for background information you can use to focus your article.

2. Outline your proposed article before you interview so you’ll know questions that need to be answered at the interview.

3. Don’t ask questions to which you already know the answers. Ask only those questions that fill in the blanks in your research.

4. When you set up the interview, request a press kit or press release and read previous articles and books about the subject.

5. Try writing a mock headline and subheads to focus the point of your article.

Five great tips. I’ve always found the last two to be especially helpful.

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