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Jun 30, 2010, 11:03 CDT
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Tuesday, February 28, 2017, 12:56 PM
We’ve gone to the dogs -- and that’s OK by us.
At the recent Dog Writers Association of America, Amy Tokic, editor of PetGuide.com, shared her insight and tips for freelance writers on how they can best pitch the website to get assignments.
PetGuide.com, flagship site to more than 75 different pet communities, is dedicated to offering pet parents informative articles to ensure their pet lives a long, healthy and happy life. From dog illness symptoms to helpful how-to articles, uber-cute dog fashions and breaking dog news stories, PetGuide.com goes in-depth to get to what matters to pet parents.
As editor, Tokic -- a passionate animal lover and proud pet parent of Oscar, a Shih Tzu/Chihuahua cross -- writes about her adventures in pet ownership, and tirelessly researches products, news and health-related issues she can share with other animal enthusiasts.
Tokic’s career has spanned the media spectrum. She has worked at radio stations across Ontario before moving into the print and magazine industry, and finally to online publications. She has been called upon to offer her pet expertise in numerous interviews for outlets including PopSugar, The Toronto Star, Honest Kitchen, Vegas Rock Dog Radio, the World Pet Association, Consumer Reports, and Redbook.
Tokic offered these tips for article queries, which can really apply generally when pitching editors in any industry:
Personalize your pitch. Start your pitch with “Dear Amy” so she sees it’s not a pitch you’re sending to multiple people. Make it unique and tailored to her and the website.
Show you’ve read the website. Mention you read the site, e.g., “I read your article on dog dental health and it resonated with me because my dog had to have teeth removed recently.”
Don’t pitch something that’s already been covered. If you are pitching a story on the pros and cons of Prozac for dogs, for example, make sure the article hasn’t already been published on the site. Otherwise, it shows you are not familiar with the site.
Keep it short. An ideal pitch should be no longer than 2-3 paragraphs.
Build a relationship before pitching. Tokic said she usually doesn’t take pitches from people she doesn’t know. If you have a mutual “friend,” ask for an introduction. If not, all hope is not lost – just introduce yourself and tell her how you have read her work. Again, it’s all about building a relationship.
Ask her to lunch. Tokic is open to being invited for coffee or lunch: “Who doesn’t like free food?”
Have a platform: Have your own website, not just social media profiles. And make sure you list your portfolio on your website. Editors should have a good sense of who you are and what your writing is like through your website.
Make your pitch a good one: According to Tokic, a good pitch:
- is creative
- is well-researched
- is customized for the editor
- covers a good topic
- brings something new to the table – it’s not the same old, same old
- is 2-3 paragraphs long
A bad pitch, on the other hand:
- is too short
- has no personality
- includes random links (you should only include one link – your website)
You can find PetGuide.com on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+.
Thursday, June 4, 2015, 9:26 AM
Whether you’ve just come up with a book idea or have already finished writing it and are ready to think about publishing, you’ve likely come up on the question of self-publishing vs. using a traditional publisher. There are definitely upsides and downsides to each, so I asked a few self-published authors for their input on the process. After all, who better to advise you than someone who has gone through it already?
Deciding to Self-Publish
I asked the three authors what led them to self-publish their books:
“I pitched the idea for a humor book to a number of agents, but I kept hearing the same kind of response: ‘Love your stuff. It’s really funny. But humor is a tough sell,’” said Wojciechowski. “I knew I had a good idea, so I decided that I would do it on my own. I wanted the finished product to be just as good as something that would have come from a traditional publisher, so I hired an editor, an illustrator for the cover, and a designer to put the whole book together. It paid off: My book won a 2013 Outstanding Book Award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors.”
Rejection was also the impetus for Barbosa's decision: “I heard so many tales of rejection from traditional publishers that it actually put me off. I submitted a few stories and poems to traditional publishers and the answer was always the same: ‘We like your work, but...’ There was always the 'but.' Either the story was not commercial enough or there are too many submissions for that genre. At some point, you have to decide whether to wait or just do it -- so I just did it. Apparently, several known writers are opting now to follow the self-published route, because they can be more creative without worrying about catering to the masses. They get to write the story they want to read, rather than writing the story to please someone else."
For Maurer, the decision was based on his book’s genre. “The traditional route to publishing novels is to get your short stories read and published by genre magazines, attempt to attract the attention of an agent, and use that agent’s leverage -- if they have any -- to get your work looked at by a publishing house. The problem is, almost all of the genre magazines have folded, as well as hundreds of publishing houses. Even if they hadn’t, that path traditionally takes years, and that’s just to get to a publisher’s slush pile. Your odds of hitting the lottery are higher. Self-publishing used to mean vanity publishing -- that is, you spent your own money to have your book printed, and then tried to sell those copies on your own, or you gave them to friends and family members. Today, everyone can download your book, so your cost to publish is next to nothing. As soon as I learned about Amazon’s direct publishing program, I was in.”
If you do decide to go the self-publishing route, know that it’s more than uploading your book and hitting publish. You have to take many other things into consideration.
“While I knew my assistant and I would be ‘doing it all,’ I didn’t realize this meant doing things like buying an ISBN number and a bar code,” said Wojciechowski. “That felt really strange. It wasn’t difficult, but it was surprising.”
Adds Barbosa, “Your dream of becoming a published author can actually become reality much faster than you think, but at the same time, it can take a lot of money, effort and time to market a self-published book. Patience is a must, because it's not as easy as it seems.”
Maurer added that while getting a book out there can be quick -- “from the time I finish editing to the time my book is in front of Amazon’s customers is less than an hour” – you have to do a lot of work that has nothing to do with writing.
“There are literally millions of self-published authors out there that are competing against you, and it takes more hours each day to market your work than it does to write and edit it,” he says. “If you’re not into marketing or you’re not willing to put that non-writing time in, self-publishing is not for you.”
Tips to Get Started
- Hire a professional: Although you’re self-publishing, it still needs to be a good book. Consider hiring professionals -- an editor, an illustrator, a designer -- to help you put the book together. “You want your book to be the best it can be,” says Wojciechowski. “If the book looks terrible on the outside, people won’t bother buying it. If it’s full of typos, incorrect grammar, etc., it looks unprofessional on the inside -- again, people won’t want to buy it.”
- Don’t underestimate the importance of a good cover: “When designing or paying for a cover, make sure the title and your name can easily be read at thumbnail size, because that’s how customers are going to see it,” advises Maurer. “And if your title or cover doesn’t grab their attention, they’ll buy someone else’s book instead.”
- Pay attention to all the details: “Make sure your book goes through beta readers and editors to iron out issues like sequence of events, continuity, spelling and grammar,” advises Barbosa. Maurer agrees: “Spell-check and grammar-check everything -- nothing is more embarrassing than putting out a book that’s full of grade-school mistakes.”
- Get another opinion: Maurer recommends enlisting someone you trust – “not a family member” – to kick the tires on everything you write. “Your work is like your child,” explains Maurer. “It’s impossible for you to be objective about it. You need an editor who will mercilessly pick it apart and tell you where you went wrong, and you have to listen and seriously consider everything they say.”
- Have a marketing plan: “Don’t just assume all your friends and relatives will buy the book, because not everyone will,” says Wojciechowski. “You need to have a plan before you publish your book. You want to get your name and the name of the book out there to as many places and people as possible.”
- Start early: “Do as much planning for everything from marketing and public relations to book signings and sales before you publish your book,” advises Wojciechowski. “Once it’s published, you need to be able to hit the ground running with marketing and promotion. To do that, you have to have planned ahead of time. The more thinking and planning you do before you publish your book, the more sales you’ll have.”
- Writing nonfiction? Use ProfNet: OK, this shameless plug was added by me, but if you need to find experts or real-life anecdotes for your book, try ProfNet -- it's easy and free! To send a request, just fill out the quick ProfNet Query Form. We'll take care of the rest.
For more tips, check out “Getting Your Book the Buzz It Deserves,” my interview with Sandra Beckwith, publisher of the Build Book Buzz e-zine. Beckwith also teaches an online course about publicizing your self-published book. “I highly recommend it,” says Wojciechowski.
More About the Authors
Wojciechowski is the author of the award-winning humor book, “Next Time I Move, They’ll Carry Me Out in a Box.” “The best way to describe it is ‘War is hell. Moving is a close second.’ This book covers many of the hilarious things that happen to people when they buy a home, sell a home, and move. Anyone who has ever moved will be able to identify with it and laugh! People can purchase a signed copy of the print version of the book through me at Wojo@WojosWorld.com. The paperback is also available through Amazon, and the e-book is available through Amazon for Kindle and Smashwords for Nook. You can follow her on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TheMicheleWojo
Barbosa’s first book, “Massive Black Hole - Cibele's Hell,” tells the story of three young women who become friends, and while trying to survive and achieve their goals, they question the meaning of life, death and the existence of hell. Her second book, “Holes in Space - A Poetry Collection,” won the Five Stars seal from Readers' Favorite, a respected review and award contest site. Her third book, “Olympian Passion,” written under the pen name Andrya Bailey, is the first volume of the “Olympian Love” trilogy. Barbosa also currently serves as the author events director for the Houston Writers Guild, a nonprofit community of Houston-area writers whose purpose is to support each other in the author’s craft and writing career. You can follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/AndyB0810
Maurer started off publishing short stories, most of them science fiction or horror, just to learn how everything worked. Eventually, he combined those into a collection called “Grimmer.” His first published novel was “The Ring Around the Rose,” which is the first book in a trilogy about the end of the world, with some comedy, fantasy elements, and mythology thrown in. His third novel is “Nerd Girls Go 2 Hell,” a supernatural comedy about a brilliant girl named Andi McCarthy who plays a mean guitar. He is currently working on a novel called “Rest Stop,” about alien ambush predators that get you when you sit on a toilet. It started out as a response to a dare from Stephen King, who said no one could write a good story about a monster that comes out of a toilet.
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Wednesday, February 18, 2015, 2:19 PM
As a freelance writer, you've probably seen some of the outlets you write for close down. Fear not, there are still plenty of assignments out there for you. You may just need to look in new places.
While newspapers and magazines aren't dead, stories are now being told in many different ways, and information is disseminated via many channels you may not have considered before.
Whether it’s via consumer-facing company websites, blogs, white papers or infographics, there are multiple channels for freelance writers looking for assignments. Often, these alternative outlets pay far better than traditional media.
As media outlets shift from print to digital, writers must adjust their strategies in order to survive and thrive. Here are just a few ways, beyond newspapers and magazines, to find writing assignments:
Consumer-Facing Company Websites. Sites like P&G Everyday (from Procter & Gamble), Backing America’s Backbone (U.S. Cellular) and HSBC News and Insight (HSBC Holdings) tap into the millions of consumers that use those brands. For freelancers, corporate sites are a great avenue for assignments. These sites need content, and who better to write it than professional writers who understand how to write content for a specific audience? Here are some tips for breaking into this market: How Writers Can Break Into the Corporate Market
Association Publications. Every profession, field and interest group has an association, and all of them need good, well-written copy for magazines, websites or newsletters. Found out how to find them and how you can break in: Writing for Association Publications
Marketing/Sales Collateral. As a writer, you’ve seen enough press releases and marketing material to know what works and what doesn’t from a journalist’s point of view. Copywriting and sales material can also benefit from your experience on the media side. Read these tips from experts in the industry before pitching: Writing for Corporate Markets
White Papers. White papers are a form of corporate writing that falls somewhere between journalistic articles and marketing materials. White papers are an attractive market for writers because they pay well. Because they are used by a variety of organizations -- companies, nonprofits, government agencies, think tanks -- there are also a wide range of prospects. Here are some tips from the pros: Writing White Papers
Speechwriting. In corporate work, speechwriting can be the most lucrative. One speechwriter I spoke with gets anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 per speech. With those rates, this is definitely a market you want to tap into. Here are some great tips from top speechwriters: 16 Tips From Top Speechwriters
Book Ghostwriting. The demand for ghostwriting is on the rise, and the average nonfiction book nets rates in the $20,000-$50,000 range. Find out what you’ll need to know to succeed as a ghostwriter: Book Ghostwriting 101: What Authors Need to Know to Succeed
Of course, as you’re writing content for these assignments, we’d be happy to help you find the sources you need. Our service is always free for writers. Once you have your assignment, just fill out the ProfNet Query form to find experts, and we’ll take care of the rest. It’s that simple!
Wednesday, December 4, 2013, 12:05 PM
“Some of the best business journalism is being committed on the Web, and much of it is being done on sites not connected to newspapers.”
So writes John Talton, a 30-year veteran financial journalist and an economics columnist for the Seattle Times.
In his recent post on BusinessJournalism.org, the Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism’s online resource for writers, Talton shares a list of websites that are doing business journalism the right way, including Wonkblog, Mathbabe, Economist’s View, and Econbrowser.
These sites, writes Talton, “should be a lesson in how to avoid making local business sections suck … and it should be a wake-up call to those in traditional media that want to stay relevant.”
If you’re a writer specializing in business and economic topics, check out Talton’s post for some sites that are “kicking ass online”:
The New Competition: Read ‘em or Weep
Wednesday, October 23, 2013, 9:42 AM
If you’ve been writing for any length of time, you’ve likely experienced being scooped on a story -- and chances are, it probably won’t be the last time. So, what do can you do?
In a recent post on the Reynolds Center for Business Journalism website, Jon Talton, a 30-year veteran financial journalist and economics columnist for the Seattle Times, shares his three-step approach to triaging and responding to scoops: When You Get Scooped
Among the tips Talton suggests: evaluate your time and beat management, work phone and email more aggressively, and add sources (we can help with that last one!).
Have you been scooped on a story? How did you handle it, and what changes, if any, did you make to your editorial process?
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