I was recently asked how I was able to write for Woman's Day magazine and thought many would-be writers might have the same question.
While I've always been a writer, once I was in the midst of diaper changes and a very part-time clinical practice, I didn't think my dreams of being published could be fulfilled. While I am far from being a full-time freelance writer, I have enjoyed seeing my work in print and have even enjoyed getting paid to do something I love.
I'm not going to give you the standard advice about perusing The Writer's Market guide or the The Christian Writer's Market guide and then sending off good query letters. I'm not going to do that because that isn't how I was published. That certainly isn't to say that it's a pointless approach; it isn't. It just so happens that I spent hours fantasizing about which periodicals and publishing houses I would send my work to, but never did. I understand from other writers that pursuing publication in this way can be both rewarding (a presenter at a writer's conference I attended was making over $100,00 a year as a freelancer) and frustrating (with long wait times and lots of rejection).
I'm going to tell you the atypical way I was able to get published because I believe it can work for you, too.
Let People Know You Want to Write. In my first job as a psychologist, I made sure to let our clinic supervisor know that if there were writing or speaking opportunities, I wanted them. Tell your pastor, workplace, organization, or municipality that you'd be glad to write for their newsletters, blogs, and more. I'm not talking about knocking yourself out to put "writer" on LinkedIn or marketing yourself aggressively. Simply mention it!
Write What You Know. We often try to write what we think will sell, rather than what we know. To get published, start by writing the information others ask you for. Because I was a psychologist, I was often asked for information on a host of relationship and mental health issues. My church was the first to ask me to write for them. Without any action on my part, a parachurch organization asked me to write an article for its family newsletter. Are people asking you how you make delicious homemade bread, stay so fit, or organize big events? Write about it.
Give it Away. I wasn't paid anything for my work for quite some time. Honestly, seeing my published work was payment enough! Share your writing with others for free and let it be reprinted without charge. Early on, you want as many people to have your name in front of them as possible. The combination of these three steps led to my being hired to write booklets for another parachurch ministry. I was well paid and rewarded by seeing my work in our pastor friend's office in another state.
Write in Love. The reason I was able to write for Woman's Day, a magazine with a circulation of 6 million at the time, was because I responded to a request for nominations of women who make a difference in their community. My nominee was selected as a winner and I was invited to New York to meet the editors of the magazine as well as the First Lady who would be giving the award. My friend, Deb, was able to write for Woman's Day after responding to their online request for bloggers on The Happiness Project--an idea she loved. She also responded to a request for bloggers by her favorite store and is now a regular HomeGoods contributor. Respond to and write about people and organizations you love and you may end up published, too!
Pray for Publication. If the Lord wants you to be published, He will make a way. When I learned I would be meeting with the editors of Woman's Day, I prayed about a topic idea. Immediately, I thought of FLYLady (the online organizing system I was using at the time), but she hadn't responded to an email I'd sent her. I prayed about it and that day, Marla Cilley emailed me back. I was able to pitch the idea to an editor and received a rewarding contract several weeks later.
I believe publication is possible for any aspiring writer no matter the competition, the changing nature of periodicals, or the writer's season of life. Do you have other suggestions for aspiring freelancers?