How to Find Your Writing Niche | LET’S GET PUBLISHED

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It’s time to get serious, aspirers. If you want to be a writer, there are some requirements.

You need to want it, and we mean really want it. Editors and readers alike can tell when your heart’s not in it.

You need to know why you want it.

You need to know where you fit in the publishing world and carve your name into it, because a lot of people—a lot of people—want what you want, for the same reasons you want it.

You need to stand out.

How do you stand out? By finding a niche and, basically, dominating it.

How do you do that? This week we’ll show you how to find the place to chisel your name onto the wall. Next week we’ll show you what to do when you’ve found that wall but there’s no room left for you on it (yet).

 1. Write about a lot of different things

Wait. That seems a little backwards. Aren’t we supposed to be finding our niche? Exactly right. How do you expect to find your area of writing expertise if you haven’t tried writing on different topics, for different publications and audiences?

In the beginning, write what you can write. Write what you enjoy writing about, but don’t hold yourself back from branching out to different topics. For one thing, it’s helpful to get your name out there, but everyone’s trying to do that at the exact same time. What you really enjoy writing about might not even end up being your exact niche—hold on, let’s dive a little deeper into that one.

 2. Figure out your “mission”

You don’t have to have a blog or a business to have a mission. Personal mission statements aren’t just for college applications: they’re part of establishing your brand, which you should start doing if you haven’t already, if you want readers to be able to figure out who you are if and when they do find you.

Creating your own mission statement will help you maintain a common thread throughout all the work you do, so that even when you’re writing on many different topics, you can still communicate your overall message to many different readers. It’s easier to define which niche aligns best with your goals when you know the specific goals you’re looking to achieve.

 3. Explore blogs, websites and forums that set you off (in a good way)

Eventually, as an “expert” you’ll spend less time writing random posts and articles and more time in your niche. Before you get there, though, you have to get involved. You can’t be an expert if you’re invisible, and if you’re not even sure how to begin building your brand and anchoring yourself in a specific writing niche, you might want to surround yourself with people and ideas who can help build you up.

Get out there. Read, comment, participate in conversations and writing challenges. Know the mantras of experts in the niche you enjoy spending time in and connect with them if you can. If you’re tempted to post multi-paragraph replies to someone else’s comment in a forum—because you want to elaborate on a point, not to be a troll—that might be your place to settle in and hang for awhile.

It’s not easy, being a writer. We know.

But you gotta start somewhere.

Find where somewhere is for you. Where do you fit?

And how will that change the way you write?

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Why Pitching “Bad” Ideas Is a Good Idea | LET’S GET PUBLISHED

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Before you scroll down to the comments section to scold us for our latest bite of advice, take a deep breath. Never judge a blog post by its title, right?

So far in our LET’S GET PUBLISHED series, we’ve covered how to choose the right publication to submit your pitches to and how (and why) to keep track of the pitches you do submit. Never once have we advised you to submit a story idea, to anyone, before giving it some serious thought first.

So why, then, are we screaming at you to pitch “bad” ideas? What’s that about, huh?

The thing is, nothing you submit is ever going to be perfect the first time around. Either it’s just not refined enough to make it past the first publication barrier or it doesn’t quite fit the mold of what that particular editor is looking for.

But sometimes, you have a pitch you’ve been brainstorming and fixing up for a little while. You know it’s not perfect. Keeping it to yourself just because you don’t think it’s ready, though, is only going to hurt you. Here’s why.

You are your absolute worst critic 

Have you ever noticed that it’s the ideas you think need the most work that other people grab onto the fastest? It’s always the idea you don’t think will make it to the next round that gets picked up first. There’s a reason for this: you spend a lot of time with your ideas, and after awhile, none of them are ever going to seem appealing enough to you to sell.

When we spend enough time mulling over our story ideas, we become desensitized to them. Have you ever just casually said to someone, “Oh, I’m writing a book/article/story” and wondered why they seem so intrigued? Is it really that big of a deal? It is! You’re just so used to it, it doesn’t look that way to you anymore. We face the same dilemma when pitching ideas. So when you don’t think something is quite good enough—pitch it anyway. Just do it.

You might get more helpful feedback than you expect 

It’s not always easy to predict how editors are going to react to your idea submissions. Some, okay, most, will pick the ones they like and spend their time pursuing those: they’ll just ignore the ones they aren’t planning on using, because they get hundreds, and they’re not robots. They can only do so much.

Some editors, though, particularly with small publications and newer blogs, will respond to your pitches even if they’re not quite ready to move forward in the publication process. You might actually get some decent feedback on how to revise your pitch to make it stand out more, broaden its subject matter or clarify its purpose. You never know, so it’s worth taking a chance regardless of whether you’re completely confident or not. Which, of course, leads nicely into our final reason to pitch, even when you think you have a “bad” idea. 

You never know until you pitch 

Honestly, if you never just “go for it,” you’re never going to get published, anywhere, no matter how much time you spend refining your skills. Pitching to publications is an experience in itself, so even if it feels like no one is ever interested in the ideas you’re throwing out there, it’s so much better than never pitching at all.

As we mentioned above, sometimes what you think will never make it will end up doing exactly that. The more time you spend worrying about whether so-and-so will “like it,” the less time you’re spending getting it out there for people to see, working on other projects and getting better and better at pitching, writing and selling as you go.

Have a bad idea? Pitch it. At least now you know what we mean by “bad.”

You can do it. The moment just before you hit send is the worst. Okay, waiting to hear back is pretty awful, too. But that gets easier to handle, too. We promise.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

How to Keep Track of Your Ideas, and Why You Should | LET’S GET PUBLISHED

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Like the act of writing itself, getting published is a process. Often a long, unpredictable process that involves more waiting than anything else. You have a lot of ideas, and you just want them to be heard, dangit! How do you know you’re doing it right if no one’s emailing you back? 

Just because you’re stuck waiting doesn’t mean you can’t continue to crank out, and submit, more ideas elsewhere. How—and why? We’ll show you.

Keep a running list of pitches 

There are several reasons you shouldn’t ever just “wing it” when pitching a story idea, whether it’s to a magazine, blog or part of a proposal of sorts for your agent. Some online submission forms don’t automatically send you a copy of what you’ve just submitted, and if someone comes back to you and says they’d like you to develop and send in your story … and you don’t remember your exact pitch … that might be a problem.

Keeping a list of ideas you’ve pitched, where you’ve pitched them and whether they’ve been accepted, rejected or ignored can help you figure out your niche (which topics you tend to gravitate toward writing about), which kinds of pitches fit certain publications (and which don’t) and can even help you get used to the time gap between when you pitch and if/when you generally get a response. Once you pitch one idea to a publication, you can take advantage of that gap and pitch different ideas somewhere else while you’re waiting.

Teach yourself to track your own progress

The more you pitch, the better you get at it. We won’t say it gets easier, because that would be a lie. Over time, you do start to get a better sense of what certain audiences want to read, what they already know, what they want to know and how to construct pitches that will grab editors’ attention.

The same way journaling can give you the chance to look back at your younger, less experienced self, keeping track of your story ideas over time, regardless of whether they’ve been accepted or not, allows you to look back at the kinds of pitches you were submitting last month, last year, even a few years ago, if you’re really dedicated (go you!). 

Never pitch the exact same story twice

What if an idea for one publication or agent gets rejected or ignored, but you want to try and pitch it somewhere else? It’s true that your pitch may have been overlooked because it’s not quite the right fit for that particular publication’s audience or that agent’s requested genres. But the pitch itself might also need some revising. Maybe it’s not specific enough. Maybe it’s almost there—but not quite ready yet.

It’s okay to try an idea out in more than one place, if the first or second don’t work out. But don’t pitch the exact same idea every time. Play around with your angle. Keep your audience in mind. Keep working at it, either until it finds its fit or until you decide it’s time to move on to something different.

If you want to get published, it’s important to remember there’s only so much you can control throughout the process. But if you want it—and we mean really want it—you’ll find a way to make it work. You’ll figure out how to improve your pitching strategies and find not just where your stories fit, but where you fit as a writer, too.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

How to Find the Publication that Fits Your Pitch | LET’S GET PUBLISHED

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We all have specific websites, magazines, journals and other publications we read on a regular basis. It’s tempting, when we start thinking about getting more of our work out there, to pick one of our favorite content hubs, seek out their pitching guidelines and formulate a pitch, article or story that fits exactly within that publication’s scope.

As a writer, the best creative strategies are the ones that leave our minds open to seemingly infinite possibilities. Seeking out a specific publication before you have an idea in mind automatically puts you in a box, a cage to hold back your creativity, which is exactly what you don’t want to do when you’re first starting out.

Here are our tips for finding a home for your ideas after you’ve already constructed them, the first installment of our latest series, designed to help your ideas get the attention they deserve. 

Who is most likely to pick up your pitch/article/story? 

We’ll discuss audience identification a little bit later, but for now, pay close attention to who you think you’re writing to. This will differ depending on whether you’re working on a fiction or nonfiction project.

Picture who you imagine clicking on your article or picking up your story if it were to get published someday. Teenagers? College students? Older adults? Readers of a specific literary genre? Knowing who you’re targeting will help you narrow down options when you’re looking for places to submit your pitch.

Stay away from well-known publications … for now

Let’s be honest: The Huffington Post probably isn’t going to respond to your first, second, third, maybe even your eighth pitch. The bigger the publication, the less likely you are to get noticed. It’s not even that your pitches/articles/stories aren’t worth reading … hundreds of others’ submissions are, too.

When you’re searching for places to pitch to, start small. Just because you get published in a journal or magazine or on a website no one’s ever heard of doesn’t mean it doesn’t count! You’re published! You might even be able to continue contributing to that small publication, get more experience, build your portfolio and eventually be able to work your way up to more well-known pubs. 

Work with one pitch at a time 

Whether or not you’ll submit only the pitch or the entire article at the beginning depends on the publication. Some magazines and other online media outlets have you submit a short pitch for approval; some will ask for a short pitch along with the article/story already written.

It’s a good idea to stick with one pitch at a time, and let it make the rounds. As we’ve mentioned before, and as we’ll discuss later on throughout the month, your pitch might have a perfect home. If you’re lucky, it might be able to fit in more than one (so you’ll have to choose). But if it doesn’t—that’s okay. You can either choose to tweak it, wait awhile and send it out again, or put it to the side to use for a different idea in the future.

The most important thing to remember when you start pitching is that patience will pay off. Sometimes publications take weeks to accept pitches, and it takes a little while to get into the rhythm of knowing when it’s time to move on to a different outlet.

The more you pitch, the easier it will get, and the more likely you are to, eventually, see your words on the web, in print or both.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

The Three Ps of Online Writing Success

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Multiple types of writers walk the figurative streets of our literary universe. Some write, delete and are completely satisfied. Others like to tell stories but wouldn’t mind if no one else ever stayed around to listen. Some write page after page, hoping someday someone will somehow recognize their hard work and creativity.

Which type of writer am I? Definitely not the first (I never delete anything, which is probably why my computer is so slow). I’m somewhere in-between the second and the third. I love storytelling, and my life would surely go on if no one ever heard anything I had to say. But that doesn’t mean I would shoo away anyone who wanted to hear my written voice.

So if you’re the kind of writer who wants someone to hear you – aka, read something you’ve written – how do you make yourself heard?

The easiest way to get your work “out there” these days is to post it online, hoping (desperately) someone will stumble upon it, read it, and stay quiet if they don’t like it. Or, even better, tell you they like it if they do. You don’t have to stay trapped in the bloggers’ black hole like I did for three years before branching out into a different online medium. Not that there’s anything wrong with blogging! I would have quit a long time ago if there was. (More on my beneficial blogging rant coming soon).

Here’s the real deal, though: journalism and blogging are not only two different things, but journalists and bloggers are also at a silent online stalemate. Journalists are responsible for relaying accurate information with research and credible sources to back up everything they say. Bloggers have specific subject areas they love writing about and want more than anything to be considered experts in that subject even if they’re not. Both sides want their hard work to stand out, but the line between writing with credibility and writing from experience blurs a little more every day. It’s confusing. Sometimes it’s even harmful.

I’m sure this rant will result in another post on this topic soon. So, I guess, just keep checking back. Maybe.

If you’re looking into another medium to expand your writing experience and credibility, whether you want to be a “journalist” or not, there are three Ps I like to recite to drive my own writing career forward – and if you’re not that into alliteration, I’m sorry. English major problems.

Pitch your ideas. Produce your best work. Promote your product.

1. Pitch

If you’ve found a publication you feel you’re interested in writing for, even as a guest writer or just one or two pieces, don’t write an article and email it straightaway. First write to the email address the web site gives to send “queries” and write a brief cover letter-esque introduction. Tell them who you are, what you do, who you’ve written for (if applicable) and what you would be interested in writing about to contribute to their publication. If they write back and say they would be interested in your contribution, that’s when you come up with three ideas and send them back, so that if they still want to feel ‘in control’ of what you’re contributing, they can pick the one they feel will fit their organization the best and give you the opportunity to write – produce – your piece.

2. Produce

Next comes the fun part – writing! The reason you’re still reading (I hope)! Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the general style and brand of the publication or organization you’re writing for, infuse your own voice into the piece you write for that specific site. Let your own style shine through, but don’t forget to tailor it specifically to whom you’re writing for. Be confident! If they’ve already approved your pitch, they’re not going to reject it. Once you send it to them, they might reply with a few suggestions or things they want you to fix before they publish it. Take their constructive criticism and use it for self-improvement – as I like to drill into my writers’ heads (if they’re reading this, past or present, they’re nodding), there is always room for improvement. The more you write, the more you improve. The more you improve, the more you’ll impress a potential editor. If they like your product, hey, they might even ask you to write more. And just like that, you’re on your way – but you’re not finished yet.

3. Promote

Once the magazine, web site or organization publishes your piece, don’t just let it sit there for faithful readers of that publication to find. PROMOTE! Facebook and Twitter aren’t just there to give you a place to rant about how insane you feel trying to balance writing a novel/play/poetry collection/etc. and living a normal life (whatever that is). Use social media to share your accomplishment with everyone you know. Some will ignore it, and some might actually dare to take a peek. Don’t feel like you’re spamming your friends/followers (but don’t do that, either, for goodness’ sake). The more you make good use of the social media you quite possibly spend too much time on (guilty), the more your work really does get “out there.” And if that’s what you want – promote wisely.

There’s nothing wrong with writing something and leaving it behind (whether you actually delete it or not, that’s up to you). There’s nothing wrong with telling stories only you and your closest friends enjoy, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with wanting the world to see your work. Keep these tips in mind if you’re ready to raise your literary voice. And if not, who knows, maybe someday you’ll change your mind. If you write enough words, it’s almost impossible to be “bad” at it.

Get out there, even if it’s just you and your laptop. Something is better than nothing, after all.

Love&hugs, Meg<3