Recently I reminded myself of how I began my career. I wanted to be a writer. I did not want to be an editor. In fact, I wanted to write fiction. (Imagine that.)
Some of you may have heard me tell the story of how my mother said, “Only really good writers can make a living as novelists.”
I took that to mean that I was not one of those writers. I guess I could have gone into therapy, but I’m a take-action type of person—solve the problem, you know? So, instead I enrolled in a journalism class at my high school. Maybe that was my junior year, maybe my sophomore year; I can’t really remember. The teacher was very charismatic. I loved writing articles and realized I could eek by a living as a journalist. I liked magazines a lot. I began to dream of working for a glossy magazine in New York City writing self-help articles.
And I began writing articles and getting my first bylines—the start of my platform. That’s the point of this blog post. I began my career as a published author by racking up bylines in print publications. These serve as part of any aspiring author’s platform. And you can do the same. Today there are numerous ways to get bylines in both print and virtual publications—and to get paid for doing so.
How do you get started? You simply begin querying publications with ideas. Most people tell you not to write for free, and I’d agree—if at all possible. I, admit, though, that I began writing for free, but I was young. My first bylines were earned writing a school news column for the local paper in my town. I progressed to the county paper and to another local paper. In college I wrote for the campus newspaper and magazine. These initial assignments all free gigs—yes, free.
After college I landed paid full-time writing and editing jobs. However, I gave up my dream of that New York City glossy magazine when I discovered your first job at Self or Glamour had to be as a receptionist. Not for this girl. No way, no how. Not after four years of learning to write and to edit in a top-notch journalism school. I wasn’t going to answer the phone.
I also gave up my dream of actually writing full time. Most entry-level jobs were editorial positions. (That explains how I became an editor.) However, working for smaller regional magazines afforded me the chance to write and to edit. So, I worked right outside of New York City in Westchester County. In addition to using the editing skills I’d learned in college, I wrote both small and large pieces depending on the position, garnering some pretty nice bylines during those first few years. I also freelanced pieces to other regional publications at the same time.
I went on to work in Manhattan but for a large corporation in its employee communications department. There I did more editing and writing as well as design work. And from there I went on to work for a consultant in Oklahoma, of all places, again doing more editing, writing and design—this time on a computer when desktop publishing was new. These jobs afforded me lots more bylines.
I then struck out on my own. I began to freelance full-time as a writer and an editor—books, articles, essays, ads, newsletters, anything at all. As I began to focus on books I wanted to write and publish, I again wrote articles for free and published them on line in journals and ezines where I could get exposure and links. I also sold articles to a variety of print publications, purposely building platform on the internet as well as off in specific subject areas.
So, back to the point. (Did you wonder when I’d get there?) You can create author status, build platform and even make some money with your writing skills by writing and publishing lots of articles. It’s great fun, not too hard (because you’re already good at it and might even be able to simply write “off the top of your head” without research if you are an expert on a subject) and super satisfying to see your name in print. (I have box loads of magazines—much to my husband’s dismay—that feature articles of mine within their pages.)
To do this, consider writing for:
- regional magazines
- local newspapers
- business publications
- niche publications
- corporate publications
- university publications
- organization publications
- ezines (online magazines)
- sites like Yahoo, AOL, Helium and lot’s more
Research the publication and the type of articles they publish. Look for the publication’s submission guidelines and read them carefully. Then write a one-page query letter and send it off. Rinse and repeat.
This list of 10 places includes just some of the places I thought of off the top of my head. If I spent some time researching, I could come up with at least 10 more places, if not more. (Check out the current 2012 Writer’s Market Deluxe Edition, or sites like http://www.freelancewritinggigs.com/, http://fwointl.com/, http://magagenie.com/. I bet you can think of more—or maybe you’ve written for others. Please add your suggestions below in a comment.
I realized recently that the reason I love blogging so much is because each post is like a mini article. I hope to get back to writing more articles for actually publication this year, though. I miss it.
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