Tuesday, March 15, 2011
But I have no experience. Seriously? You've lived in a bubble since you turned 18? I doubt it. You have experience. You have strengths. You just don't see them.
New writers wring their hands when it comes time to write a query letter. They get down to that third paragraph, the one where you list your experience, and they freeze. Some don't even submit for fear of bringing nothing to the table.
I once received a $450 article gig and another $750 gig because I had an agriculture degree. I never had to prove I could write. Frankly, I pitched the first piece solely on the basis that I understood plants and agronomy. Another magazine accepted my pitch because I had experienced a unique situation when I put in an irrigation system.
I landed an anthology opportunity based upon the fact I'd been divorced. Obtained another because I had an experience with a snake. Yet another simply for being a mother.
Teen and college magazines purchased eight articles - all about how to get into college, behave in college, find assistance once in college. These assignments came my way because I happened to have kids in college and had means to interviewing students.
How do you get around the fact you aren't widely published and don't have clips?
Write a query letter that brings tears to someone's eyes. Well, maybe not that dramatic, but if your query sings, you've proven you can write. Editors want good writing, and most don't care about your experience - not if you can write quality material.
Focus on the topic, not your ability to write it. Show in that remarkable query that you are an expert or have serious knowledge of a subject, a twist, an experience, a location. Editors want what's marketable first and foremost.
Present a unique spin on a common topic. This is simple charisma and charm, people. Your query already reads like a bestseller, right? Snare an editor with a sparkling idea, and he won't care if you've never written for a magazine before.
Start small. That doesn't mean content mills. That means pitch magazines that pay ten cents/word instead of fifty or seventy-five. Again, assuming you have average writing skills, you'll land a clip in no time.
Go trade. Trade magazines are the most overlooked goldmine in the freelance industry. They are the most open-minded when it comes to no experience. Funny, huh? You might think they are the opposite - that since they represent a very niche topic, they want experts. With trades you can offer: general business advice, profile interviews, or journalistic coverage of an event that falls in line with the publication. Journalists are notorious for being able to write about everything and anything.
If you pitch a great story, a superb topic, a phenomenal twist of a subject, you do not need the experience. You just need the ability to tell the story...starting with your query.