Would you like to work from home and make money online? You can, by learning how to submit articles to magazines and websites. However, you may have lots of questions. I know I did when I was getting established — and so do students in my online course, Introduction to Internet Writing Markets.
So, let’s find answers to some of the questions I’m asked most frequently.
How do I find a website or magazine to submit to?
There are a number of ways to find websites or magazines to submit articles to. The easiest, of course, is to borrow a markets guide from your library or purchase one. Writer’s Market is one of the most popular. This is a general guide, but there are also specific guides for genres like the religious market or children’s market.
Not all markets are listed in these types of guides, though. But, you can use Google to help you find markets to submit articles to if you know the right technique. Just search for the following phrases.
- Submission guidelines + paying (or leave this out if you’ll try nonpaying markets) markets + pets (insert the topic you want to write about here)
- Editorial guidelines + paying (or leave this out if you’ll try nonpaying markets) markets + pets (insert the topic you want to write about here)
- Contributor’s guidelines + paying (or leave this out if you’ll try nonpaying markets) markets + pets (insert the topic you want to write about here)
When you find an online publication that seems interesting, make sure you spend a few hours exploring the website or magazine and reading articles. Does what you’d like to write fit? Has what you’d like to write already been covered? If so, make sure to come up with a new spin before submitting to the editor.
How do I know what to send an editor?
The submission guidelines will outline what editors want. They may prefer queries (written descriptions of the article you want to write) or whole articles on speculation (you send a finished article they can read). Always make sure to send exactly what the editor wants, so if she wants queries don’t send a whole article.
Good submission guidelines will tell you many things from topics of interest, to required word counts, to style elements such as first or third person. They should also outline the rights they’re purchasing and what they’re paying (or if they’re non-paying, or paying in kind by giving you something such a resource box with a link back to your own blog).
Always refer to the submission guidelines, and what you’ve observed in your hours of reading through the website or publication, as you prepare your submission. Editors hit the delete button on your email quickly if you haven’t followed the rules.
In general, your pitch will include your idea and a short, half-page CV or paragraph that outlines your qualifications, plus links to a few online publishing credits they can read for your writing style, if you have any.
What’s a CV
A CV is a Curriculum Vitae, which is similar to a resume that you’d use to apply for a job. While you’ll find a variety of different opinions on what makes the two different, this is how I separate them.
- A CV is doesn’t have specific headings you must use such as Education and Work Experience. Rather, you can choose relevant headings for your CV, such as Volunteer Experiences and Hobbies.
- A CV is tailored to a specific market.
- CVs are used in different situations, such as writing and academia, as opposed to resumes, which are used in job applications.
- CVs have no set length, although in preparing a CV as a writer, keep it shorter rather than longer, including only the specific qualifications and experiences that will interest the market you’re targeting.
Think of a CV as a way to gather all of your life experiences into a single document that shows how you’ve developed a skill set in a specific subject area. That could be organizing closets or training dogs or marketing with social media. Sometimes, you’ll include workplace experience and formal education, but the strength of a CV is that it provides a way for you to show expertise developed outside the usual channels.
Creating a CV is also an excellent personal exercise to help you review your life experience while you’re thinking about the kinds of things you want to write. To create one, try some brainstorming exercises. You can even try one of these free or low-cost mind mapping tools.
Think about something you do well that you might want to write about. If you’re using paper, write the topic in the middle of a sheet of paper. Then, draw lines out from the center and write down all the different things you did to become an expert.
Did you take formal training that provides a diploma? Did you take a non-formal, face-to-face or online course? Have you got on-the-job training? Did you learn from an expert you know? How many years have you been doing it? Has your skill been recognized (such as winning a prize for your cinnamon buns at the local summer fair or being invited into your child’s school to show her classmates how to do something)?
Sometimes you’ll be able to gather a number of skills under a specific topic, such as crafter or household organizer or time management expert. You may be amazed at how many things you’ve got expertise in that would never fit on a resume, but really fill out your CV.
Ideally, your first CV will be the result of a number of brainstorming sessions with many headings. Then, when you find a market you want to submit to, you’ll create a short (half page or less) CV that lists your qualifications, or even just a paragraph that outlines them.
Can I pitch an idea that I have no expertise or hands on experience in, but have researched?
You can pitch any idea you want to an editor. Remember, though, that editors get tons more pitches than they’ll ever be able to publish. So, they evaluate pitches on a variety of different criteria:
- Topic and slant fit with their publication needs.
- Timeliness of the topic — is there something that makes this idea perfect to publish now?
- Why is the writer pitching the topic the best person to write the article?
Editors want to be sure they’ve found writers who have expertise and experience in the topic. After all, why would they hire me to write an article about dealing with bullying at school, when I’m just reading a number of books and articles that others have written for tips, when they could get an article from someone who might work in a school and deal with bullying on a daily basis.
Can I send a contract along with my submission so an editor will know what I want?
Contracts are prepared by the person contracting the service — in other words, the publication is the contractor and is the one who will prepare and offer you a contract or agreement. However, many websites and online publications simply publish their terms with their submission guidelines. If they do, you’ll find a statement saying something like if you submit to them, you acknowledge you’re accepting their terms.
You can try to negotiate with websites or other publications to change the terms of a publishing agreement, but in general they’re non-negotiable. Book publishers may negotiate as they have fewer agreements to manage, but websites and magazines may have thousands of articles so it would be a nightmare to try to sort out what changes were made for each contributor.
Would you submit your CV automatically to prove your expertise?
Submit what’s required in a publisher’s submission guidelines, as each publisher has their own requirements. Always be prepared with your long CV, which can be shortened to either paragraph or half page format, plus a list of URLs of publications if you have any.
See the following examples of submission guidelines and forms:
1) Uses a form and only requires previously published work:
2) Requires exclusive submissions and a CV:
3) Uses a secure online submissions tool with form boxes:
Does my blog count for publishing credits?
When you want to submit articles to websites and online magazines, you’re wise to include the URLs for articles published by other publications rather than self-published. Editors look for more than the quality of writing when accepting a query.
Editors want to know that you understand the editorial process and can revise your work to fit their needs. Once your article is accepted, you may be asked to make style changes or content changes. Some writers may respond negatively to editorial requests as they may feel the changes are criticisms of their work. Or, some writers might not have the required editorial skills to carry out the edits. But working with editorial requests is important, since they’re designed to help you create the specific type of content the publication needs.
In my experience, 99% of editors can really help you grow as a writer. If you run into the tiny 1% who don’t, your only option is to withdraw your submission if you feel strongly about not making the requested changes.
But back to the question about using your blog for publishing credits. If your blog is your only published work, then select a few articles that best match the style of the article you’re proposing and include them. They’ll give an editor a chance to review your work.
Can I keep my address private when I submit to editors?
Yes, you can keep your address private when you submit articles and queries to websites and online publications. If you have an article accepted though, the editor needs to know what country you’re from for taxation purposes (writing is usually a form of self-employed income).
Why? Because there are laws in some countries that may apply to you. For example, in the US, publications must apply a 30% withholding tax unless the country where you pay taxes has a taxation agreement and you provide the publisher with the appropriate forms. If you pay taxes in the US, you’ll still have to provide a different appropriate form.
The initial contact information you provide to an editor can be an email address. You may want to create a domain address (if you have your own domain for a blog or website) or a separate gmail address for your business. That will gather all of your writing-related correspondence into a single place to keep track of. It will also help keep your personal and business identities separate.
Can I send out articles that I’ve already put up on my blog?
Few publications accept submissions that are already available on the Internet. The reason is that search engines don’t like duplicate content — nor do surfers. If you’ve ever looked for something and found the same article over and over in the 50 first pages returned in your search, you’ll understand why!
Most publications will specifically state that you must submit original content in their submission guidelines. If that notification is missing, make sure you indicate in your submission that the article is already on your blog, or if you’ve recently removed it or terminated your blog, that the article has already been published once on the Internet.
When will I get paid for my article if an editor accepts it?
There are two ways to be paid for articles: payment on publication (POP) and payment on acceptance (POA). Generally, the first one is standard, although the submission guidelines should state the publisher’s policy.
When you accept an assignment you should also ask about the publication date, otherwise, if the publisher doesn’t put it on their website or online magazine, it stays in limbo. You can’t send it out again, because it has already been contracted. If you’re given a publication date, then the publisher should either publish by that date or return your article to you.
You may run into publishers that ask you to invoice them when you submit the article. Any simple invoice listing the item, the rights you’ve sold, and the fee you’re getting is sufficient. Make sure to include your name (and if they’re sending you a check, your address) and theirs, on the invoice too.
How can I learn more about writing markets on the Internet?
The more you read on the Internet, the more websites and online publications you’ll find where you can submit articles. Feeds are an easy way to keep up with markets you’d like to break into on the Web. My favorite is Feedly.
Or, you can take my online course, Introduction to Internet Writing Markets, offered by community colleges around the world and from the website.
I look forward to seeing you in class! In the meantime, if you have questions or comments, please leave them in the comments section and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.