Mastering Writing Terms for Publishing Success (Part 2)

Last time, we talked about identifying your niche and the right site for you to write for. The process involves checking out the guest-posting guidelines, and understanding what the site needs, and what their readers are looking for.

This second part on our how to get published series will touch on what you can do before you pitch an idea to the site you want to write for. Yes, expect to have to do a lot of work, but understand that it’s necessary if you don’t want to end up pitching titles that won’t be accepted anyway. The earlier you recognize how your writing fits (or not) with a publication, the better.

Let’s take a look at how you can make a stand out pitch and some of the details to look into when dealing with the site you are hoping to pen articles for.

Craft a Standout Pitch

Want to pitch a title? Here are a few tips:

1. Give (Sincere) Compliments In Your Intro

Compliments show the editor that you genuinely gave a thought about their publication, not just their ability to give you a byline. If you’ve been following them for a while, this should be easy. For example, you can say "I’m John Smith, a blogger with a passion for history. I read your article last month about the Jamestown mysteries, and I must say, I was impressed enough with it to visit the place for myself."

Remember: Be sincere. Insincerity will backfire on you.

2. Be Original With Your Idea

Your pitch may be good, but if there’s already a similar article previously published on the website, the editor may turn it down, unless you can put a new spin on the topic that will still be interesting for the site’s readers. Speaking of which…

3. Emphasize How Your Idea Will Benefit Site Readers

This strategy is especially helpful if you’re not the most experienced or bemedalled writer in the editor’s queue. After outlining your pitch, say something along the lines of "I think this will benefit your readers, because…"

Or you can explain, in a sentence or two, how you’re going to gather information for the article (e.g. interviews, surveys, etc.) if your research will involve more than just the regular search by Google and read everything method. You want to show the editor that you’re serious about your idea, and of turning it into a full-blown article.

4. Include A Call To Action

As Rajiv pointed out, editors are a busy lot. You don’t want to force an editor to think too much about what to do with your pitch email. Most of the time it is a hit-and-miss; you just need to know whether you are getting a red light or a green one.

Always end your pitch with something like "Let me know if this is a good fit for your publication" or "What do you think of this idea?". If your title gets rejected, try to refrain from asking them what title will definitely be accepted for publication; that comes off as a little desperate and pushy. Instead, tell them you will write them again with another pitch soon.

Iron Out The T&C And Payment Options

Suppose that the editor said "Yes" to your pitch, in which case you’re probably doing the Happy Dance after the fact (if his/her answer is "No", don’t fret about it. There are better uses for your rejected pitch.) At this point, it’s your chance to prove that you’re a "professional writer". That means you’re reliable, you know what you’re doing, and you’re easy to work with.

How Much To Charge

This is also the point where you discuss payment with your editor. Don’t make the mistake of asking for payment only after your post is accepted, or after it is published (things may get real complicated if payment is discussed at so late a stage).

Sometimes, a website’s submission guidelines will specify how much they pay for an article, or for different types of articles. Sometimes, they won’t. In the case of the latter, you’ll be expected to negotiate a fair rate for an article on your own. What’s a "fair" rate, you ask? There’s no straight answer to that question, really.

You can refer to the going rate for similar publications. You can also estimate the time and effort you need to put into writing your article, take stock of your skill set, and come up with a ballpark figure based on that. While you’re at it, make sure you incorporate any extra charges for revisions, just in case.

Up For Negotiations

Now for the fun part: the negotiation process itself. Although there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for negotiating, since the most appropriate strategy will vary on a case-to-case basis, bear in mind that the final terms should always be fair for everyone involved. When haggling your price, consider the needs of the publication you’re writing for, as well as your own.

Don’t forget to find out when and how you’re going to be paid as well. Some websites pay on acceptance; others pay on publication. "Acceptance" means you’ll receive payment the moment your editor green-lights your piece; "publication", on the other hand, means you’ll have to wait for your piece to show up on the website before you get paid. The latter usually takes weeks and/or months to happen, so be sure to prepare yourself for that.

Payment Methods And Rights

Your target website might prefer popular payment services like PayPal, or the alternatives listed here. To know more about invoicing your work, you can check out this article on how to do it professionally.

Aside from rates, you should also negotiate publication rights. Why? Because these rights basically determine to what extent a publication can use, re-use, and distribute your piece via print and electronic media. Since the concept of rights can be quite tricky, it’s best to consult a lawyer and/or refer to this article first before you finalize anything concerning rights with your editor.

Don’t forget to include information like your single point of contact, kill fees, allowance for revisions/rewrites, and deadlines, as detailed in this piece about freelance clauses. In case you have any reservations about the contract, or even the assignment itself, this stage is a good time to bring them up with your editor. You don’t want to end up with problems that could’ve been avoided if you thought things through first.

Your Work’s Not Done (Yet)

So now you’ve gotten everything straightened out and your post is written, polished, published and paid for, you might think you can rest. Well, sorry to burst your bubble but you still have to pull your weight marketing your article, the details of which will be covered in the third (and final) part of this series.

Stay tuned!