Write what you know? Sure. But write where you know too.
|Okay, maybe we can't all write a best seller. But we can be paid for what we do write!
Yesterday, I poked around in some of the groups and forums where I've been a rather inactive member. I read some posts from my school mates at Classmates.com. What discoveries I made!
I discovered that one high school classmate recently sold a picture, a photograph, of her dog. She captured him jumping for a Frisbee, and when she really looked at that picture, she knew it was good. She enlarged the photo, then sent it off to a company that makes calendars. This woman was not a photographer, but she knew a good picture when she saw it. She also knew this particular calendar company, because she had purchased calendars from them for five years. She knew the kinds of pictures they used, because she looked at them on her wall everyday. The company paid her $50 and she was pleased.
In another forum, a woman bragged about having had two items published in Reader's Digest. She doesn't claim to be a writer. She doesn't want to be a writer. But she had two cute stories that she knew fit the pattern of those in Reader's Digest. Why? Because she had been a subscriber for ten years, and before that her parents had subscribed. She received $50 and $100 for her stories.
Not long ago, I was feeling a bit useless, so I finished something I had been working on and sent it to a magazine that had published something of mine before. The first time my story was published in this magazine, it was a non-paying market. Frankly, I just wanted something of mine in a beautiful magazine for my portfolio. When I submitted again, I didn't know that they had become a paying market. (My mistake. I should have kept up with that. They now pay $75 for a story.)
The editor sent back an email the same day. Her response? "THANKS! I wondered where you were! This falls under the theme of our November issue, and payment will be after publication. Do you still want three copies so you can send one to your mother? I really need to read more of your work to see if anything else fits."
The point is that it is much easier - even for those who are not photographers or writers - to be published in markets that they know. You always hear, "Write what you know." It's just as important to write where you know. That's the reason that writer's guidelines often include the message that the writer needs to read the magazine to discover their voice, and why they often include the price for one magazine in those writer's guidelines. Knowing the publication is important.
I think this is why my own experience with editors and rejections has been different. Here, and at other writer's sites, folks are always saying that writers must be tough to handle rejections. It's why some defend giving rather ugly or mean reviews of the works of others here.
I have never had a mean or ugly rejection. Rather, I've had editors almost apologize for not being able to use my work and even suggest other markets that might be interested. I think that's because if I have been a subscriber of a magazine for two or five or ten years, I make sure they know that. They don't want to lose me as a subscriber.
Don't get me wrong. If you only subscribe to the biggest and best women's magazine, it won't be easy to get a featured article there, no matter how long you've been reading - or even writing. What you can do, though, is get fillers published.
At one online writer's group there was a woman we called the "Filler Queen." In a bad month, she made $75 in filler income. In a good month, her earnings might be $500 or more. No, her works were not among the featured writings. And sometimes, those fillers didn't even mention that they were "submitted by XXXX." But it is highly possible that she will get that break into a feature article before the rest of us because her name has become familiar to the publication because of the fillers she has provided.
For some, the ultimate goal of writing is to publish that novel that will soar to the best seller's lists. But maybe, just maybe, we need to crawl before we walk. There's nothing wrong with writing short pieces and being paid for them.
And don't forget that being familiar with magazines doesn't mean you have to subscribe to them all. Most libraries have a magazine section where you can view hundreds of magazines. What a great way to spend an afternoon, especially a rainy one.
If you are a regular reader of my blog, this will sound familiar. Okay, I cheated and made a blog entry into an article. I realized that everyone doesn't read my blog (although I don't know why!) and thought this message was important enough to be shared with the whole community.