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3 Resources: Query letter template, writing career paths, and an affordable course
|Kelly Eden||Aug 3, 2020||1|
Hi, Kelly Eden here.
Welcome to my newsletter for writers. Each week you’ll get encouragement, tips, or advice on pursuing your writing dreams. It’s free and always will be. But I don’t want any of you to miss out on an opportunity to level up even more!
In this introduction I’ve included 3 resources for you.
A pitching/query letter guide and easy-to-replicate template.
Details on the Personal Essay Course.
Career paths for writers.
Read what’s useful and feel free to flick me an email at email@example.com to introduce yourself and say hi, or if you want to chat about getting your writing assessed.
1. Pitching/Query Guide
I teamed up with one of my editors to create this guide for you because I know how intimidating pitching/query emails can be!
Sometimes editors ask for a specific pitch: one line, or a detailed synopsis of your story. The structure below is a simple format I use when submission guidelines are vague.
A clear subject line.
Addressed to the editor’s name.
One sentence introducing yourself. You are selling the article idea, not yourself, so keep this brief. It’s also a good idea to briefly include why you like their magazine/website—even naming a specific article(s) you read and enjoyed.
One sentence introducing the article. Suggested title and, if it’s already written, a word count is included as well.
A small paragraph explaining the article, what you’ll cover, what angle you’ll take, and who you have lined up to interview (if you are going to).
A couple of lines about why it fits their magazine/website and why it will be useful or interesting to their readers. Will they be able to relate, learn from it, be better informed, be entertained? Make sure you have actually seen their articles and know that the magazine/website is a good match for your story! Be humble here: “I’m hoping this will resonate…” rather than “this is going to be great!"
Whether it has been printed somewhere before and when. Some editors will take reprints but they need to know they are not getting first rights. (This site has a very thorough rundown of rights and what they mean.) You don’t have to include which rights you’re offering them in the pitch. Simply mention if it has been printed somewhere before.
Timeline — tell them when you can have it ready by, or attach the full article if it’s already written — for example, This article can be ready for you within 5 days from acceptance.
Attach the article if it’s written. Some editors want it copy and pasted into the email body, others want it attached. Read the guidelines carefully. Add links to a couple of samples of your writing (called clips) so they can see your voice and style.
Your name and contact details — email and/or phone number.
Here’s a good example from Megan Nolte on Influence&Co’s blog
Subject Line: Exclusive Contributed Article Submission: Reaching Out to Editors
I hope you’ve had a great start to your week! My name is Meagan Nolte, and I’m a publication strategist at Influence & Co. I have written an exclusive, non-promotional article for The Knowledge Bank.
In my article, I offer advice to thought leaders and marketers about how they can reach out to editors to get their content published online. I’ve included actionable tips about how to write the email so it’s more appealing for a busy editor to read, and I’ve provided examples of both good and bad emails.
I think this article would fit perfectly on your site. It helps further the conversation presented in another article published a few months ago and will help provide your readers with a more well-rounded knowledge of this topic.
My article and headshot are attached for you to review. Feel free to make any editorial changes that you see fit, or let me know if there is anything else you need.
Remember to sign off with your contact details too.
Final notes on pitching/querying
One of our writing family emailed me recently to let me know they used this template and out of 5 query letters had 3 accepted!
Keep it brief and precise — editors are busy people.
One of my own editors, Kineta Booker, says, “Don’t ask what payment is. The editor knows to talk about that.”
Trust that if they like your article, they will contact you to discuss rates. After you send it off, expect to wait a while. You may not hear a reply at all if they’re not interested.
After a week, or longer depending on what the publication says there response time is, you could send a one- to two-line polite email reminder. If you still don’t hear back, assume they’re not interested. Some publications state how long they will take to review submissions and it can be 6 months!
Now send out more ideas elsewhere.
A Note on Rejection
When you get rejections, don’t let it discourage you. It may be that they’ve just run a similar story recently, or that your idea would be better for later in the year. Many editors say the writing they receive is good, they simply can’t use all of it.
Keep pitching—90% won’t be accepted when you start but it does get easier!
2. Personal Essay Course
Do you have stories you’d like to tell? Not quite sure what takes a story from diary-entry to readable personal essay?
For a self-paced course with personalized feedback from me, check out my Introduction to the Personal Essay course here.
3. Career paths for writers
In my twenties, a career advisor told me writing wasn’t a proper job, so I went to university and trained as a teacher instead. After two awful years in teaching jobs I hated, I finally gave writing a go and here I am over twelve years later still making a good living from my work.
It’s even easier to get started now than it was twelve years ago.
Writing is definitely a valid career option. You may need to do another job while you build you career, but follow your passion.
If your dream is to write, here are some places to start:
(This post contains affiliate links. I may get a small commission which supports me writing resources like this one so you can get closer to your own writing dreams. Thank you!)
First, explore the type of writing you want to do
Writing covers such a broad range of career paths! It can be a little overwhelming and tough to choose one, but you don’t need to limit yourself. Many full-time writers dip into a few different areas to create our income streams.
For me, most of my income is from:
creative nonfiction (such as personal essays)
nonfiction magazine-style articles
writing local news
I’ve also made money with copy for clients
proofreading and editing other people’s work
and writing short fiction and children’s stories.
Age is not a limiting factor either. One young friend of mine kicked off her journalist career at age 13. I helped her pitch a magazine aimed at kids and she started interviewing celebrities and earning money within weeks. Her second interview was with a Disney Channel actor! She is now in her 20s and a trained full-time journalist.
Decide what you’re passionate about and give it a go.
Exploring a few writing fields is perfectly fine.
What makes you curious? Would you like to write…
News items and interviews
Magazine articles on your favorite topics
Marketing copy or blogs for clients
Creative nonfiction such as memoir, personal essays, nature writing, history, true crime…
Let’s look at how to get started on your writing career path:
Novels and Fiction Writing
Writing a novel or a fiction book for children is the ultimate in creative freedom and I know a number of writers making money from traditionally published and self-published fiction. There’s quite a large market for sci-fi and romance in particular.
Fiction can seem like a daunting task though too.
Luckily, there are endless resources to help you.
NaNoWriMo (the annual November writing challenge for writers) is another great starting place for fiction writers. Their website has free resources for writers available year-round. You don’t have to wait for November!
Also, read. Read as many books in the genre you plan to write in as you can get your hands on. This sounds so obvious but you wouldn’t believe the number of times someone has told me they want to write a children’s book and yet they’ve never read any (except when they were kids themselves).
Whether you want to write a steamy adult romance, a YA fiction, literary adult fiction, or a children’s picture books — read it first. A lot of it. Ask librarians about popular new releases, too. This will give you a good idea of what publishers currently prefer if you want to go the traditional publishing route — for example, talking animals have been less popular in the last few years.
Do you need to train?
Aim for the highest level of training you can. For you, that might be going for a Masters in Creative Writing or doing a free course online. Whatever level of training suits you, your time, and your budget, go for it!
Or just start. If you’re bursting with ideas and feel you’ve got a good understanding of how to write a novel, you don’t have to wait.
I wasn’t able to do my masters, but I was lucky with fiction training. I applied for and won a year-long New Zealand Society of Authors mentorship for novel writing.
Writing programs and scholarships are definitely more accessible than you think. You could check your local Society of Authors — they often have several resources and mentoring programs for emerging writers.
Short stories are also great fiction training. And you can even make money selling them to publications. With short stories, you can practice your dialogue, scene setting, story arcs, and other fiction techniques in smaller chunks. You may even discover a character you love and want to develop a full novel around.
I’ve written journalistic features but, in my experience, editors prefer trained journalists (which I am not). I do enjoy writing news pieces and there are a number of places to get your foot in the door with these, such as NewsBreak.
If this path sparks your curiosity, studying journalism is the best way to do well. It’s a very competitive field. Investigative journalism is a fascinating and valuable career.
Although there are some new initiatives now which make entry into journalism a lot easier. NewsBreak, for example, is a place to give local journalism a go without training. They are also running journalism scholarships to encourage local news reporting.
Journalism and media studies open up a number of professional pathways, including:
News reporting — for papers, radio, online, and television.
Narrative journalism and immersive journalism (story-based journalism)
Radio — presenting, script writing, reporting.
Writing for television.
Interviews and case-studies.
Editing — subediting or editing magazines, websites, papers.
Do you have the right personality for journalism?
Do you enjoy meeting new people?
Could you cold call someone for a phone interview?
Are you able to build rapport quickly and make a stranger feel relaxed enough to share their story?
Do you pay attention to details and like to make sure you’ve got all the facts?
A lot of journalism also involves working under pressure to meet short deadlines and writing what you’ve been commissioned to write. This might mean:
Chasing down a busy subject for an interview.
Listening carefully and thinking on your feet to ask the right questions.
It’s about coming up with interesting angles for your pieces and writing within tight word counts and timeframes.
Investigative journalism can involve overseas travel or fully immersing yourself in a community to do in-depth research for a story. It can be exciting, fast-paced, and chock full of variety.
Other journalism, such as reporting for the rural news, might be quite repetitive. If journalism sounds like your thing — start looking for a college to train at!
Other nonfiction and creative nonfiction writing
Some essayists, bloggers, true crime writers, science and history writers, and magazine feature writers go to university and train in English, Political Science, History or basically whatever interests them.
They train as standup comedians, actors, teachers, doctors, engineers, or learn on the job. What I’m really saying is — anyone can be a nonfiction writer.
Much of what you need for these non-journalistic careers is experience in a field (or in life) other than writing.
I’ve always enjoyed writing, but my training is actually in education, psychology, health, and childhood disorders. I have a Bachelor of Education, a Postgrad Diploma of Teaching and Learning, and another Postgrad Diploma in Health Sciences. Even though I didn’t enjoy teaching, my training meant I found a lot of success as a parenting and health writer.
My fiction background and training was helpful in learning to write creative non-fiction.
Non-fiction and creative non-fiction writers can train on the job:
Take the advice of your editors.
Get a mentor.
Take part in online courses like my Personal Essay Course ($79USD)
Whenever you get a rejection, use it as a learning opportunity.
Analyze your work and the work of other writers you admire.
For “Train on the Job” writing careers
The internet is full of helpful resources for these careers. There are many books and online courses to learn better nonfiction writing, comedy writing, and writing for screenplays, such as these Coursera courses and, of course, here at Because You Write.
Writing workshops and writing groups are incredibly valuable too. They give you an opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t and are safe places to bounce ideas off professional tutors and your peers.
Earn while you learn
You don’t need to wait until you’re trained to start making money. You can pitch editors and write on platforms Medium or Newsbreak.
My first job came from pitching a small local newspaper, but online writing is the best place to start now.
Magazines and newspapers are mostly moving away from print towards online content now. And as many print publications have majorly reduced their budget for freelance writers, online is the place to be!
These are a special group of writers, so they need their own category. Comedy writers really need other peers critiquing their work to do well — like stand up comedians. It’s almost impossible to know what’s funny and what lines fall flat without an audience giving you feedback. Many successful comedy writers would say that you can’t write good comedy on your own.
Try joining Slackjaw’s community. There are a number of courses and workshops online too specifically for comedy writers.
One fast growing and high earning career path is copywriting. Copy is any content that sells something.
Copywriters might write an email for a client, design content for a website, or write a sales funnel. They help people develop their brands and present their businesses professionally and with flair.
Copywriters tend to love what they do.
If you love variety, helping people, and learning about a lot of different topics and businesses, writing copy might be the perfect career path!
I dabbled in copywriting for a few years and had a lot of fun with it. I wrote copy for hundreds of clients, including writing government brochures, website pages for a photographer, and a script for a radio ad. Every day I was learning something new and each job was a little different. I get bored easily, so it was perfect for me in that way.
Earning six figures
The only problem when I wrote copy is I had no idea what I was doing! You can wing it a little with copywriting, but you end up limiting your earnings. I started off charging tiny rates because I felt like such a fraud. I also got ripped off a few times and paid a big fat zero for my work.
Trained copywriters on the other hand feel confident demanding fantastic rates and can earn six-figure incomes from their writing.
An experienced copywriter recently invited me to try out her course, to see if it was something I’d like to offer to my writing students. I didn’t think I’d learn anything, having written copy for at least three years, but I was so wrong!
From the first module, I was furiously scribbling notes and telling my partner how exciting it all was. (I’m sure he wasn’t as excited as me, considering he’s not a writer, but he kindly listened to my over-enthusiastic rants).
You can learn copywriting on the job like I did, but it’s getting more competitive now and training makes it so much easier to win great well-paying clients.
I wish there had been something like the Comprehensive Copywriting Academy when I was starting out. I would have demanded much higher rates and felt 100x more confident in what I was offering.
If you’re interested in learning more about copywriting they have a free training video to explain it much better than I can. It covers where to find clients, how to build your career, and the best ways to make money as a copywriter.
A career in writing can take many exciting paths. One writing path may even lead you to another unexpected one, like it did with me!
But each has it’s own challenges. A successful career in any field of writing takes time, patience, hard work, and resilience (to handle all the rejections!).
It’s a long game, but hang in there — writing is one of the most rewarding, satisfying careers you can have. I wouldn’t want to do anything else.