Monday, January 31, 2011

Tricks of the Trade (Pubs)

I wanted to break into the trades, and boy, have I! My writing has slowed down some (my workload this semester is crazy!), but of course, that hasn’t stopped me from pursuing additional assignments! I’m currently actively working on an article for a trade pub, I have a second due later this spring, and I’m waiting on a response from an editor for a third. In a few short months, I've learned a thing or two about writing for trades and what makes them a bit different from the consumer markets:
  • Trades are a little harder to pitch. Let’s face it—it’s the job of a trade publication to be on top (or ahead) of every new trend in the field. Most trade pubs have been there, covered that, so as a new writer, one of the biggest challenges is selling the editor on a new idea. It’s not impossible, of course, but it’s a good idea to read up on new trends or challenges in the industry and slant your pitch accordingly. Most experienced freelancers recommend breaking in with LOI’s, since many trade pub editors prefer to assign stories rather than accept queries. This has worked for 2 of the 3 articles I’m currently working on, so there is some truth to that.
  • Sources are both easier and harder to locate. You’ll likely have to locate some industry experts who can speak on your topic. This is the easy part if you know where to look. Professional associations, database programs like ProfNet, and good old Google are all effective ways of finding sources. In my experience, the hardest part is establishing contact with these folks and setting up interviews. If this is the case, ask your editor or the expert sources for names of potential contacts. I’m working on one piece for a marching band publication, and I had a lot of trouble finding the types of sources I needed. After emailing the editor, she suggested I speak with the experts and see if they could refer me to the types of folks I needed. I took her advice, and I have a nice list of people to contact. Problem solved.
  • The possibilities are endless! On her Renegade Writer blog, veteran freelancer Linda Formichelli offered a great tip for finding trade pubs in the Writer’s Market. Most trade publishers produce more than one publication, often for a wide variety of industries. If you find a market you may want to pitch, but aren’t sure if you’re all that comfortable with the industry, look up the publisher. Chances are, they have additional publications that might be a better fit for your knowledge and expertise. I never took note of the publishers in the Writer’s Market, but after reading Linda’s tip, I looked up a number of pubs from a wide range of fields, and she was right! So even if the primary listing may not appeal to you, do some research—there might be a sister publication whose editor is looking for some new writers.

What about you? Do you finding writing for trades easier or more challenging than mainstream consumer pubs?

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