Writing for $

This is the dream of every academic and, I imagine, every blogger, two worlds in which I now find myself.

One of my best friends, LG, has encouraged me to contemplate writing professionally as a freelancer.  It’s nice to have that sort of support in my life – I’ll take all the encouragement I can get at this point.  And, of course, I love the idea of being a paid professional writer.

Compounding this nagging idea in my head, today at Feministing, Rose posted a whole post about how you should get paid to write.  She links to a post by Mark Anthony Neal saying the same thing.

Here is her explaining his first piece of advice (of the two pieces of advice he gives):

He suggests that you can avoid the pitfalls of primarily writing for free by altering and re-posting the content you get paid to write. And how does someone get paid to write? They pitch. He encourages that smaller magazines are a great place to start and develop your niche.

I released a huge sigh when I read that final sentence.  I think I have a niche (my dream? To be Jill Lepore at The New Yorker).  But where do I pitch?  Do I simply Google “smaller magazines”?  I guess this is how you start and I need to just embrace the messiness of the process. I need to look around the interwebs.

I think my frustration with simply saying, “find some smaller magazines!” is that I feel this vague and unhelpful guidance is so similar to much of the advice I have received in my graduate career.  I have been told for years to publish (and I’m gonna…just you wait.  But don’t hold your breath).  I have been told multiple times that I have publishable ideas and papers.  But beyond the, “Go out and publish something somewhere!” line, I have been given little help.  Where do I publish?  How do I know when something is publishable?  I find the answers to my oft-repeated questions rarely receive concrete answers no matter how hard I push.

For all kinds of publishing, it feels like you have to be inside to be inside or you have to have the ability to dedicate all those hours to locating the many, many places you can publish and then be lucky enough (and good enough) to break through to the inside.

If you have any advice, please let me know.  I have today for the first time ever seen She Writes, which says that it is,

a community, virtual workplace, and emerging marketplace for women who write, with over 13,000 active members from all 50 states and more than 30 countries. Leveraging social media tools and harnessing women’s collaborative power, She Writes is fast becoming the destination for all women who write. Right now, emerging writers and established bestsellers are finding services, support and actionable advice on She Writes. In the future, the site will empower women writers further by connecting them directly to readers in a marketplace distinguished by its commitment to the production and distribution of high quality content.

So, I am going to poke around there later (like two years from now) when I have the time.

Help a lady out.  Any “smaller magazines” or journals that you read and enjoy?  Advice from those who have tried to put their work out there (either successfully or not)?


4 thoughts on “Writing for $

  1. I’m a big fan of Media Bistro’s “how to pitch” section: http://www.mediabistro.com/ You have to pay a membership fee, but if you’re serious about finding magazines to pitch to, it’s an invaluable resource.

    I’ve heard it’s much easier to start with front-of-magazine pieces. Little 500-word or less articles that just get your foot in the door. Once you prove yourself a bit, there’s room for growth. In my limited writing-for-money experience, there’s quite a bit of a snowball effect with magazine articles. Once you write one good one, they’ll keep calling you. Magazine editors would rather work with people they’ve established good relationships with, so it’s all about getting a foot in the door.

    Have you thought about writing personal essays? I feel like your experience as a grad student and a mother would have appeal to women’s magazines. Bust, maybe? http://www.bust.com/info/submit-to-bust.html

    I have more specific advice about writing the pitch letter and whatnot that I’ve culled from my professional writing courses and own experience — we can always email privately about that stuff.

    Good luck!

  2. Duh. Of course you would be an amazing resource about this stuff. Thanks so much. I will look into all of that and if/when I get serious about pitching a story, I will definitely be in touch.

  3. I think with academic publishing–you should just go for it–send your stuff in now and to journals you think have pieces that speak to your work/general subject area–most likely they will send out to readers who will tell you to revise and resubmit–the beauty of this is that though unsatisfying initially, you will usually receive very concrete feedback about how to make it publishable–what to change etc for that specific journal. Why don’t you start with some of the history of science journals–isis, history of science society, etc?

  4. Thanks. I guess what I need to do is embrace that idea of receiving rejection but also feedback. I feel like one of the big things is that I don’t know WHEN something is ready to be published. I re-read my alchemical hermaphrodite paper recently and I just thought, “Wow. This has so far to go before it is tight enough to be an article.” And you know I don’t have time for that nowadays.

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