We recently attended BAM: Bloggers at Midlife and participated in a panel discussion, moderated by Susan Maccarelli of Beyond Your Blog, that included Melissa T. Schultz and Elaine Ambrose. Our number one suggestion for how to get your writing published online on sites other than your own blog is to follow Susan! Here are ten other ideas that have helped us along the way.
1.Never Underestimate the Power of Presence.
Open submissions are great and there is no doubt that you can get published this way, but being invisible to an editor who knows neither your name, nor your blog, will not help you. Shed the invisibility cloak! Get to know a site’s editor, help them to appreciate you and, in turn, you can begin to understand what they want.
How do you do this? You have already done the right thing by coming to the BAM conference. Take advantage of the fact that conferences, author events and social media can put you directly in touch with the editors you hope to write for. Look through Eventbrite to see what might be happening in your town, at a local college or somewhere you can afford to travel to and meet as many people as you can.
If you are traveling to a city where there is an editor who you want to contact, ask to meet for 15 minutes. Offer to bring a Starbucks to her office so that you can say a quick “Hi” and both she and you can put a name with a face.
For example at BlogHer12 we met Lisa Belkin and later began writing for the Huffington Post. We met the ASPCA at BlogHer13 as well and became a monthly contributor for their ASPCA Parents page. On Facebook Scary Mommy invited readers to a tea and after we met her we wrote for her as well.
2.Leverage your social media.
We hate it when people say this, what does it mean? Most of us feel like we will drown if we spend one extra minute on social media. So here are some specifics: Follow editors and writers from the publications you hope to write for on Twitter and organize them into lists. Include junior people along with senior editors.
These contacts will allow you to both engage in conversation and float ideas. Editors and writers often call for ideas and sources on social media. Comb through their pages and streams frequently and jump on these opportunities to add your voice. Twitter is one of the new sources for finding jobs and it can be used in the same way for finding writing assignments.
This is a way to get an editor interested in your ideas even before they ever see your byline. For example, we wrote a post refuting an idea put up on The New York Times Motherlode about college admissions and the editor mentioned it on her social media, so by the time we submitted to her, she knew who we were and was familiar with something we had written.
There are dozens of Facebook groups where you can meet editors, read their calls for submissions and learn more about what they publish. Many groups have crowdsourced documents with lists of editors, contact details, pay scales, pitch tips and requirements and group members are happy to help with every step of the way. Ask your fellow writers what Facebook writers groups they belong to and ask if you can join. HuffPost Live has an open Facebook group and almost every day they look for sources for stories.
3.Think New World, Not Old.
Many old world print publications are contracting and suffering repeated rounds of layoffs. So as an alternative, look for the new, they need you and they are what’s hot.
Recently, the President gave two long sit down interviews. Who were they with? Vox and BuzzFeed, both sites that are new and have no offline presence. Traffic patterns of readers are changing fast, and you can see where the page views are going by looking at a site’s Facebook or Twitter following or on ComScore. We saw a new site that is paying for content this week called The Mid: Life in the Messy Middle, about midlife.
There are new sites all the time. Forget about dated reputations and go where the eyes go now.
4.Think outside your niche.
Many publications, in an effort to chase more clicks, are expanding the range of subject matter they include. They have seen the success of HuffPost and Buzzfeed models and want to emulate them. So if there is a publication you are interested in writing for consider the possibility that they might be interested in you, even if it isn’t obvious that they publish in your niche.
Send a pitch to and editor and ask if they would be interested in something you have written. They might be kicking around expanding into your area of expertise and your timing could be perfect. If they aren’t expanding into your area of expertise, show how your niche is relevant to them. As an example, we write about parenting but are published in Forbes, The Atlantic, and Vox, not publications you think of when you think of our niche.
The Atlantic doesn’t have parenting section, but an article that shows why the conventional wisdom is wrong about something, backed up by research, is what The Atlantic looks for whether or not it is about parenting. Your topic may be far more flexible than you think.
5.Everyone is a page view whore.
Publications are looking for page views.They want to grow their readership as they are paid by the eyeball. There was a time when you offered up quality, now you need to offer up quality that has mass appeal.
The way to do this is to submit ideas that have a wide appeal but bring your expertise or viewpoint to the topic. There is a bit of me-too that goes on with every topic that is widely shared. Publications want popular content but they want to say something original. This is your opportunity. An example is Downton Abbey. The show was all the rage but we thought there was a parenting angle, lessons we can learn from 90 years ago, and wrote a very popular post with Sharon Greenthal that HuffPost featured. If something has done well on your own blog, rewrite it, give it new information and fresh writing and quotes and tell an editor how well you have done with things like this in the past.
6.Find and phone a friend.
This is a helpful, collaborative business. If you see an author who has written someplace where you would like to be published, reach out to her. Tell her you enjoyed her article and ask for the name and email contact for the editor, what they were looking for and advice on formatting for submissions. Most writers want to help, and nothing lost if they don’t. Give something back by sharing the author’s article on your social media and recommending it to others.
A writer we admired wrote a great piece in The Atlantic and when we told her much we liked it, she shared the information for how to submit to her editor and even let us use her name as reference.
7.Collaborate in order to do Job 1.
Ford was right that “quality is job one” and with so much writing and so many publications how are you going to stand out? We hate it when people say “write great content” as if that isn’t something everyone in this room is trying to do.
But here is how you can make it better. Find another blogger who you can bounce ideas off of, ask to edit your work and vice versa. Get known for submitting perfect content that has all the necessary links backing up assertions, is fact-checked, edited and reads well to anyone who may not know about your topic.
If you want to write something that stretches to the edges of your knowledge, but you know your idea is perfect for a publication, find a co-author with the knowledge you lack and suggest a collaboration. If you have something substantive to bring to the piece you may writing credential and a new writing partner.
8.Do something differently.
Do you remember “The Princeton Mom?” We pitched The Atlantic a piece on her forthcoming book . We told the editor that we were moms of college kids and would refute with facts in her book, not just disagree with her positions. We looked at what the Princeton Mom had said, knowing much would be the same in the book. Then researched why her arguments were factually incorrect. The publisher would not give us an advance copy of the book. So we download the book at midnight wrote until 4AM and had the story on the editors desk before she walked into her office the day the book was published.
Do something others don’t do in order to stand out.
9.When Your Editor Leaves It Seems Like a Loss But It’s A Great Opportunity.
When an editor moves to a different publication, try to go with her and write for her replacement. If this works you now have two editors. We were just up on Vox because an editor moved there from The Atlantic. Like so much in life, the importance of relationships supersedes that of institutions, don’t squander the investment you have already made in a publication just because your editor left.
10. Stock Your Toolkit.
Being prepared is what midlife women know how to do best! When an editor wants to find out about you they will go to LinkedIn, your blog and your social media. Do all of these project the image and professionalism that you want an editor to see? Is it easy to find your best blog posts on each of these? Is it easy to find your best work that appears in other publications?
Write up a standard bio with your credentials and emphasize your expertise with links to where you have published. Include your social reach on every platform. Have a two-line bio with links and a two paragraph bio with links always ready to send when an opportunity arises. Have a professional headshot taken. When an editor calls for submissions, you don’t want to have to scramble at the last-minute to do this.
Set-up Google Alerts on topics you want to explore to learn who else is writing about your subject and where those stories are being published. If you want to delve deeper, set up Google Scholar Alerts which will get you the research behind headlines. Think about timely topics – plan ahead for holiday and seasonal-themed ideas. Editors often put out a call for posts. Be ready to go long before the holiday rolls around. The pace of the online world is head spinning compared to print journalism. Have your toolkit in place so you can pounce when you see opportunities.