Saturday, 29 September 2018

Writing for foreign markets

Here I have a Q&A on writing for foreign markets. I responded to the questions with answers below.

1. How do you find potential foreign markets?

I use Writer's Market to find US clients, and work through it from A-Z in the magazine section. The Australian Writer's Marketplace lists all Australian titles, but so far, I've found Australian magazines just by searching Google: "Australian magazine *insert topic*". This has the added benefit of bringing up magazines that aren't always listed in writers' yearbooks.

2. What steps do you take to get to know that market?

I look at articles printed on the magazine's website. I don't usually try to get physical copies. I have occasionally asked for a sample article to help me get the style right. The editors have then sent me a copy of the magazine or a PDF of a similar article.

3. Do you resell pieces you've already sold in the UK, or do you write slightly differently angled material for the foreign readerships?

I try to resell British articles, but almost invariably find that the foreign markets want something slightly different. They also want first world rights.
I write a fair bit about food and you have to be aware that in foreign countries, food preferences differ, the names of some foods differ, and what's popular and in season differs too. I've had to make considerable adjustments to British health articles, modified for the Australian market, to take account of climate differences and dietary differences. I've had to research which vegetables grow well in Australian gardens at different times of year. You can't assume the same vegetables that are popular among British gardeners are popular in Australia too. I've also used different research studies to illustrate my points and make my work more relevant to Australian readers.

4. What difficulties have you encountered with foreign markets? Have you had problems getting paid, or finding out when a piece has been published?

Yes. One of my first pieces published in the USA was in Auto Week, who commissioned a time-sensitive piece and then had some editorial changes. My emails got lost. No one replied. I didn't know if my piece had been published. I certainly hadn't been paid. I finally managed to get hold of someone, nearly a year later, only to find out about the editorial changes. They did however, use my piece (updated) and paid me. But I never got to see a copy, either electronically or in print. I gave up at that point, just happy to have been paid!

5. What advice would you give to writers considering approaching a foreign market for the first time?

Make sure you tailor your pitch to their domestic market. Use information relevant and topical to the country, and know the language differences. So try to write in American English if you're approaching the American markets, for example.

My book, Freelance Writing: Aim Higher, Earn More, has a chapter on writing for overseas markets.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Turning rejection into acceptance

I had a couple of articles rejected recently. That hasn't happened in a long while, and frankly, I wasn't very impressed because it took the editor 7 months to let me know, and the reason for one of them, was simply that he'd totally changed his mind about the brief. He wanted something completely different. Was a kill fee available? No. But if I wanted rewrite them both, taking into account his extensive criticisms, then he'd reconsider his position.

Now I have to admit, I was fed up. I mean, he might have mentioned that there was a problem after I submitted the first article back in September. I'd have thought twice about offering him the second! So I pondered the opportunity to 'rewrite them both' while I got on with some guaranteed paid work. A few weeks later, I decided to have another go at these two articles.

I trawled through the demoralising emails, taking in the criticisms, and then looked for the positives - what could I do to salvage the situation? I asked more questions of my interviewees, but the answers weren't what the editor wanted to hear. No, they're not filthy rich. No, they're not famous. No, they haven't become a publishing sensation from contributing to an anthology. But it wasn't supposed to be about that. It was about personal satisfaction, raising money for charity, achieving personal goals, etc.

Anyway, I know this all sounds like a dead loss, but a couple of days ago, I got an acceptance! Somehow, by rejigging the content, bringing something from the back to the front, adding a few more comments from my own personal experience, and answering some of the questions, it worked. I honestly didn't think that article would be accepted but it just was!

The second article was more of an extensive rewrite due to the dramatically different brief, but I had a go at that one too, and remarkably, a week or so later, it was accepted too!

Now, usually if an editor has their own ideas about how an article will take shape, I get a clear brief at the point of commission. Otherwise I just make sure I cover everything that I've suggested in my pitch. It can be a different ball game if you submit work 'on spec', but I work to commission most of the time.

So do remember that however bleak things may appear, if an editor thinks your work has potential, it's probably worth putting in that extra work, because you never quite know when you can turn a rejection into an acceptance. You might surprise yourself.

Good luck!

Sunday, 21 January 2018

2017-2018 What next?

I thought for the first blog of 2018 I should look back at 2017 and forward to the year ahead.

Now you may recall that after failing to hit most of my targets in 2016, I didn't have a plan for 2017: it was a bit like Brexit. But I subscribed to some magazines and a website to help me find work. All those subscriptions have now lapsed and I've reverted to the old fashioned way of doing things - just approaching editors. It works best for me.

I did get a job from the freelance writing website, but it was working for an individual who didn't understand professional ethics and after declaring that she loved the work I'd done for her, she then changed her mind and refused to pay her second invoice. We parted company and I decided I prefered to work for professional publishers, not entrepreneurs with funny ideas and a propensity to change their minds.

So, apart from that, 2017 was a year of writing about weird and wonderful things, from exorcisms to pets. I was working for existing clients on spiritual, travel, gardening and health titles. New clients last year included a poultry magazine, a travel magazine, an insurance company, and a esoteric publication.

I've been covering diverse topics from salmonella in poultry to the glorious sights of the Lake District. I've written about pet modelling agencies, puppy smuggling, the summer solstice, and the Naked Bike Ride.

2018 will present new challenges, as the publishing industry is under pressure and freelancers are leaving in droves for secure jobs in PR (according to stats anyway)! I won't be joining them. Just hoping to pick up more new clients in 2018, and keep plugging away, doing what I do best.