Monday, May 24, 2010

Writing clips and credits

Today I will deviate a bit from my usual writing on the things to do before you receive a book contract. Actually, acquiring writing credits and clips are necessary to break into a paying magazine or book market. 

How do you get writing credits if you are a beginning writer trying to gain access to the magazine writing world? Try small publications. Although I've published in larger places such as Chicken Soup and Family Circle, I still write for a small parenting/senior publication in my hometown. The pay isn't a lot but I get plenty of exposure. I've written for a small specialized newspaper and low paying religious markets. Search for markets which pay little or nothing. Plenty are listed in Writer's Market or online. You'll also find those types of publications on shelves in the library, grocery stores or doctor's offices. They are the free local magazines or papers. They may cater to one readership or another such as the parenting I mentioned. However, once you pass a certain point in your publishing history, don't write for non-paying markets unless they are near and dear to your heart.

Case in point. Today I worked on two of the five articles I must finish by the first week in June and June 14th. One pays well while the others pay little or nothing. I enrolled in the Catholic Biblical School of the Denver Archdiocese. The class is divided into small groups for discussion. A young man in my group bought a floundering newspaper in a tiny mountain town not far from Fort Collins, CO where I live. He recognized my name on Facebook and discovered from my profile my desire to break into the travel writing market.

“How about writing travel pieces for us,” he asked one day at class. “I can’t pay you now, but you'll build up credits.” This small town newspaper is near and dear to my heart. I want to see him, along with his wife (the editor), succeed. I’ve written articles for them every other week for a couple of months. When I mentioned I needed to create a website, he volunteered to set it up since that is his business. So even though I’m not paid for the articles, I’m receiving much more in his giving of his design of a website for me in his spare time. I tell him how much I appreciate his work every time he assigns me a new task for the website.

My point is this – you never know how your non-paying markets may pay off. Sometimes it is in the form of an assignment from someone who read your work there. In any case, persevere, study, join a critique group and most of all start submitting your work. Writing is a hard market to crack, but it can be done.


  1. You have to give to get. Some of my peers in the freelance writing arena will not do any pro bono writing. I choose to do it.

    Yes, as you said, you get credit and exposure. Most of the assignments I have done for no pay have lead to a paying gig later on.

  2. Compensation for writing does indeed come in many forms: money, exchange of service, contacts and contracts.
    Writers have to keep an open mind and be willing to take a chance now and then.