I had the honor this past week to speak at a writers’ conference. My hosts, Skagit Valley Writers League, in collaboration with Pacific Northwest Writers Association, provided an excellent forum for attendees.
Among the speakers were Jane Alynn, award-winning poet; Liz Adair, novelist and family historian; Lindsey McGirk, bookstore online marketing specialist; Chuck Robinson, co-owner of Village Bookstore in Bellingham, WA; and myself, non-fiction and fiction writer.
My session, "Writing for Pleasure, Marketing for Profit" delved into the nitty-gritty of selling non-fiction. I covered such topics as where to find magazines and other publications to buy your articles. We discussed what to include in query and submission letters.
I stressed the importance of knowing the type of rights to sell, such as all rights, first-time rights, reprint rights. As an example of reprint rights, I mentioned that I have had more than 400 articles published in magazines and newspapers. Many of these articles previously appeared in publications, then were resubmitted as reprints to other magazines. This allows me to reach a broader audience and at the same time get more revenue for my work.
We discussed the importance of a "hook," both in a query letter and in the article itself, something to grab an editor’s attention in the first paragraph. Submitting images is essential to sell most articles, even if the publication chooses to use their own or stock photography for the published article.
Many times research for one article will branch out into other articles. For instance, we went to Molokai, Hawaii for our 25th wedding anniversary. While there, we risked our very lives, riding mule-back down one of the highest sea cliffs in the world, the steep, 26 switch-back Kalaupapa Trail to Father Damien’s leper colony. From that one Hawaiian trip, I wrote two different articles to submit to two different magazines.
I wrapped up my presentation discussing the importance of record keeping, keeping track of submissions and following the process to its conclusion: query, submission, acceptance, publication, getting paid.
It’s fun being a part of a writers’ conference, talking with people eager to learn from successful writers.
Being a presenter at a conference is also a way of getting your name out there. Name recognition is important for a writer. Also, we writers lead a solitary profession–it’s gratifying to mingle with other writers and like-minded people.
I thank my hosts for this great opportunity. For additional information on Skagit Valley Writers League, please visit www.skagitwriters.org.