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WritersMarket.com Q&A

Date posted: October 14, 2009

Recently, WritersMarket.com interviewed me for their site about my work as a freelance journalist. Here are the questions they asked and my responses:

1. What makes a great business feature article?

Outstanding, knowledgeable, and respected resources are the key to a great business feature. The difference between a serviceable business feature and a great business feature is determined during the research phase of the writing process. When you have excellent quotes and outstanding input, a great business feature will feel as though it is writing itself. If you’re not experiencing that feeling as you write the feature, you’re probably not writing a great article. Business features should be truly irresistible, not merely serviceable. Once you have the essential input from strong sources, it is easier to express your unique style and add some zing to the copy.

2. What makes a great technology feature article?

Real-world examples are the key to a great technology feature. Mark Twain put it best: “There’s nothing so annoying as a good example.” Often, when covering technology, the technology is new and untested. When you’re able to cite specific cases where the technology has been used, it helps the reader to understand how it could be applied to their situation. When it comes to a feature, the technical aspects of a particular technology are a lot less important than how the technology can benefit the reader. By illustrating how the technology can be applied in the real world, the article becomes a valuable tool for helping the reader improve their business processes, profitability, efficiency, etc.

3. How should freelancers pitch magazine editors to get assignments?

Would you rather sell a loaf of bread or a truckload of loaves? Instead of pitching one idea, pitch ten ideas at once. A summation of each idea will suffice—enough to give the editor some idea of your level of understanding and imagination. Plus, you’re doing a lot of the work for the editor, which many editors like a lot.

Another approach—instead of rushing in with article pitches—is to introduce your body of work to an editor and position yourself as a seasoned journalist in a particular field. The point of such an introduction is to plant the seed for an ongoing relationship. Of course, this approach only works if you truly are an industry veteran (e.g., you’ve written for two of the top three magazines in a niche and you’re approaching the third after years of working for the other two). I’ve used this approach with good success in industries in which I’ve written for more than a decade. I’ve also been able to expand into closely related industries using this strategy.

The pitch doesn’t end when the article is accepted or even when it is submitted. In today’s tough freelance marketplace, you need to become a value-added contributor. What's meant by value-added? Freelance trade press contributors have to understand and embrace social networking. Most established trade press veterans remain clueless about how to promote their work in the social medium of the Internet. I've made it my personal responsibility to promote new pieces whenever they appear on my publisher's sites. My publishers haven't asked me to do this task; however, I recognize that in this new environment, trade press stories can now be accessed by those outside the original low-circulation print editions. Through the magic of the Internet, they can now be viewed by the entirety of the Web audience. Soon, I believe, trade publishers will come to value this additional traffic as it expands their reach, drives traffic, and ultimately brings in increased ad revenues.

I want to be seen as a contributor that helps build traffic for my publishers' sites. By doing so, I will also be building my brand online. As my Facebook and LinkedIn network expands, my work, which once only received exposure to a small group of engineers or school administrators, for instance, can now be viewed by anyone interested in a more in-depth coverage of a given topic, albeit of a technical nature.

I've established my blog (http://martyweil.net) as means to send out that content. I have linked my Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages to receive a feed from this site, which often features links to works I've recently published.