From the Mail Bag: Kate writes: I’d like to start writing nonfiction, human interest stories, emphasizing topics such as dogs and life with dogs, health and psychology. I’d like to start with articles (magazine, newspaper or both) and eventually work towards a book. I have done a few small human interest pieces for the newspaper at the University where I currently work and also back when I was in college. Any advice you’d have to share would be appreciated.
Dear Kate: The truth about the writing biz is that it’s easier to get published if you’ve already been published. It’s harder for new-comers to break in. The new writers who will succeed are the ones who are really committed. The fact that you already have some writing credentials will go a long way toward helping your cause.
Since you have experience getting some of your pieces in the newspaper, that’s a great place to continue to make inroads. You want to start accumulating clips (published articles) that you can then include for your submissions to magazines. Many newspapers are looking for human/animal interest stories, so this is also one of the easiest ways to begin. Contact the newspaper and ask for the editor in charge of the Lifestyle section. Ask that person what the paper’s submission guidelines are and/or be ready to give a quick pitch right over the phone.
After you’ve accumulated several clips, then you’re ready to break into magazines. Get the current Writer’s Market, which lists all the publisher and magazine contact and submission information you will need. After you select the magazines to which you’d like to submit, get their writer’s guidelines, then go to the library and read their back issues to see what kinds and styles of pieces they publish. This will help you craft an article they’re more likely to accept. Then submit, submit, submit. If you’re a decent writer and you’ve done your homework, it really is just a numbers game.
As a last thought, don’t overlook online e-zines. They’re relatively easy to break into and you can build from there too.