Case Study: How Ian Chandler Helped Me Get My First Publication


By Kyle Geoffrey Uy

“Freelance writing is something anyone can do,” said freelance writer Ian Chandler in his webinar. As someone just starting out, those words gave me hope. I didn’t know anything about where to begin, so I watched this free webinar to learn more.

The knowledge Ian gave us viewers paved the way to landing my first paid gig.

I had no portfolio, and I had never been paid for writing. If you’re someone in the same situation, you can definitely score a first paid gig too. This is how I got mine.

Online Publications

The webinar included a PDF called “The 2020 Paid Publishing Guidebook.” (Editor’s note: You can grab a free copy here.) This e-book is a directory of online publications that pay for articles. Ian’s advice for beginners was to look for online publications, pitch them an article idea, and see if they want to work with you. I searched the e-book for websites that covered my interests.

 I spotted geeknative.com–a website for table-top game resources and news. I am an avid table-top gamer myself and I had an idea for an article. I found the email address for the editors and sent them a pitch.

My Pitch

Good day Geek Native,

I have an article idea I know readers of your blog will love, and I’d be honored if you’d consider it for publication on your website.


My 750-word article “The Fundamentals of Being A Dungeon Master” will discuss tips for beginning DMs who may feel overwhelmed when running a quest for the first time. I will detail the core fundamentals of a quest that the DM should focus on to keep the game fun and flowing for all players without having to worry about everything the in the Player’s Handbook or Dungeon Master’s Guide.

A little about me: My name is Kyle Uy. I’m from a small town outside of San Francisco. I’m a huge fan of Dungeons and Dragons and 90% of my experience with the game over the last five years has been as the Dungeon Master. I thoroughly enjoy the storytelling and imaginative process that is Dungeons and Dragons. I hope to share knowledge and help anyone I can with the understanding of the game so they can share in that passion too.

I can have this article ready by June 5th, 2020. Does that sound good to you?

Thank you again for your consideration.

Sincerely,
Kyle Uy

Geek Native

One of the editors for geeknative.com emailed me the next day. He said he would commission my article at $0.08 a word at a maximum of 1000 words for a total of $80 (a little less after some fees). Included in their offer were some questions about advertising, an agreement that payment would be through Paypal, and an extension on the deadline to June 10th.

Writing

With those terms settled, I started writing the article. This was my first writing assignment since my thesis in college three years ago. I could feel the rust as I scrapped together my first draft. I keep a blog, but again, I’ve never been paid to write. I wondered if the editors would read my submission, deem it unworthy of publication, and then cancel our agreement.

Still, I was fueled with excitement for writing about Dungeons and Dragons. I was a happy geek, typing away at his computer about something I really enjoyed. On June 10th, I submitted my 1000-word article and I received my payment. The article was published on the website a few days later.

The Numbers Game

Now, I warn you that this “success” was borne out of many misfires along the way. My pitch to geeknative.com was one of about ten pitches that I sent out to different publications. Some of these publications were from the e-book, some were found through my own internet searches. These other pitches were responded to with silence, the request for a whole article before the agreement to publish, the editor respectfully saying “no”, or the offer of writing for exposure only. All were fair responses; I was just looking for something different.

Business philosopher Jim Rohn once said, “Success is a numbers game”. I believe that success with freelance writing is a game of numbers and skill. Your ability to write a promising pitch for a publication is crucial. With my limited experience, my advice is: just keep trying and keep improving—keep believing that every “no” is leading you closer to “yes”.

Make it Fun

Writing my article was the easiest part of the whole process. Looking for publications, pitching articles, waiting for responses, and networking with people are all parts of this new venture that are uncomfortable for me personally. If you can relate, I would say to try to make this process of freelance writing fun for yourself–especially the writing part. You do this by writing what you want to write about. You also do this by being respectful and transparent with the people you are communicating with along the way.

Freelance Writing

I found that there are countless writing opportunities and a vast array of topics that need writers like us. If you’re interested in something, chances are you can get paid to write about it. This silly article about Dungeons and Dragons is my excuse to call myself a freelance writer–but I plan on carrying that as far as I can.

Get Going

If you’re stuck on where to begin, try to watch the free webinar with Ian Chandler. It’s the “Preview the No B.S. Course on Freelance Writing”. The resources and knowledge provided there will be a great jumpstart to your search for paid writing jobs. If not though, use the internet to find websites looking for articles, send them a pitch–rinse and repeat. I hope my story helped someone for the road ahead. Remember: “Freelance writing is something anyone can do.” I took those words to heart–I think you should too.

New Freelancer Writers: Don’t Make This Simple Mistake


As an editor of an online publication, as well as through working with our Writing Launch members for years, there is a big misconception that I regularly see new freelance writers make. It’s based on a simple misunderstanding.

Here’s the deal: There’s a huge difference between pitching an article, applying for a writing job, sending a proposal to a business, and submitting creative writing for publication.

Let me be super clear: The process is extremely different for those four categories. If you want to succeed in any of those categories, it is extremely important that you understand the distinctions.

At Writing Launch, we get into the nitty-gritty details of this with our members on a regular basis. However, here’s a quick overview.

First, applying for a traditional writing job, as you know, usually requires a cover letter and a resume. This is pretty standard stuff that most people know about.

However, if you want to get published in a magazine (or a blog), then absolutely never, ever include a cover letter and a resume. Just don’t do it!

That’s simply not how the process works. Instead, write a clear and concise pitch and send it to an editor – usually in the body of an email. (A pitch, in short, is an idea for an article you would like to write.)

When you’re sending a pitch, don’t write the article ahead of time. Instead, you’re simply proposing an idea. Only start writing once you have the go ahead from the editor.

If you’re looking to publish creative writing – perhaps short stories or poetry – then you almost always will be sending a completed piece ahead of time. It is extremely rare to be “commissioned” to write a creative piece. Usually, when submitting creative writing, you send a very short email, with the writing attached to the email in a separate document. The body of the email should simply thank the editors for their time, and also include a short 20 to 30 word bio.

Note: Whether you’re pitching a piece of creative writing, or an article for a publication, always check to see if they have a submissions guidelines page. If they do, read it very carefully!

What if you’re proposing freelance work for a business? This is a more complex process, as you are, in essence, selling a product. You need to think of this as a marketing exercise. A general rule of thumb is to focus on understanding the person you are selling to so that you can give them a custom solution that meets their specific needs. You can then approach them with your solution. The more accurate your understanding of their needs, the more likely you are to get a positive response.

Here’s something all of these categories have in common: Rejection.

One of the best things you can do for your freelance writing career is embrace rejection. Every successful writer I know has earned mountains of rejections from a wide variety of sources. Every time you get a rejection, simply remind yourself that even the most famous authors got many rejections. It’s just part of the process.

If you want personal help working on any of the topics in this article, then I encourage you to join the Writing Launch Waiting List here.

10 Publishing & Job Opportunities for Writers


Dear Writers,

At Writing Launch we have a team member dedicated to finding publishing opportunities for writers. Every month they post hundreds of new opportunities for writers in our members only database.

Below is a sampling of ten recent opportunities posted to the members only database.

Note, if you’re a member, you can access all your member resources here.

If you’re not a member of Writing Launch, you can join the waiting list here.

Let me know if you have any questions – just use the comment box below.

– Jacob Jans

Lacuna Voices is a UK-based digital space that showcases beautiful, worthy true-life features. They have tweeted, “We’re looking for some uplifting first-person pieces across Lacuna Voices. Do you know someone with a heartwarming tale? A love story? A reunion of some sort? Animals changing lives? A positive health story? Something amazing with your business? Your unusual hobby? Get in touch.” They welcome pitches from all over the world. They typically pay £100 for 1,000 words. Read their Twitter thread here. Learn how to pitch them here and find payment details here.

The Fuller Project is a global nonprofit newsroom that reports on issues affecting women in the US and abroad. They raise awareness, expose injustices, and spur accountability. They are always seeking stories on issues that affect women in the US and globally. According to payment reports, they pay $1 per word. If interested, send your pitches to pitch@fullerproject.org. To learn more, refer to their pitch guide.

Americas Quarterly is a publication on business, politics and culture in Latin America. They have a print circulation of 15,000. Their readers include senior government officials, thought leaders, CEOs and a general audience interested in Latin America. Payment reports suggest that they pay up to $0.40 per word. To learn more, refer to this page.

Science for the People is a magazine and website dedicated to “building and promoting social movements and political struggles around progressive and radical perspectives on science and society.” They are accepting pitches for their Spring 2021 issue, “Racial Capitalism in the Age of Conflict, Contagion, and Climate Change.” They pay $100 for short pieces (600 to 1,000 words) which are often published via SftP Online. They pay $200 for slightly longer pieces like reviews, columns, and other articles of 1,200 to 1,500 words, and $250 for feature-length stories of 2,000 words and above. For more information, refer to their Tweet and call for pitches.

Deadline: November 25th, 2020

ILY is an online magazine about love. They are looking for pitches “centered around news or timely conversations on dating & love.” “Format can range from guides, interviews, profiles, roundtable discussions, analysis pieces & essays. No poetry.” Rate is $50 to $200. If interested, email your pitches to edit@ilymag.com. For details, refer to their founder’s Twitter thread. To learn more about them, refer to this page.

KUOW is “the Puget Sound region’s #1 radio station for news.” They are seeking bold essays on life and resilience for Seattle Story Project. Writers do not have to be currently based in Seattle, but they should be “linked to Seattle or the greater Puget Sound region in some meaningful way.” They are especially interested in hearing from writers who are underrepresented in the media. They will pay $450 for original essays and $200 for previously shared stories. The length of the essays should be 800 to 1,200 words. They read submissions on a rolling basis. For details, refer to this Tweet and this page.

Likemind builds brands that deliver educational and entertaining experiences to their subscribers’ inboxes. They are looking for freelance commerce writers to introduce great products to their subscribers across brands like “The Discoverer, Trivia Genius, Word Genius, and more.” Examples of work that they are looking for on a regular basis include “odes to your favorite products”, “actionable travel tips”, and “products from other parts of the world.” They pay $50 to $200 per piece. To learn more, refer to this page.

Ninth Letter is accepting fiction, essays, and poetry on the ‘Touch’ theme for their online edition. Their guidelines say, “When was your last? The question is particularly evocative (and provocative) at the present moment, when physical and social touch seem so restricted. With this in mind, the theme is necessarily constellatory. Consider: in touch, out of touch, touchdown, Midas touch, human touch, be in touch, lose touch, touchback, don’t touch, wouldn’t touch, wouldn’t touch with ten foot pole, touch a nerve, touch on, touch up, just a touch, touch and go, touch base, touch pad, lost touch, magic touch, touchy, retouched, I’m touched, truly touched, two-hand-touch, untouched, stay in touch, touchback, touch-less, finishing touch, put me in touch, lose touch, lost touch, untouched, untouched, untouched. ” (For the print edition, there are separate guidelines and mailed submissions for that are free.)
Length: Up to 3,500 words for prose, up to 3 poems
Pay: $75 for a story or an essay, and $25 per poem
Details here.

Deadline: 3 November 2020

Grammarly is a technology company that helps people write more clearly and effectively through their digital writing assistant. They are hiring a Copy Editor who will serve as the final approver for their public-facing content. The candidate should have “experience copyediting for a consumer-facing brand, publication, and/or agency.” The job is full-time and based in San Francisco, CA. All team members can work remotely till August 2021. Details here and here.

America’s Test Kitchen is a test kitchen located in Boston. They produce television shows and publish cookbooks and magazines. They are hiring for the position of Senior Editor, ATK Kids. The editor will help build their growing Kids business. The candidate should have 7+ years’ writing/editing experience and 5+ years’ experience in education/working with children. Experience in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math) education will be a plus. The role is full-time and located in Boston, MA. Details here and here.

10 Calls for Pitches ($1+ Per Word)


One of the biggest benefits of being a member of Writing Launch is getting access to our database of publishing opportunities.

We have a team member at Writing Launch dedicated to updating the database on a continual basis. She usually adds around 400 calls for pitches each month.

Below are some recent examples of calls for pitches that have been added to the database. These listings are all relatively recent – they’re from the past week. Notice that we’ve included payment rates for almost all of these listings. Many of them pay $1 per word.

Writing Launch is not currently open to new members. If you’re interested in joining us, you can sign up for the waiting list here.

–– Jacob Jans

Wired Science covers health, medicine, biotech, environment, climate, robotics, space, and energy. They are looking for stories to run in August and September. They want stories (800 to 1,200 words) that focus on “current science issues or research, with a variety of expert voices and anecdotal sources.” They seek “diversity in terms of writers, sources and story topics.” According to their pitch guidelines, rates for short “minifeatures” start at $3,000 and rates for other short, online-only content start at $250. Email your pitches to kara_platoni@wired.com. For details, refer to this Twitter thread and their pitch guidelines.

Variable West is a platform for West Coast art. They are accepting pitches for their new column, Love Letters which features “micro essays on artists we can’t stop thinking about.” “The artist must be living and working (or lived/worked, if the artist is dead) in California, Oregon, or Washington, but doesn’t need to have work up in an exhibition.” They encourage pitches from West Coast writers. They will pay $50 for 200 to 250 words. To learn more, refer to their founder/editor-in-chief’s Twitter thread and this page.

OkayAfrica is a media company that connects a global audience to Africa. Their South Africa staff writer is looking for “a journalist or writer, a photographer, young musician, an activist, a doctor or nurse, anyone really” in Zimbabwe with a story about what’s happening from their perspective. They will pay $200 USD per piece (about 800 words). Send pitches to rufaro@okayafrica.com. Details here and here.

Arium is a complete tabletop role-playing game. They are seeking freelance writers to compose stretch goals for them. They are seeking “folks who have a theme/genre they love and know how to plot.” “The theme/genre can be fantasy or noir or literary or horror or romance or rebellion or cyberpunk or diaspora or whatever you want really. They can be culture-specific, but only if the author has direct experience living in that culture.” Rate is $0.12 per word for 1,000 words. For details, refer to this Twitter thread.

Deadline: November 15th, 2020

Yoga Journal is looking for pitches about the yoga and wellness community. They are specifically looking for “stories about innovative leadership; inclusive approaches to teaching; yoga service organizations; new businesses, spaces, styles, and methods that help make wellness accessible; personal essays on transformation through yoga and new alternative and complementary healing modalities; and more.” They pay $125 to $400 for columns, $1 per word for features (1,500 to 4,000 words), and $200 to $250 for reported stories (400 to 800 words). For more information, refer to their Twitter thread and contributor guidelines.

The Real News Network is an independent, nonprofit news network that is focused on providing uncompromising and fact-based journalism. They are “looking for someone to write a piece on politics, race, and the WNBA.” They will pay $1 per word for about 1,000 words. Email your pitches to lisa@therealnews.com. To learn more, refer to this Tweet. To contact them, refer to this page.

The Order of the Good Death is “a group of funeral industry professionals, academics, and artists exploring ways to prepare a death phobic culture for their inevitable mortality.” The Collective for Radical Death Studies is “an organization formed to decolonize death studies and radicalize death practice.” They are both looking for pitches for a series that will address racism and racial disparities in end of life teaching and practice. They want articles of about 800 to 1,000 words. Their rates will start at $250+. Email your pitches to deathsubmissions@gmail.com. To learn more, refer to this Tweet and this page.

Polygon is a gaming website. They cover games, guides, reviews, entertainment, and more. They are accepting pitches for games reporting, op-eds, and criticism. They are also accepting pitches for features and comics. According to payment reports, they pay an average of $0.22 per word. To learn more, refer to their editor-in-chief and co-founder’s Twitter thread. To learn how to pitch them, refer to this page.

Scalawag is a website and magazine dedicated to the American South. Their editor wants pitches about politics in the South. Their rates for short reported stories start at $400+ and non-reported stories start at $300. Send your pitches to kwebb@scalawagmagazine.org. For details, refer to their editor’s Twitter thread and this page.

EdTech Magazine explores “technology and education issues that IT leaders and educators face when they’re evaluating and implementing a solution for K-12 and Higher Ed.” They are looking for pitches about technology in higher education. They pay $0.50 to $1.00 per word for articles of 800 to 1,200 words. For details, refer to their associate editor’s Tweet. To learn more about them, refer to this page.

Evaluating Your Current Skill Set


While creative writing and freelancing writing are extremely different, there are skills you currently have as a creative writer that you’ll be able to apply to your freelance writing career. But before you transfer these skills, you need to evaluate your current skill set, since different types of creative writers have different skills.

This lesson is broken down into three sections that correspond to the three main types of creative writing: fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. I’ll show you how to assess your current skills and give you some examples to guide you.

At the end of this lesson, you’ll have a list of your current skills, which you’ll be putting to use in the next lesson. Let’s get started!

Fiction

Fiction writers tend to have a fairly large skill set. Conveniently, many of these skills can easily be modified to work for freelance writing.

Let’s take a look at some skills that are common among fiction writers.

Fiction writers tend to excel at descriptive writing: i.e., the ability to colorfully describe something at length and with context. Being able to describe with context is crucial here––as a freelance writer, you’ll rely on lots of context to create content. When you write anything from an article to a product description, you’ll build on a contextual foundation. Who is the audience? What value does the content offer? If you’re coming from fiction, parsing this context will be fairly easy for you.

Empathetic writing is another skill most fiction writers possess. To write successful copy or provide value through an article, you’ll have to put yourself in the reader’s shoes to understand what their needs are so that you can meet them. This is similar to looking through the eyes of one of your characters. The more you understand about your audience, the more value you’ll be able to deliver to them, and that’s where empathy is necessary.

Fiction writers also know how to create longform content. Longform content is huge right now, and in fact, it’s all that some businesses and publications put out. Shorter content is becoming less common because it’s usually less valuable, so knowing how to write long content with no filler is a big advantage that fiction writers have.

Take a moment to consider other skills you’ve picked up from fiction writing. Write them down somewhere handy so you can come back and reference them in the next lesson.

Nonfiction

Nonfiction writers may have the easiest time transitioning into a freelance writing career because those two skill sets have a large amount of overlap. Nonfiction writers are used to writing longform pieces about real-life situations and events, so they’re uniquely positioned to cross over into freelancing.

Nonfiction writers have many of the skills that fiction writers do, but they tend to be stronger at descriptive writing and weaker at empathetic writing. This is because nonfiction writers tend to detail accounts of people and places. (Empathetic writing is still used, but it’s not as common in nonfiction.)

If you write nonfiction, you’re also used to reporting. This can come in handy if you’re pursuing a more journalistic career and planning to contribute to publications. You might have even written for magazines in the past. If so, you’ll be able to take advantage of that as a freelancer.

Nonfiction often requires research, which is a key component of freelancing. Being able to quickly and efficiently conduct research on various topics (some of which you may know little to nothing about) will help you work with a variety of clients and projects.

Last but not least, when you write nonfiction, you’re writing about real people. In business, it’s all about the people. If you want to become a successful freelancer, you’ll have to cultivate relationships with clients and editors, and that means knowing how to build and sustain those sorts of relationships.

Poetry

Poets don’t have many skills in common with freelance writers, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck if you’re a poet! You just need to approach it a little differently. In short, the skills you possess now will need to be reframed, and that’s what next week is all about.

One skill that will help you is your ability to understand relationships. As a freelance writer, you’ll need to understand all kinds of relationships. For example, you’ll need to understand the relationship between a product and a customer. This makes up a large part of content creation, so by successfully reframing this skill, you’ll have a powerful tool on your hands.

Evaluating Your Skills

At this point, I’d like you to write down all of your skills that you’ve picked up from creative writing. There’s a high likelihood that I’ve skipped over some skills that you possess. If that’s the case, write them down so you can refer to them in future lessons.

Once you’ve compiled a list of all your skills, go through the list and ask yourself how each skill might be used in a freelance writing context. If you have an idea of what type of freelance writing you’ll be doing––i.e., writing for clients or publications––keep that in mind here.

And if you don’t know all that much about freelance writing, don’t worry; just go off of what you know and what you’ve learned so far in this course. As you progress through this course and the No B.S. Course afterward, your knowledge gaps will fill out, and you’ll get a better sense of how to use these skills.

In the next lesson, you’ll learn how to transfer your skills over, and in week 2, you’ll be reframing these skills.