We’re always striving to offer super-actionable and hands-on advice here at Horkey Handbook.
We want freelance writers to succeed, because we know how confusing this journey can be when you’re just starting out.
With that in mind, we’ve launched a new series on the blog. It’s called How I Got Published On, and it will offer practical advice from writers who were published on major websites.
This week’s post comes from Audra Rogers. Audra’s first guest post for Horkey Handbook (over a year ago!) was a hit, and she has achieved so much in her writing career since then.
One of the best things that I gained from taking Gina’s 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success course was the confidence it gave me to pursue prominent publications. Writers often struggle with this, and it’s no wonder with all of the rejection that comes naturally to the freelancing world.
I loved participating in several of the pitching challenges in Gina’s Facebook group that were put in place for us to motivate each other as a group to consistently pitch all month.
I knew I would never win for the highest number of pitches, but I still participated.
My writing niche is parenting and family, and there are tons of publications that publish this type of content. But I am very meticulous when it comes to pitching, so my pitches are low in number, but high in quality.
My techniques take extra time, but it has paid off for me in droves. Within just a few months of taking Gina’s course, I got published on The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, BlogHer, and my all-time favorite home, Disney’s parenting site Babble.
I thoroughly research a site before I send a pitch because I want to be sure the publication accepts content that is the most like my writing style and is a good fit for me as a person. I love that Babble has a little edge, but offers something of value in every post.
I write with sarcasm, wit and humor but I also want to send a positive message and offer hope, a laugh or two or a solution to an issue I had experience with. I want it to have a purpose. I don’t want to write a click-bait kind of headline and fill it with fluff. What I’m aiming for, instead, is not shock value but real value.
I knew Babble would be a perfect fit for me so I never gave up. I pitched them six times with ideas before I got an acceptance.
I didn’t hear back until I had a pitch that was accepted, and it was accepted the day after I sent it.
Here’s what helped me get published on Babble:
1. I studied the content.
I lovingly deep-stalked the articles that were already published and asked myself if most of the posts align with my kind of style of writing so I’m a good fit.
Had my idea already been done?
If so, how can I offer a unique perspective or turn an idea on its head so people can potentially think of it in a different way?
2. I took note of what readers are saying.
I follow every publication I want to write for on Facebook and I read comment threads on stories that are within my realm of experience.
It pays to read them, even the nasty ones – mean comments come from a pain point of some kind.
Sometimes you come across a unique idea or perspective on a parenting issue that makes you stop and think, and that’s the good stuff. You can also easily see how well a post is doing by likes and shares and know what makes their readership tick.
3. I had a compelling idea.
I know people get tired of hearing that, but it’s true. What is a unique, compelling idea? Sometimes editors can’t spell out exactly how to answer that.
I think it’s a situation where it’s hard for the editors to describe what they want, but they know it when they see it.
We all have unique lives and experiences. I draw from that instead of copying what everyone else is doing because I love to do things that are my own. I had an idea for a post describing what I did to remedy a materialism and gratitude situation with my older child. I took action and later decided to write about the experience.
My first accepted post with Babble was “What Happened When I Took My Spoiled Kid to a Homeless Shelter”. To optimize its impact, it was scheduled to run close to the Thanksgiving holiday and it did really well, getting syndicated by The Good Men Project and Yahoo.
4. I followed directions.
My pitch was a lot longer than something I would normally send, but it was long because I followed the submission guidelines listed on the website.
They state to list out the writing category, title, summary, first paragraph, an outline of the points you’ll make and a conclusion or takeaway. That’s a lot of work. But I really wanted it, so I took the time to sit down and do all of it. I also checked it over carefully before sending. I heard back from them the next day, and I swear I heard angels singing when I got my acceptance.
(Gina’s Tip: Audra’s a super-awesome team-player, so she agreed to share her pitch to Babble in its entirety.)
My Best Pitching Advice
If I could change anything about the way I sent pitches overall in the beginning versus now, I think I would do the following:
- I would hold off on selling myself and my credentials until the end of the pitch. Editors have tons of submissions to go through, and I format mine so they’re as easy to read as possible with shorter sentences and brevity without leaving important points out.
- I would start the pitch by specifically stating what my content would bring to the publication first. That’s because even though editors might care about writers, their job isn’t to further your writing career, but to curate great content for their site. That’s what perks them up – how will this piece benefit the publication?
- And something I’ve always done that I highly recommend: always, always, always be professional and courteous in a follow-up, no matter what. Remember that tone can be hard to decipher in an email. It can be frustrating to wait in this business, but editors are your friends.
My relationship with Babble has been a huge benefit. I am often contacted by brands that have seen my writing on Babble, and I had the amazing opportunity of covering an event at the White House on Babble’s behalf in March 2016. I would have never been able to swing that on my own and it was an incredible opportunity to be invited.
I’ve worked with the same editor since my first acceptance and it has been a great experience.
I didn’t just skip off into the sunset; I still have to work hard to put out great content and some of my ideas are still rejected in the process. But I love collaborating on ideas that offer hope and “me too” solutions to parents and families. I really value my working relationship with Disney and I’ve found a great home at Babble.
How about you? Have you pitched Babble?
Audra Rogers is a lost-then-found mother of two passionate about parenting, new experiences and chasing long lost dreams.She likes to cut through the fluff because honesty and transparency truly help people. In addition to Babble, her work can be found on The Huffington Post, TravelingMom, Scary Mommy and her cozy little home on the internet: Real Honest Mom