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Mrs. Smiley is a self-syndicated columnist.
2/7/05 6:58:33 PM Opening "Chat Log 2/7/05"
HOST WPLC Lyric: While we're waiting to get started, we are Writing to Publish, a critique group that alternates critiques with educational sessions
HOST WPLC Lyric: if anyone has questions about our group, please feel free to IM or email Paul/Hostwplcsushi
HOST WPLC Lyric: Ah our speaker has arrived! Welcome Sarah Smiley. Also known as Teamsmiley 1
Teamsmiley1: Good Evening! I'm sorry I'm late....had to catch the end of Bachelorette...
HOST WPLC Lyric: We'll start in another minute, Sarah
Teamsmiley1: Sounds great. Just let me know when....
HOST WPLC Lyric: everyone please turn off all bold and colored fonts except for the hosts and Sarah Smiley
HOST WPLC Lyric: Sarah, would you please pick a color like RED or BLUE and bold it so we can see you?
Teamsmiley1: How's this?
HOST WPLC Lyric: Perfect Sarah
HOST WPLC Lyric: Welcome, everyone, to Writing to Publish
Rose1533: Hail, Hail, the gang's all here.
HOST WPLC Lyric: from this point on we're in protocol, so please keep conversations to IM <g>
HOST WPLC Lyric: With Shore Duty now in syndication across the country, columnist Sarah Smiley has become one of the nation's leading advocates for military families. Her newspaper column reaches more than 2 million weekly.
Getting her start locally with a military base paper (JaxAirNews) in Jacksonville, Florida and then the daily paper of Pensacola, Florida (Pensacola News Journal), Sarah self-syndicated Shore Duty nationally in October 2003.
It now appears in more than eleven different publications, including three national magazines and seven newspapers. Sarah is a frequent guest speaker at military and literary events.
Sarah's first book will be released by New American Library (a division of The Penguin Group) in October 2005.
She is a regular contributor for several national magazines, including Military Money, Connecting at Home and Military Spouse.
In military and literary circles, Sarah has earned a reputation for her enthusiasm. Her guest speaker appearances have been characterized as engaging, thought-provoking and entertaining.
In less than two years, Sarah is credited with taking a small-town column and independently turning it into a phenomenon.
So without further ado, I'd like to present our guest speaker Sarah Smiley!
HOST WPLC Dee R: Sarah<----welcome to an impressive guest!
HOST WPLC Lyric: Welcome Sarah!!!
Teamsmiley1: Wow, thank you. Well, let's get on with the presentation, so we can get to the fun part... Bear with me as I learn how to do this....
Since you are all authors/writers, I won't bore you with the technical side of writing a column, because really, what separates landing a column from any other writing job is....how you sell it.
So, let's start with, what I call, the two pillars of selling a column: Finding a Niche and Creating a Proposal.
If you read any paper, you know, newspapers don't go to press with blank white space. (But wouldn't that be great for aspiring writers if they did?)
So, when you sell a column, you have to keep this in mind: you are convincing an editor to remove someone else's words and replace them with your own.
Therefore, the selling tactic becomes: Why do the editor's readers want your column? What void does it fill? What need does it serve?
If you can pitch those to an editor, you're that much closer to getting a column. Because the bottom line is, editors buy what readers want.
When I started my column, Shore Duty, I knew there was a shortage of women reading newspapers, and the industry was targeting females with marketing. So what did I do?
I sold the fact that Shore Duty appeals to mostly women, not men, and could attract female readers to the editors' papers.
But I also sold the fact that I had a new angle on women – the military.
And this is the basis of finding a salable niche and angle. It's all about emphasizing what YOU can do for the newspaper.
Because, unfortunately, the bottom line is….business (Let all our artistic jaws drop to the table now).
Once you have a good niche and angle, however, you have to package it all in a knock-out proposal. Here's what I do for all my column proposals:
HOST WPLC Lyric: LOL about artistic jaws!
Teamsmiley1: First, I buy professional, glossy folders with pockets (and no chads, or whatever those things are called). In each folder, I put (1) my bio, (2) my headshot, (3) a synopsis of my column, stats, etc., and, of course, (4) samples and clips. The goal is to make your packet look as professional and complete as those sent out for Dave Barry or any other big columnist.
When I followed-up with the first round of editors, a few of them said, "Who is your syndicate agency?" and I had to laugh, because, because, well, I was my own agency! Apparently the professionalism of my presentation (it's all about presentation!) caught the editors' attention and moved my proposal up in the pile.
And this is ultimately what you want, right? So invest in the proposal packet – it's your first impression!
Next, I'd like to make some comments about the headshot, because I think this is really important.
Remember you want the editor to visualize your column in his paper, and if you look through most newspapers you'll see that nearly all columnists have a headshot next to their work.
This sounds so trivial, I know, but bear with me....
It's the little details that make a big impact...
Readers develop an attachment to columnists, and seeing their face is integral to this process. Large syndicates know this, and that's why they create proposal packets for clients that include a nice, shiny 5x7 photograph.
When you begin approaching editors and sending out your own proposal, your objective is to look as much like “The Big Guys” as possible.
The bottom line is, it's all about presentation and a good sell. And this is where your business mind has to come into play.
I don't always have a great business mind (that's why I married my husband, for crying out loud!), so this has always been a stretch for me.
But if you want to get into a newspaper or magazine, remember that most of them are run by business men and women….not writers. You are selling your idea to business-minded individuals, not your college creative writing teacher.
So making a great proposal relies a lot on taking off your artistic cap (go ahead and cringe, I know) and putting on your salesman one
All of you already know how to write, and I'm sure you are all very talented. But the plight of writers everywhere is, why are so many talented people not getting published?
And I think the answer is….business. It's hard for some of us to make that leap, but its necessary if you want to get syndicated.
And, on that note, I'd be happy to take your questions now. Let's chat…..
Hillwithit: What are the chances of selling a column directly to a syndicate if you haven't first been published in small newspapers, etc.?
Teamsmiley1: Unfortunately, the chances are against you with the big agencies becasue they receive so many proposals
Hillwithit: could you tell us where we find lists of agencies who rep potential columnists?
Teamsmiley1: Syndication agency, I meant.
Hillwithit: right- but where do we find those?
HOST WPLC Lyric: Sarah, are syndication agencies listed in the literary Marketplace?
HOST WPLC Lyric: or is there somewhere else to find such a list, I think that's what Hill is after
Teamsmiley1: I'm not sure if there is a book on them or not (one like the guide to book publishers and editors), but they must be listed somewhere. I'm not sure because I went the self-syndication route.
Teamsmiley1: So maybe I should clarify that.... When you say "syndicate," do you mean individual newspapers? Or a syndication agency who submits your proposals for you?
HOST WPLC Lyric: Hill, you may answer
Hillwithit: yes, please clarify how each works.
Teamsmiley1: For syndication, you have two options. (1) you can go through a large syndication agency, which creates and submits your proposal for you, or, (2) you can do it all yourself, which is what I did. The
difference: an agency will take 50% of everything.
HOST WPLC Lyric: 50%???? wow, and I thought regular lit agents were theives!
Teamsmiley1: But they also have more contacts and money behind them. It's
similar to having a book agent or going it alone.
HOST WPLC Lyric: Sarah, are you done? please type ga so we can post the
Teamsmiley1: Yes, most take 50%. And when you're running a column, you
usually only get paid $10-50 per newspaper, per column. So, unless you have
thousands of newspapers, 50% won't leave you much. ga
G1ft0fgabn0t: You mentioned when you started marketing your column you knew
the industry was targeting females. How did you uncover this 'special
HOST WPLC Dee R: funny gal that gabby, lol
HOST WPLC Lyric: good question, too!
Teamsmiley1: I had seen it on the internet, in a news piece, I think. And I
had already developed a good working relationship with my editor here (at
Pensacola), so I asked her about it and got more of the scoop. The internet
is a great thing for research.
G1ft0fgabn0t: ty :)
TheUsurpKing: Should we have a minimum number of articles ready to go? Is
there a standard number you send in with your presentation?
Teamsmiley1: I usually send 3-4 clips or previously published columns in the propsal. Any more than that and you'll overload the editor.!
HOST WPLC Lyric: if this is your first column, do you send proposed columns too?
HOST WPLC Lyric: how do you format those, if you do?
Teamsmiley1: Yes, definitely. You want to give the editor a feel for what you're proposing. They want to see what kind of relationship you'll develop with the readers.
Teamsmiley1: Do you mean how do I format them as in typsetting? If so, I do it just like any other manuscript -- Courier type, double space, etc.
HOST WPLC Lyric: how many sample columns would you send, or is it the same four?
Teamsmiley1: But for sample columns, I send photographed copies from the actual newspaper.
HOST WPLC Lyric: and yes, is there a format re word count and style I assume is AP?
Teamsmiley1: Ah, yes, AP style, and usually the word count is around 700.
Teamsmiley1: Yes, only send 3-4 columns whether they be previously published or samples.
Lightningbug1957: How long did it take you to get 10 papers and how many proposals do you send at one time?
Teamsmiley1: It took me about 3 months to get the papers I have now. It's a very time consuming process of making follow-up calls, etc. Unfortunately, with the book now, I haven't had as much time to devote to scouting out new papers, but I'd like to get more. This is where a syndication agency is probably helpful because they take the business workload off you so you can write. But my problem is also that I can only sell to newspapers in military communities. So you wan
Teamsmiley1: want a niche, but not such a tight niche that you narrow your market.
HOST WPLC Sushi: I ran a quick web search. Several outfits claim to list syndication agencies, however all of them want money. g/a ?
HOST WPLC Lyric: what do you mean, Paul? they sell a list of syndication agencies, or ARE syndication agencies
HOST WPLC Sushi: They will hook you up, after you pay them. did not search that much detail, sorry
Teamsmiley1: I don't think I'd pay money for that. Instead, look at other columnists who are run by syndication agencies (Dave Barry, etc.). They shoud list who their agency is....
Teamsmiley1: Look in the commentary section of your local paper. Most of those columnist have a byline that reads "so and so can be reached through ...." and bingo, there's the agency! Then you can do a search on the internet from there.
HOST WPLC Lyric: great tip, Sarah
Lightningbug1957: There are books on becoming syndicated. They list the agencies. They are helpful if you're serious about it. They give you a contract you can use, for instance.
Teamsmiley1: Yes, good point, Lightningbug.
HOST WPLC Sushi: I've written a monthly column for a dozen years, but for no money. (It's a nonprofit) Is it worth it for the byline?
HOST WPLC Lyric: Sarah, perhaps you can help some of our more shy members
HOST WPLC Lyric: we have several people here who write several columns for newspapers, some nonprofit, some local penny savers, and all for no pay
HOST WPLC Lyric: is their byline worth the time and effort?
HOST WPLC Lyric: and how do they make the transition from non paid to paid author
Teamsmiley1: Any exposure is good, I think. That is how the first paper found me...I was writing not-for-profit for a local newsletter. My best tip is to expose your writing any place you can. You never know who will read it. I thought having a website might not be worth it, but that is how my book agent found me. So you just never know who might stumble across your work if you just keep getting more and more exposure.?
Teamsmiley1: I'm not sure how to transition to getting paid, except that your clips from the not-for-profit will be great for a proposal to a large newspaper for money!
HOST WPLC Lyric: your agent really found YOU in a website? wow, that's almost like getting discovered at the drug store soda fountain!
HOST WPLC Sushi: yeah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
HOST WPLC Lyric: we always wonder if the myth can come true for us, too
HOST WPLC Dee R: What are the elements of writing a good column? and how do you keep the pace up each week/monthly? GA
Teamsmiley1: Yes, he emailed me, and I thought it was a scam at first because I was in the process of trying to find an agent....and getting rejected left and right. So this guy emails me and I thought, "It can't be this easy!" But that's the power of exposure. And it's motivation to do your best at ALL your writing because you never know who is reading it.
HOST WPLC Dee R: What are the elements of writing a good column? and how do you keep the pace up each week/monthly? GA
Teamsmiley1: I think developing a relationship with the readers is key, Donna. Readers like to feel like they know me and my family.
Teamsmiley1: When we see people out in town, they say, "This must be little Ford and Owen we read so much about!" And that seems to click for them. It's like I'm a friendly stranger at their kitchen table each week.
Teamsmiley1: Keeping up the pace is sometimes difficult, especially when you have other projects (and children!). I used to write ahead of myself and have 2-3 weeks worth of columns ready, but while I was writing the book, I was lucky to meet my
deadline each Monday. And, of course, that's when writer's block sets in.
Rose1533: What did you have on your website? Did you already have the idea of your book? Was that there?
Teamsmiley1: You can view my website at www.SarahSmiley.com. I had a few sample columns and contact information. I didn't have the book idea on there.
Rose1533: Just wondering if I were to get a web page, what would be helpful since I'm writing a book
Teamsmiley1: Exposure has been my greatest asset in this process. I can't stress that enough.
HOST WPLC Dee R: Do you think the internet bloggers today are the new columnists of tomorrow? ga
Teamsmiley1: Think of a website as your virtual business card. Put on it everything you'd like editors and publishers to see.
Teamsmiley1: About internet bloggers: I doubt it. I don't think people will ever give up their morning cup of coffee with the daily newspaper in their hand. The same way hard copy books will always be around.
HOST WPLC Dee R: lol
RLMorgan51: In the last 9.5 years I have written > 400 articles for a community newspaper..no money ..But I was able to really hone my writing ability. I write informative items as well as editorials/viewpoints GA
HOST WPLC Lyric: morgan is there a question in there? (that's great btw)
RLMorgan51: only that you need to take any opportunity that comes along to get published
Teamsmiley1: Never underestimate the power of honing your skills!
Dhewco: My publisher is so strapped for cash that his printings are getting irregular. Is this still a viable by-line? Can I still use it to promote myself as a writer? Ga
HOST WPLC Lyric: good question, David, we may all face that hurdle!
Teamsmiley1: Sure. Anything you have in print is proof of your skill...whether the publisher goes under or not. Just make sure you save all your clips.
Trina Pink: About internet bloggers: I doubt it. I don't think people will ever give up their morning cup of coffee with the daily newspaper in their hand. LOL. I've gotten into the habit of having my "morning coffee" at the computer while... ...I read e-mail and blogs.
HOST WPLC Lyric: just so you know, Sarah, Katrina is a great blogger herself! <G>
Trina Pink: (Well, a compulsive blogger anyway)
HOST WPLC Lyric: we have to determine, Katrina, is it true interest or just blog envy?
HOST WPLC Dee R: with a devoted following, too
HOST WPLC Lyric: <G>
Teamsmiley1: You have a good point, Katrina.
HOST WPLC Lyric: sorry, couldn't help that, forgive me please
Trina Pink: ROFL!!!! Blog envy. comment envy. No question.
Teamsmiley1: Come to think of it, I too have my morning Diet Coke at the computer. But I still want to hold the news in my hand at some point in the day.
HOST WPLC Lyric: Sarah, what would you suggest to someone who wanted to get started with a column who has never submitted before?
HOST WPLC Lyric: should they contact an editor by phone, or only by mail?
and is email acceptable? besides the folder presentation btw
Teamsmiley1: Only by mail. Emails get lost in the shuffle, plus, editors will want to pass around your materials through the newsroom if they like it. Phone calls are risky because you might catch at busy editor at the wrong time, and then they'll be annoyed with you.
HOST WPLC Lyric: I want to thank Sarah for coming tonight! it was a wonderful presentation!
HOST WPLC Lyric: Military Spouse and Columnist Sarah Smiley will release her first book GOING OVERBOARD (published by New American Library, a division of Penguin) in October 2005.
HOST WPLC Dee R: congrats, Sarah...
HOST WPLC Lyric: and her website is Supporting the Troops at Home - Military Wife, Columnist Sarah Smiley's Support Site
HOST WPLC Dee R: and thanks for a great presentation
Trina Pink: Whoo-hoo!
G1ft0fgabn0t: Congratulations and thanks for a wonderful session :)
Lightningbug1957: Excellent! Thanks for coming
Teamsmiley1: Thank you all. This is a great group you have here. Keep writing and submitting, and if you ever want to post anything on my site, I'd be glad to take a look at it. I'm always looking for contributors.
TheUsurpKing: Yes, thank you!
HOST WPLC Sushi: Before we go, let's welcome Becki/Beccastrat as our newest full W2P member
HOST WPLC Dee R: Welcome Becky to the group...
Lightningbug1957: What are you looking for?
HOST WPLC Sushi: a link would be great!
HOST WPLC Lyric: And remember to look for Sarah in Military Money, Connecting at Home and Military Spouse.
Rose1533: Welcome Becki
G1ft0fgabn0t: ~*~.~*~.~*~.~*~.~*~.Welcome, Becki .~*~.~*~.~*~.~*~.~*~.
HOST WPLC Sushi: and we can link back to you! Google likes that. :-)
Lightningbug1957: Welcome, Becki!
HOST WPLC Lyric: Welcome Becky!!!
Trina Pink: Welcome, Becki!
G1ft0fgabn0t: Hey, Ben, you've got some major horse power back there <G>
Beccastrat: Thanks everyone! :-)
TheUsurpKing: < ex Navy, current National Guard.
HOST WPLC Lyric: and again APPLAUSE for Sarah <><><><><><><><><>
HOST WPLC Dee R: Sarah...that was an excellent session...
HOST WPLC Dee R: thanks again
Rose1533: <---military spouse (retired)
HOST WPLC Lyric: Okay, guys, remember, Paul is up next. This is your time to roast the host! Get your critiques in pronto.
RLMorgan51: Morgan gives Beck/Beccastrat a standing ovation. CLAP CLAP CLAP:-)
HOST WPLC Lyric: Goodnight everyone!
Trina Pink: LOL, Lyric
Beccastrat: LOL Thanks Morgan!
Teamsmiley1: Thank you again. Rose, another military spouse! Saluting to you. Good night.
G1ft0fgabn0t: G'nite, y'all. Catch you on the flip-side!
Rose1533: <---glad to be back, too!!!!:-D
HOST WPLC Dee R: night all! take care
HOST WPLC Dee R: have a good writing week
2/7/05 8:04:49 PM Closing "Chat Log 2/7/05"
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