Writers and bloggers frequently ask me how and where to publish their personal essays. I am always extremely flattered they reached out to me and always eager to share what I know. So much of what I’ve learned over the years is from generous souls who gladly shared information so that others could get ahead. I am eternally grateful to them and love giving back whenever I can. (Not only is it good karma, it feels good too.)
I also learned by watching what my fellow writers were doing: Where they published their writing, how they crafted their pieces and how they promoted their work was like a crash course in freelance writing and marketing. (I call it lovingly stalking. I suggest you do the same.) And by scouring the internet for whatever information I could find.
To be a successful writer you need to be passionate, curious, disciplined and perseverant. And you need to write. You might not feel the muse every day, but you need get your butt in the chair and write anyway. Sometimes this is a struggle because life happens so it’s important to try to carve out time to write every single day, even if somedays it’s just your grocery list. Mark your calendar, block out time, and guard it like your secret stash of Reese’s.
Doing your homework:
Great writers are great readers. Read a variety of pieces in the publications you’d like to write for. Get a feel for their particular voice and content. Search to see if your idea or subject has been written about recently. If so, can you approach with a different angle? Editors like to see that you’ve done your homework. And make sure to follow the submission guidelines for your desired publication.
Pitching your personal essays:
Consider this a writing sample and make it flawless as can be. If you are sending an already completed essay, include a sentence or two telling what the piece is about and place the essay in the body of the email not in an attachment. If you are pitching an idea, in a few short paragraphs explain what you’re writing and why you’re the person to write it. Always include a short bio with a few links to some of your best pieces. (Even better if those pieces have the same voice or content as the publication.)
Include a clever headline in the subject line of your email that will grab the editor’s attention. If you’re writing about a current news event, write “Timely” in your email subject line, as well. Pitch the editor directly if you can (sometimes their email address is listed in their Twitter or LinkedIn bios or on the publication website) and always thank them for their time and consideration.
Following up and handling rejection:
Follow up with the editor two weeks after submitting your piece, unless the submissions guidelines tells you it might take longer. Not every editor will get back to you, so if you don’t hear back after another week or two, find a new home for your word babies. Try not to take rejection to heart. Even the most famous writers have been rejected, we only see their shiny accepted pieces in print or online. So no matter what, don’t give up.
Finding your tribe:
Writing can be a lonely profession so it’s important to find your tribe. Look in your local community or even on Facebook where there is a plethora of writing groups for all kinds of writers. One of the highlights of writing has been the friendships and support that come from these communities.
Resources for writers:
Here is a list of some of the most popular publications for personal and reported essays, podcasts, book recommendations and websites to get you on your way. Happy writing!
Parenting, health and mental health:
The Washington Post, On Parenting
The New York Times, Well Family
The Boston Globe
Relationships, grief, women-focused, politics
The Washington Post, Solo-ish
The New York Times, Modern Love
The Los Angeles Times, L.A. Affairs
The Good Men Project
New York Magazine, The Cut
Writing advice, courses, publishing information & job listings:
Books: (I am an Amazon Affiliate and receive a small compensation from purchases made through the links in this post.)
Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
On Writing Well by William Zinsser
Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg
Writer’s Market 2018
The Byline Bible by Susan Shapiro