Writing articles as an expert in your niche or specialty can help you become more credible as well as more visible. A well-written article on a subject of interest to your target market will get their attention, demonstrate your expertise, and increase your name recognition.
The first step in getting an expert article published is to identify some appropriate writing venues. What do the people in your target market read? Consider newsletters, ezines, web sites, magazines, trade journals, and newspapers. Ask your clients and prospects what online and print publications they subscribe to or regularly buy. Notice which periodicals are lying on their desks or coffee tables and poking out of their briefcases. Find out what web sites they frequently surf.
You can also look up publications by subject in directories of writing markets, such as those published in print, online, and CD versions by http://www.writersmarket.com or http://www.writersmarkets.com . To find online venues, just type your specialty and the word “articles” into your favorite search engine.
If you are new to getting your writing published, start with small publications that don’t require writing experience. Association newsletters are an excellent first target. Other possibilities are the many web sites that publish educational articles to attract traffic; employee newsletters for companies you would like as clients; newsletters, ezines, or web sites produced by your referral partners; neighborhood newspapers; and advertising periodicals that list items for sale, job openings, or workshops and events.
When you have a venue in mind, don’t just write an article and submit it. Most print publications and many online ones want you to query them first. Look for the submission guidelines posted on the publication’s web site, or listed in a box near the table of contents, inside the front cover, or for newspapers, in the editorial section. If you’re not sure, call the appropriate editor (usually listed in one of the same places) and ask.
Some publications accept queries by phone and others want them in writing. If you contact the editor by phone, be prepared to pitch your article idea on the spot. Tell them your proposed topic, why it is of interest to their readers, and why you should be the one who writes it. If you’re convincing enough, a small publication might give you the assignment right there. A larger one will probably ask you to send a query letter and include some clips of your writing.
When a publication requests queries, don’t try to skip the query step by sending a completed article in the hope that it will get printed. Most editors won’t even look at it, and you will have wasted a great deal of time. Only if the publication clearly states they accept completed or previously published articles should you send the article instead of a query.
A query letter should begin with a strong lead paragraph, written just as if it were the opening paragraph of the actual article. You want it to capture the editor’s interest, introduce your topic, and show that you can write. Continue the letter by describing two or three key points you intend for your article to make.
Then propose the article itself: “I would like to write a 1500-word article on the benefits to employers of integrated disability management programs. I plan to interview three employers who have experienced significant cost reductions…”
Conclude your letter with a brief description of your background that indicates why you are qualified to write the article. If you have previously been published, include two sample articles with your letter, or links to them when e-mailing. Be sure to send a self-addressed stamped envelope if you are querying by mail. E-mail submissions have become much more common, but don’t use this method unless you know it is acceptable.
The elapsed time it takes editors to respond to a query varies widely. Unless you have been told otherwise, follow up after 30 days if you haven’t heard anything. This is particularly important with a publication that only accepts newly-written articles, because you shouldn’t send the same query to another editor until you are sure the first one doesn’t want it.
Once you successfully place a number of articles, consider finding a venue for an ongoing column. Landing a regular column in a publication respected by your target market is a major milestone in establishing your expertise, and can significantly boost your name recognition.