In my opinion, one of the smartest things writers can do is specialize — to find a niche in one or two areas they’re passionate about and hope to write about regularly. Not only does it keep work interesting, but editors often prefer to hire those who have deep knowledge of certain subjects. And we know what that means — $$$.
Along those lines, freelance writer Wendee Holtcamp has penned a guest post for Write Around It All on writing for green magazines. Wendee started out with a degree in wildlife ecology and turned it into a writing career after her kids were born 15 years ago. She’s published in Audubon, Sierra, National Wildlife, Smithsonian, Scientific American and other magazines and also for Discovery Channel and Animal Planet online.
On with the tips! Thanks, Wendee!
1. To come up with ideas for articles, get outside! Hike. Explore. Travel. Photograph. Bird-watch. People-watch. Meet folks involved in grass-roots conservation as well as biologists working on research in your area. Keep up with local conservation efforts and current research in the news, so you can take some of these local stories and pitch them to a broader national audience.
2. An editor at OnEarth magazine, said, “I don’t regard environmentalism as some arcane, specialized field where you have to have a PhD to get in. If you’re a good stylist, or an enterprising investigative reporter, or have a strong sense of social justice, or whatever, there are a million environmental stories to which those skills can be applied.”
3. To improve your chances of breaking into a magazine, understand their audience. Read several back issues. Sit down with a single magazine and go over it with a fine-tooth comb. How long are the articles? What percentage of the articles get written by contributing editors/writers on the masthead, by editors themselves, or by freelance writers? What types of advertisers are there? What catchy titles do they use on the cover?
4. Here’s a great tip from an editor at High Country News. “I’d like to see more essays about finding nature and its rewards in unexpected places – – strip malls, hospitals, graveyards, who knows.” Although this is specific to this magazine, it’s great advice. Think unconventionally.
5. As with any magazine or online publication, the best way to break in is persistence and understanding their market. Search the publication’s archives to see what similar stories they have done, and also look at similar, competing publications. Having similar stories to your idea does not kill the idea, but you have to be able to explain how yours differs, and why you are the right writer to do the job, so they don’t dismiss that particular idea out of hand.
6. Take a “green writing” class in order to understand green markets, improve observation skills, and practice writing a query. I teach a 6-week online green writing class that meets writers where they’re at – whether an aspiring writer or a veteran wanting to write about “green” topics, including environment, animals, health, science and travel. For more information, visit http://www.wendeeholtcamp.com/nature.htm or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow me on twitter — @bohemianone.