The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Selling Short Nonfiction



          On Saturday I went to the AWN (All Write Now) conference. The first session I went to was with Sue Bradford Edwards. In a session that was an hour or so long, she shared lots of information. Here are some of the points/advice she shared:


  • When an editor asks, "Can you do this?" (such as "Can you write an article about camel poop?") you say "Yes. Definitely." And then you rush around doing research...
  • Once you set your sights on a magazine to write for, read the last 6 months' to a year's worth, so you aren't pitching something they published a few months ago.
  • Sue's first draft is full of notes to herself in all-caps. (For example:  LOOK UP THE DATE WHEN KOKO THE GORILLA WAS BORN.) This way, your writing is not slowed down and also, you won't forget that a key detail needs to be inserted there.
  • Sue does expert interviews to verify information, and she's never had anyone turn her down when she tells them she's writing an article for children.
  • Make your information kid-friendly. Sue once did an article on horses (or was it the poop on poop?) and she discovered that a horse produces so many cubic yards of manure every week. Well, what does a cubic yard mean to a kid? Nothing, so Sue found out how much poop fits into a typical backpack and put it in those terms. Now that's something a child can understand:  A horse produces 25 backpacks of manure every week (or however many they can fill up).
  • Make sure the slant is appropriate for the age level. One of Sue's friends wrote a piece about Jimi Hendrix... for eight-year olds. Is this the audience that needs to hear of his drug use? His overdose? This writer wrote about Hendrix's early years--when Jimi was a kid, he painted and drew. The author connected his artistry during his childhood with how he later painted with music. 
  • Hook the reader with a great beginning. If you can find an oddball fact that contradicts what most people think they know about a subject, the reader cannot resist reading more.
  • Magazine editors want their readers to continue to think about the subject even after they've finished reading the article. Make sure the ending is well-crafted.
  • Research a magazine before you query them. 

        ---Who's the audience?
        ---What's the tone? Academic? Casual?
        ---Make a log of the articles they've published in the last year. If 
            the authors' names appear on the magazine's masthead or
            if they're editors, that's not the sort of thing you can pitch.

        It was a great conference. Many of the St. Louis writers impressed the agents and the editors. Donna Volkenannt--they want to see her whole manuscript. Pat Wahler--they want to see hers. Kathy Cureton (Val)--they want her proposal (she's working on a nonfiction book). And moi? One editor wanted to see my manuscript. Another wanted to see 50 pages.

         Stay cool, and keep your keyboard running hot with regular drafting and submissions. 



      

27 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting about the short nonfiction session. With so many good ones I wasn't able to attend that one, so I appreciate being able to read the notes. Sue's points make a lot of sense. It was great to see you and Val (Kathy) and so many others on Saturday. It was also wonderful that so many of us had good experiences with agents and editors.
    Now, it's time to keep those fingers flying across our keyboards.

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    1. Donna--Congratulations on getting such serious attention. I can't wait for your novel to be published. (It was great to see you as well.)

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  2. I love the idea about using a backpack to measure cubic yards of poop--clever. Sue always has great ideas. It sounds like a great conference. Congratulations on your manuscript getting the interest of two editors, Sioux! Fingers crossed for you.

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    1. Angela--Thanks. I've got my fingers crossed... and my eyes, and my toes, and... well, you get the picture.

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  3. So glad you posted your notes. I wanted to go to that workshop, but it conflicted with another choice. Such fun, and congrats on having the best elevator pitch! :-)

    Pat
    Critter Alley

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    1. Pat--It was hard making a choice. It WAS fun (and thanks).

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  4. Well done, Madam, on the pitch AND the manuscript/pages requests! You only have about 362 days until next year's conference. Time to get started on a sequel or a stand-alone!

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    1. Val--I think I will be continuing to refine what I pitched on Saturday, but we'll see...

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  5. Sounds like some excellent tips!

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    1. Mama Zen--Sue DID deliver some great advice.

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  6. Yay for you, Sioux. Can't wait for your pitch that had the place laughing.

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    1. Linda--Thanks. I'm just hoping that in the midst of the laughter, that there's some serious interest.

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  8. Thanks for the tips. I wanted to go, too, but couldn't. Appreciate you sharing this so I can live vicariously!

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    1. Mary--You're welcome. It was my first time at the conference, but I imagine that if I'm free, I'll go next year.

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  9. That is excellent news Sioux! Wishing you all the best! And, great post with lovely pieces of wisdom for all us aspiring writers! Thank you for all of these things! :)

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    1. Rohin--You know how it is--we writers have to share and support each other. It's the only way we can thrive.

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  10. That is TERRIFIC news about the manuscript, Sioux! And for Donna and Pat and Val, too...wow!And great tips from Sue--she always has wonderful writing insights and advice.

    (I got the book, by the way--it's a good 'un. Sent you an email; hope it made it to your inbox!)

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    1. Cathy--We'll see. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

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  11. Thanks for sharing these tips! It was really interesting. I was thinking how a lot of those tips could apply to other aspects of my life.

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    1. Pat--You're welcome. But it's only fair, since you're always bringing your followers along on the trips you take.

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  12. Great advice, all. AND Congrats to you and your pals on the requests. I hope you're excited! Good luck!

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    1. Lisa--Thanks. I need the good luck.

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  13. Great stuff to know! It applies to adults and children. I'm copying this blog post to a folder I keep for tips. And congrats on the impression you made, and to all the other friends who did so well! Also, thx for serving as a volunteer at the registration table.

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    1. Marcia--That's a great idea--copying things you find to a folder. Have you heard of livebinder.com? You can create a digital binder (free) and is easy to use. (I can even do it.) Creating tabs and sub tabs makes things easy to find.

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  14. Sioux,
    Thank you for the shout out! It was awesome to have your friendly face in the audience!
    --SueBE

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    1. Sue--Thank YOU for being a presenter. It was a great presentation and a wonderful conference.

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