SPAWNews Newsletter – June 2012


For contributions to the newsletter and Letters to the Editor, please email the editor of SPAWNews:

Those of you who are SPAWN members, be sure to visit the Members Only Area to read this month’s Market Update. Go to and click Log In. You will be asked for your username and password. If you are not a member, join now online:

From the President

Welcome to all the new members and subscribers who have discovered SPAWN this month!

June is one of my favorite months because it’s finally warming up and I get to transfer my tender little seedlings from my-seed starting trays out into my garden. Part of me always feels a little bad forcing my tender baby plants out into the cruel world of cold, slugs, and nefarious insects, but it has to happen if I ever want to have any veggies.

If you ever want to be published, you need to do the same thing with your writing at some point. You have to put it out there for others to see. But like my cold, slug-infested garden, the publishing world may include some unpleasantries. (Insensitive editors, comment trolls, and flame mail are a few that come to mind.) And yet it’s part of the process if you want to grow as a writer and enjoy the fruits of your labors one day.

Susan Daffron (
President & Webmaster, Small Publishers Artists and Writers Network (SPAWN)
President, Logical Expressions, Inc.

Editor’s Note

Writing for magazines—why do it?

  • It’s an interesting way to make a little (or a lot of) extra money.
  • You can write on a number of different topics.
  • If you retain the rights after the article is published, you can sell reprints—same article, more money.
  • Same idea, different slant = another paycheck.
  • Once an editor knows you’re reliable, they’ll assign more articles.
  • After you’ve written assigned articles, the editors will be more open to your idea pitches.
  • You’ll be seen as an expert with a following, giving you a selling point to a publisher when you write that book that’s been on your to-do list for how long now? 
  • Articles are shorter, which means you can do more of them and increase your income.

How do you find magazines to write for? What do you write? Where do you get ideas for articles? What about the old “read-six-months-of-issues-before-submitting” rule?

Go to the library, check out the bookstore, wander around the newsstand—all good places to find magazines. Search online. See what’s been written and think of another slant. Check out the editorial calendar and submissions guidelines. Be familiar enough with the magazine that you don’t waste your time and the editor’s by pitching an idea that’s not something the magazine covers.

Ideas are everywhere—learn to eavesdrop while in the grocery line, stand near the registers to see what people are buying (don’t look suspicious), be inspired by a story in the news or gossip from a friend. Listen to what kids are saying.

When you make your pitch, don’t worry so much about not having clips, but do include reasons why you should be the one to write this article. Life experience counts, too.

Each year a number of magazines fold—even the old standbys. Each year more people have the courage to start a new magazine.

Whether you write to spread a special message, for the enjoyment of writing, to see your name in print, or because it’s your job and you love your job, there will be a magazine you’re just right for. All you have to do to find it is focus.

 — Sandy, Editor, SPAWNews,

SPAWN Market Update

by Patricia Fry

The June edition of the SPAWN Market Update, in the member area of the SPAWN website (use your username and password to access this newsletter), is loaded with opportunities for all members. Do you want to get on Oprah’s show? Are you looking for a book reviewer? Are you seeking writing markets, publishers, an agent, a job and/or book promotion ideas? Would you like access to some amazing resources? You must spend some time with this month’s Market Update. As a bonus, learn how to throw a successful book launch party and how to sell more books this month.

Tea Party

By Patricia Fry

Ojai, California (where SPAWN is headquartered), is hosting the 2nd annual Ojai Writers Conference during the month of June 2012.

As part of this month-long event, organizers are presenting the Ojai Book Tea on Saturday, June 23, 10:00 to 11:30 at The Well, 214 W. Aliso St., Ojai, California, for writers and book lovers. The cost is $30 per person, with the proceeds going to the Ojai Library. If you want to be assured a seat at the Book Tea, you can sign up here: eq2.  

SPAWN is sponsoring two tables at the Book Tea. Twelve SPAWN board members and members-at-large (both new and long-time) will be seated at the SPAWN tables. The Ojai Library benefits by $500.

The keynote speaker for the Book Tea is screenwriter, actor, artist, and musician Peter Bellwood, who will speak on “What’s Your Passion and How Do You Get it on the Page?”

As a bonus, for a $20 fee you can reserve space for lunch following the tea. SPAWN’s Patricia Fry is the keynote speaker for the luncheon this year. Fry will speak on “The ABC’s of Self-Publishing.”She will also teach a workshop later in the day on the psychology of a book proposal.

If you are one of the twenty-two SPAWN members living in and around the Ojai Valley, be sure to check out the conference—you may want to sign up for one of the day-long workshops being presented all month long or the writers conference being held on the afternoon of June 23.

Don’t Miss Out on this Amazing FREE SPAWN Member Benefit

Are you aware that we have twenty-two workshops for writers and authors packaged neatly for your use in the member area of the SPAWN website?

Would you like to attend a free seminar with former book publicist Sandra Beckwith and learn how to get more media attention for your book?

Do you want to sell more books? Brian Jud, author of Beyond the Bookstore, spends an hour explaining how.

Is money an issue? Hope Clark of “Funds for Writers” talks about how to make more money through your writing.

Are you interested in self-publishing a book? Do you fear the pitfalls? You MUST listen to what self-publishing expert Mark Levine has to say about this industry and how to safely navigate it.

Do you suffer from writer’s block? Are you struggling to create a spectacular book cover? Do you want to quit your job and write full-time? Do you need book marketing help? Let professionals such as Robert Bly, Penny Sansevieri, Hobie Hobart, and Peter Bowerman into the privacy of your home to talk to you about these issues.

If you’re a member of SPAWN, do yourself a favor and use the benefits we provide for you. Read the meaty SPAWN “Market Update”each and every month, and be sure to check out some of the twenty-two valuable workshops we have ready for you to download from our website. Note: This is a member benefit. The audio recordings are in the member area of the SPAWN website. Go to and click on “Member Log In.” You’ll be asked for your User Name and Password. Click on “Audio Recordings” and choose those you wish to download.

If you’re not a member of SPAWN and would like to enjoy this and other benefits, join now. Go to and click on Join/Renew. Fill out the membership form and use your credit card to pay the $65/year membership fee or send us a check to the address indicated.

Ask the Book Doctor:

About Ghostwriters and Patience

By Bobbie Christmas

Q: I am a first-time writer. I have great ideas, great storylines, and strong endings. My problem is dialogue. Is it possible to get good ghostwriters from countries such as India, since they are much cheaper than U.S. ghostwriters? If so, where do I begin looking?

A: Writers in India do charge less, but you’re not going to like my answer. If you want to write for an American audience, hiring someone for whom English is a second language is probably not going to result in believable, convincing dialogue. In addition, most ghostwriters write nonfiction, not fiction, because fiction is a literary art, and artists do their own work, which is what makes them artists.

If you want to write good fiction, learn to write good dialogue. Like anything else you want to conquer, it takes time, study, and practice, but if you have good story ideas, you, and only you, can create the characters and dialogue that fulfill your vision.

Read a book on how to write good dialogue. Listen in on conversations. Pay attention to how people talk. Read books that have good dialogue in them and see how other popular authors handle dialogue. Don’t hold yourself back as a writer by refusing to learn how to write good dialogue.

After you have given it your best effort, a good editor can point out any weaknesses in the dialogue, so you will know which parts to improve even more.

Last of all, know this fact: good contemporary fiction is seventy percent dialogue. Do you really want a ghostwriter to produce seventy percent of your book? I don’t think so.

If after all this advice you are still determined to find someone in India to write your book for you, you can use almost any search engine and type in words such as “ghostwriter” and “India,” and see what you can find. You can also look for international freelance writers associations; you’ll almost always find writers based in India.

Q: I had been sending manuscripts out for eons, only to have them fly back so quickly it felt as if no one could have even looked at them. Finally, after some correspondence with you, I learned to format my manuscript using Courier as the font. What a dummy I’ve been!

My first submission in Courier was to an editor at the children’s division at [a major, top-notch publisher] and it was liked well enough for them to assign me an editor who sent a five-page letter of recommendation, the first sixty pages of my manuscript partially edited, and follow-up e-mails with encouragement, along with a “Let’s see what you can do.”

Finally, right around the time I was finishing up my rewrite, an e-mail came wondering if I might be getting close and asking if I needed her to look at it. I sent in the completed rewrite shortly afterward. She wrote that she wouldn’t be able to get back to me for at least three months. In the meantime, I’m losing my mind.

Should I be using this time to try to get an agent? Can I nudge the editors? Ask questions? Submit other writing to them? How long does this decision process take? What are they doing with my book? What is the process?

A: Here are my suggestions:

The best time to find an agent is after you have received an offer. At that time, you have the best bargaining position to find the best agent for you and for your book. If you receive an offer by phone, thank the publisher, say you are considering it, and that you will get back to them. If you receive an offer by e-mail, do the same. The purpose of an agent is to negotiate a better deal and scrutinize the contract to ensure it is in your best interest. If the offer is within the range of the amount and conditions you want, you may not need an agent.

I would not nudge the editors. They will take the time they need to make a decision. Obviously they have been helpful and extremely interested in your work. Be patient; you’ve been warned they would take a while.

Never, ever submit other writing while one piece is under consideration. It muddies the waters. The editors may decide they like the second piece better and not buy the first. Right now you have the opportunity to sell the first piece and then sell them the second piece as well. Be patient.

The decision process takes as long as it takes. In some publishing houses it can take up to six months or more. Be patient.

What are they doing with your book? First it has to rise to the top of the reading pile. Someone then reads it, and if it is good enough, that person approves it to go to the next reader. It often ends up going to a committee that mulls over all the books under consideration for the season. Eventually someone chooses the submissions the company will make an offer on. The process takes time. Be patient.

I think you get my drift. Once you have submitted your work, patience is a key ingredient to getting published. You have gotten the attention of a major publisher. Relax. Be happy. Keep writing more books, but don’t submit them yet. You don’t have to do anything until you get an acceptance or rejection from this publisher. Put your energy into other writing projects so you won’t lose your mind trying to think of all the possibilities of what’s going on. Patience is vital to every writer’s life.

When I was in my teens, one of my creative writing teachers had on his blackboard for the whole year: “Writing is long patience.” Some fifty years later, I look back on all the fits, starts, successes, and failures of my life as a professional writer and editor, and I know for sure that my creative writing teacher was right.

Bobbie Christmas, book editor, author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too.  Send them to Read more "Ask the Book Doctor" questions and answers at

Book Review

by Sandra Murphy

Publish Your Book, Proven Strategies and Resources for the Enterprising Author by Patricia Fry, Allworth Press, 2012, ISBN: 978-1-58115-884-7, 241 pages, $19.95. Also available on Kindle and Nook.

This book is about publishing and about the idea of the book, how to build in promotion as you write, how to find the perfect publisher, to know your target audience, and where to find those readers. You’ll learn the difference between a query letter and a book proposal and why you need both. There are sample cover letters and synopses, and an About the Author sample, too.

Publishers look for authors who have established an audience, have a marketing plan in place, and who can communicate those strategies. Learn how to set up your own book tour, unlikely places to sell books, and how to convince a publisher your book will make money.

Statistics show a successful fiction book sells 5,000 copies; non-fiction, 7,500. Fry shows you how to be one of the successful authors. She shows how to promote your book even when you are bashful, how to keep track of sales, and the importance of using a professional editor before submitting your book to the publisher.

From the idea in your head to the book in the hands of your reader, this book covers it all. Much more than a book about publishing, it’s a reference book to keep next to your computer as you write. After all, eighty-one percent of Americans think they can write a book. Fry’s book will help your book get noticed, published, read, reviewed, and talked about.

With more than forty years of experience and over thirty books written, Fry knows her stuff. Why try to learn from scratch what she’s willing and able to share?

And those dismal statistics about people who don’t read? There are still 62.4 million people who do. Patricia Fry will make sure you know how to find them, too, with just the thing they want to read.

Take Your Specialty for a Spin

by Moira Allen

What’s your interest? Is it dogs, budgies, or ferrets? Big-game hunting, archery, or rappelling? Ceramics, needlepoint, or rock collecting? Perhaps your favorite activity is to dig in a garden, tile a kitchen, or rebuild a transmission.

No matter what your favorite activity or hobby is, chances are a magazine covers it. Special-interest publications make up the largest segment of the consumer-magazine marketplace. These magazines are always hungry for new writers, including beginners who don’t have a portfolio of clips. One reason is that many such publications don’t pay the high rates that professionals expect; another is the need for fresh voices and perspectives.

“But I’m not an Expert”

You don’t have to be an expert in your favorite hobby or sport to write for such magazines. Experts often don’t have time to write articles about their hobbies, which is why many articles are written by enthusiasts. “Enthusiasm” is key; if you care about your subject, that enthusiasm will show in your writing and will also engage the enthusiasm of others. For example:

  • You know what interests you about a hobby or activity, which means you’ll be able to determine topics that will interest readers like you.
  • You know the types of questions someone like yourself would ask—the questions your article should answer.
  • You know what it’s like to start with the basics, and are thus well-qualified to help other beginners.
  • You know the language of your specialty, whether it’s the lingo of fly fishing or the jargon of the dog-show circuit.
  • You have a desire to learn more about the subject, and as you do, you can share your knowledge with others.
  • You have experience in the subject area.

These qualities appeal to an editor as much as a sheaf of clips. When you approach a special-interest market, non-writing credentials are an important part of your pitch: “I’ve been quilting for ten years,” or “I’ve owned Norwegian Elkhounds for most of my life.” Even a pitch like “I’ve always been fascinated by…” can get an editor’s attention.

Understanding the Markets

Writer’s Market offers a host of special-interest categories, from animals to travel. Each of these offers an equally large number of subtopics (under sports, for example, you’ll find twenty-two subcategories, ranging from archery to wrestling).

It’s not enough just to find a magazine that covers your subject, however; your research also needs to determine three additional things:

  • The magazine’s degree of specialization. A magazine titled Pet World, for example, is obviously aimed at a very different audience from one titled Turtle Monthly.
  • The expertise of the audience. Does the magazine target beginners, experts, or both? If a magazine is designed for experienced gardeners, you won’t break in with My First Vegetable Patch.
  • The mindset of the audience. Two magazines on the same subject may take very different approaches. For example, a dog magazine aimed at breeders won’t want an article on adopting mixed-breed pound-puppies, while one for pet owners won’t be interested in an article on breeding and whelping.

Magazine Must-Haves

“But what could I write about (pets, fly fishing, paper airplanes)?” you ask. The answer lies in determining a magazine’s basic article mix—the must-have categories that appear in every issue. To determine this, you’ll need to review the contents of several back issues (if you can’t find copies, try searching online for an index of back issues). You’ll soon find that most special-interest publications publish a mix of articles that fit into the following topic areas:

How-to Articles. These are the staple of such publications. Within that basic context of the magazine, how-to articles focus on specific issues: how to do something new or unusual, solve a common problem, develop a skill, or increase one’s enjoyment.

Health and Safety. Many special-interest areas (especially sports and recreation) involve health and/or safety issues. You don’t have to be a doctor or a vet to write these pieces; many markets prefer such articles from the perspective of a typical “participant.”

Equipment. What are the tools of your trade? Consider an article on how to choose the right equipment, how to determine what tools are needed for a specific project, how to take care of your equipment, or how to build equipment, for example.

Seasonal. Some activities are seasonal by nature; others have seasonal concerns. If you love gardening, for example, think about the off seasons: “How to add fall color to your garden,” or “How to winterize your fruit trees.” Pet magazines look for articles on summer travel and winter safety; consider, for example, seasonal-related health issues (such as flea control). Remember that seasonal articles should be submitted four to six months in advance.

Destination. With a little imagination, you can incorporate a destination slant into many types of articles. For a fishing publication, you might cover the “Top-Ten Trout Streams of Northern Idaho.” For a dog magazine, you might cover the “Ten Most Dog-Friendly Parks in the U.S.” (a great seasonal piece for summer travel). Just be sure that whatever is happening at your destination will appeal to all the magazine’s readers.

Historical Background. Though these are low on some publications’ lists, a well-written background piece can still be a good way to break in. One way to make this type of article work is to combine it with how-to tips; for example, a look at the history of English pewter could include tips on collecting or care.

Personal Profiles. Some magazines love these; others won’t touch them. Personal profiles usually highlight someone whose work has achieved recognition, who has made a significant contribution to the field, or who is doing something unique or unusual in the field.

Current Issues and Controversies. If your interest area is affected by controversy or legislation, a magazine may be interested in such coverage.

Personal Experiences. These are generally lowest on a magazine’s must-have list. Most publications publish, at most, one per issue, yet most are flooded with such articles (often by amateurs). While it’s not impossible to sell such a piece, you must be sure that your experience is truly unique.

To further improve your chance of a sale, look for categories that overlap. For example, consider a how-to article that includes a discussion of the equipment needed for the project, or a seasonal article that covers health hazards. Editors are always happy to find an article that fills two must-have slots at once.

Moira Allen, editor of, has published more than 350 articles and columns and eight books, including How to Write for Magazines, Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer, The Writer’s Guide to Queries, Pitches and Proposals, and Writing to Win: The Colossal Guide to Writing Contests. Allen has served as columnist and contributing editor for The Writer and has written for Writer’s Digest, Byline, and various other writing publications. In addition to, Allen hosts (a site dedicated to historic travel destinations in Britain); (a growing archive of articles and excerpts from Victorian books and magazines); The Pet Loss Support Page; and (showcasing her photography). She can be contacted at

Supply and Demand

by by Darrell Laurant, The Writers Bridge

Most journalists are all too familiar with—and often busted by—the Law of Supply and Demand.

We all want to sell articles to markets that pay a dollar a word and up, but guess what? These high rollers attract queries like picnics attract flies. Even worse, they tend to deal primarily with a small club of writers whom they know they can trust.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to break in—you might get lucky. Some story ideas are so compelling that editors can’t turn them down. If you find yourself excluded from the club at markets like Atlantic, Smithsonian, and National Geographic, the good news is that there are alternative strategies.

1. Think beyond Writer’s Market. WM is an excellent resource, obviously (although I’ve found that some of the magazines listed therein turn out to be dead), but it’s also like a fishing pier where would-be anglers stand so tightly packed that they get their lines crossed with each other. It is, once again, the Law of Supply and Demand.

For that very reason, a lot of magazines don’t want to have Writer’s Market listings. They don’t want to be swamped with queries, many of which have little to do with their publication or its mission. They want to be found.

It isn’t all that difficult. Just type in your subject, plus “magazines,” and chances are a half-dozen or more under-the-radar markets will pop up. The hard part often is finding pertinent information, such as the name of an editor (often omitted) or the pay rate (rarely included). A more focused Google search might be needed. For that matter, while most magazines don’t want to spend a lot of time listening to your amazing story idea over the phone, it’s not out of line to make a quick call and ask for the name and contact information of the editor who normally receives queries. And, by the way, what do they pay?

2. Learn to look at a story from multiple angles. One of our Writers’ Bridge members recently sent me an idea about a twenty-something design student who was hired by a Greek restaurant to redesign its interior—her first job, and by all accounts a quite successful one.

Still, while this sounded like a serviceable feature for a newspaper business section, on its face it didn’t seem very compelling for magazines. The designer was twenty-six years old, not sixteen or seventeen. The redesign was nicely done, but included nothing that would be considered groundbreaking in its field.

So how about a “my first design job” story for a design magazine from the perspective of the designer, perhaps a Q&A? Instead of trying to make the focus unique when it really isn’t, why not flip it to the commonplace, but in a way that might intrigue readers? Was she scared? Where did she get her ideas? How did she balance art and practicality? How did she get into design work in the first place?

Digging a little deeper, I found a magazine called Greek America. Besides designing a Greek restaurant, the designer was ethnically Greek—fair game for a feature.

Finally, the information the member sent me said that the designer was a graduate of Kean College in New Jersey. It turns out that they have an alumni magazine, another feature possibility.

I don’t know how these might pan out, but it gives you some ideas. The beauty of “query multi-tasking” is that you can take care of three or four stories with one interview, and you can honestly promise each market something different. By the time you’re finished, chances are you’ve made more money than a short article for a high roller might have produced.

3. Don’t forget about newspapers. Contrary to popular belief, newspapers are not dying—they are simply morphing into other forms of communication. Soon, when they figure out how to squeeze more money from the Internet, they will come back with a vengeance. Warren Buffett recently bought the paper for which I work and sixty-two others in the same chain. Warren Buffett didn’t become a billionaire by investing stupidly.

There has, however, been a dip in revenue that caused a lot of newspapers to lay off staff members, making it more likely they might give a freelancer a shot. Find a feature idea in their geographic area, pitch it successfully, and you might be surprised at how much they will pay.  

4. When you get a job, knock their socks off. Small magazines appreciate good service from writers, because most of them have horror stories about freelancers who submitted articles bearing little resemblance to what was agreed upon, full of typos and grammatical mistakes, long after deadline.

 If you get an assignment with one of these mid-range pubs, communicate with the editors every step of the way. Offer to supply photographs. Inform them of any change in direction the story might take. Don’t just make the deadline, but beat it.

Do these things, and they will contact you for later stories. Chances are they will provide you with a good reference. And, best of all, you’ll be in the club.

Darrell Laurant, The Writers Bridge, bridging the gap between writers and editors.

Writing for The Writer Magazine

by Rex Owens

The Writer magazine has a regular feature called Breakthrough, where every month there is a one-page autobiographical story of a writer’s journey to publication. Each story demonstrates that debut writers can be successful and that there are many doors into the publishing world.

I was undaunted by the infinitesimally small chance that I could be published in a national publication and submitted my story for the Breakthrough column last fall. Unfortunately, I submitted it to the wrong editor. The editor was impressed enough with the story that she gave me the name and e-mail address of the right editor and said I could use her name as a reference when I re-submitted.

I made a major blunder and survived; it was a miracle. I submitted my story to the right editor and several months later received his response; he was interested but required the approval of the editorial committee. 

In February he let me know that the editorial committee was also interested in my story, but he wasn’t sure when he could assign it. I think purgatory must be a place where you get messages like this—hopeful, but not a solid offer. I convinced myself that I would never hear from the editor again and I feared that if I sent a follow-up e-mail it would appear that I was hounding him, which isn’t professional.

This year The Writer celebrates 125 years of publication. In honor of the celebration the magazine asked readers to submit stories of how The Writer has changed their life. In my case, I can say that without The Writer my debut novel, Murphy’s Troubles, wouldn’t be scheduled for release later this year by Mischievous Muse Press. 

I dashed off a 450-word piece and submitted it. The editor remembered me and offered to publish my submission but was vague on the details. She wanted to shorten my piece and she needed a 300-bpi headshot to run with the article. I sent the photo and asked what month my piece would be published. I wasn’t asked to edit my original submission to shorten it, so I didn’t offer. Without a publication date I needed to “pinch yourself to see if it’s true.” In late February I received my answer—publication in the May edition. I was elated; a complete novice was getting the chance to be published in the longest-published writer’s magazine in the country.

The May edition of The Writer arrived in the mail and there I was on page ten. It was shorter than my original submission by about half, but it didn’t matter to me. Being published in The Writer is a writer’s version of fifteen minutes of fame. I’ve had mine, and it feels great.

As a bonus, the editor for the Breakthrough column has scheduled my article for publication in the September issue of The Writer. I never believed that lightning strikes twice—but it does.

See my website at:

Five Ways to Sell More Articles by Being Yourself

by Linda Formichelli

A lot of the query first drafts my “Write for Magazines” students write and Letters of Introduction (LOI) I see from my mentoring clients are well-written and boast great content. They offer up impressive credentials, contain stellar ideas, and include everything a query letter or LOI needs.

Except personality.

What I see a lot is writing that’s dry and business-like. This is especially common among newer writers, as they overcompensate for their lack of experience by using big words where small ones would suffice, overdoing the passive, and underusing contractions—so they come off as stiff and formal.

Think about it. When you read most magazines and websites, the language is typically conversational, even upbeat. When you write a query or LOI, you want the editor to be able to envision your writing in her magazine. So here are some tips for livening up your writing:

1. Use Contractions

I often read credentials paragraphs that say, “I am a writer in Apex, NC, who has written for X, Y, and Z. I am a fast writer and I have won several awards for my writing.”


Now try it with contractions: “I’m a writer in Apex, NC, who’s written for X, Y, and Z. I’m a fast writer and have won several awards for my writing.”

See the difference?

2. Steal from Your Target Market

Read through some back issues of the magazine you’re targeting and lift any words or phrases they use. For example, when I pitched Redbook with “The Better Orgasm Diet,” I noticed they use lots of short, snappy words, so I wrote in one of my tips, “Ditch the caffeine and nix the alcohol.” Result = sale! It was one of my first national sales.

3. Get Personal

Don’t be afraid to put some of yourself into your query or LOI. For example, if the magazine you’re pitching is your favorite publication and you’ve been reading it faithfully for the last ten years, you can always mention that in your credentials paragraph. (As long as you don’t go overboard…you don’t want to come off as a slobbering fan-boy/-girl.) If the topic you’re pitching has personal significance to you, let the editor know.

You can also start queries with personal anecdotes when appropriate. For example, one of my recent students led in with the story of how she has trouble shopping for Mother’s Day cards because, well, her mom wasn’t that great.

4. Make Them Laugh

Are you a funny gal/guy? Unless you’re writing about cancer or terrorism, feel free to let it show. I knew one guy, who wrote for Mental Floss, who started off his queries with a joke, and another writer—who had cracked some pretty impressive publications himself—ended one successful pitch about a blues singer with, “And if you don’t buy my story, I just don’t know what I’ll do.”

In my LOI, I often tell editors that “I’m fast, easy to get along with (no diva here!) and professional.” My business card says, “My clients think I’m swell.” Humor can really help lighten up what could otherwise sound like a desperate sales pitch. It says, “I’m good enough that I’m not afraid to show you who I really am.”

5. Talk to a Friend

If you’re having trouble losing the formal tone, try rewriting your query or LOI as if you’re talking to a friend. Chances are you wouldn’t write to a friend as if you were writing a memo to your boss’s boss about Friday’s lunchtime meeting

In short—if you want to make more sales, be yourself.

Linda Formichelli, one-half of the Renegade Writers.  Co-author with Diana Burrell, of The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success and The Renegade Writer’s Query Letters That Rock.

Member News

Sandra Beckwith has been named to the board of directors of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), a professional organization of independent nonfiction writers. Her term, beginning July 1, 2012, will run for three years. ASJA’s nearly 1,200 members are outstanding freelance writers of magazine articles, trade books, and many other forms of nonfiction writing, each of whom has met the organization’s exacting standards of professional achievement.


From Tami Dever: TLC Graphics would like to announce its first NYT Best Seller! Word of Mouth Marketing by Andy Sernovitz ( was #6 in the Paperback Advice & Misc. category this past week. Our books are also the recipients of seven national awards this year.


Joanna Celeste has new writings posted on her website at


From Martha Heineman Pieper, Ph.D.: Smart Love Press, LLC is happy to announce that Mommy, Daddy, I Had a Bad Dream! was an award-winning finalist in the Children’s Picture Book: Hardcover Fiction Category of the 2012 International Book Awards. The 2012 results represent a phenomenal mix of books from a wide array of publishers throughout the world.


LuckyCinda Publishing is proud to announce that award-winning author and environmentalist, Lucinda Crosby, has just released her first children’s book, The Adventures of Baylard Bear: a story about being DIFFERENT.

Crosby is scheduled to conduct the first official signing of her latest release at Red Rock Books in Ridgecrest, CA on June 23, 2012 at 11: am.


Patricia Fry is the keynote speaker for the kickoff luncheon for the Ojai Writer’s Conference June 23 at The Well in Ojai. She’ll speak on the ABC’s of Self-Publishing.

Patricia Fry’s latest book, Publish Your Book, Proven Strategies and Resources for the Enterprising Author will accompany the publishers at Allworth Press/SkyHorse to the BEA this year. The book is available in print and on Kindle, Nook, etc. at online and downtown bookstores.


C. Hope Clark’s Lowcountry Bribe, the first in The Carolina Slade Mystery Series from Bell Bridge Books, has amassed 77 reviews on Amazon and a 4.8 rating. The mystery, released in February 2012, is set in agricultural South Carolina and has proven to be of interest to those loving a strong female character who can solve crimes, face abusers, and protect her children. Strong themes. 


From Mari Barnes: In addition to releasing Crossing River Jordan, the second book in the River Jordan series, Flying Turtle Publishing has just published its first children’s books—Vote Sheep! and Put It on My Plate! Both are by author and early childhood educator Lori Bortnick. The children’s books are under Flying Turtle’s new imprint, Sparrow Early Learning Academy Books.  


Sigrid Macdonald, C.  Hope Clark, and Mari Barnes have had their mystery books reviewed on Amazon by Sandra Murphy.

Sigrid Macdonald’s book, Straight and Narrow, is based on the real-life disappearance and search for a friend. The main character, Tara, is faced with a marriage gone flat, a kid turning teen, job burnout, and her built-in ideas of right and wrong. Great double-twist ending.

Mari Barnes writes the River Jordan series about the members of a church and the mishaps and problems that arise as they work both with and against each other. There’s love, mystery, heartache, and laugh-out-loud humor throughout both books –Parting River Jordan and Crossing River Jordan. Join Dee, Daisy, and the other women who are in charge of the behind-scenes running of the church. These ladies know how to get things done!

C. Hope Clark’s book Lowcountry Bribe doesn’t quite fit into the cozy category, but more into the romantic suspense area. You’d think helping farmers keep their farms and buy/finance/pay for the equipment they need would be a low profile job. Still, Slade manages to get herself into trouble just by following protocol. A farmer offers her a bribe for favorable treatment and things go downhill at a runaway pace from then on. Federal agents, soon-to-be ex-d husband, family, co-workers—all seem to conspire to make Slade’s life harder than it’s ever been. Remember to breathe while reading!


John Montandon, SPAWN member and author, announces that his
new book, By His Own Blood, was named the Winner in the non-fiction
narrative category by the 2012 International Book Awards: and

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