When we’re trying to reach readers around the world for our books, contributing articles to small local publications – especially on a voluntary basis – may seem like a waste of your valuable writing time. But they can lead to greater things, as Debbie Young explains, based on her own experience of writing for nine years for two community publications.
When I resigned from my last full-time day job in January 2010, with a view to concentrating on my writing, I wanted to build up a freelance portfolio – and to limber up with some regular writing commitments.
That month, I launched my blog, which eventually evolved into my author website. But I wanted to be writing for an external magazine, to gain a little credibility, rather than just for myself. (At least in the early days writing my blog felt like writing only for myself!)
Two Local Gigs
I therefore approached both the editor of the Hawkesbury Parish News (the magazine serving the village I live in) and the editor of the Tetbury Advertiser (circulation 10k+ in and around the local market town). Knowing they were both run by volunteers, and that their only income was from advertising, with all profits going to good local causes, I offered my services for free to write a monthly topical column. Both said yes – I think they both liked the idea of having something a bit different from local news in their pages – and I’ve been writing for them ever since.
Writing for Free
Writing for free? Heaven forbid!
Yes, I know it’s generally received wisdom that as professional writers, we should never give our golden words away for free, but I was looking at this as a long-term strategy that would repay me in kind. I was also glad to give back to my local community in this way. I wouldn’t write for free for magazines that are for sale, though – they can pay me proper rates!
How I Benefit from the Deal
The copyright of all the pieces remains with me, and I’ve repurposed the copy, as they say, to get more mileage from every single piece.
- I aim to publish one new post on my blog each week, so these columns fill two weekly slots every month
- I turned them into books as essay collections, first for the columns from 2010-2015, and I’ll do another pair of books for 2016-2020.
It’s also helped me secure bookings for talks and events and has raised my profile and influence within the region.
Even though I now have a packed writing schedule, and no longer need these gigs for credibility or writing practice, I’m still keen to do them, because I find it personally rewarding. Firstly, the relatively instant gratification of a monthly column can be uplifting when engaged on long, slow book projects. I’m also thrilled when a local reader tells me how much they’ve enjoyed a column, or how they always look out for it.
A brief moment of glory when I walked into Tetbury Library to meet a friend who works there, and gave my name to her colleague to tell her I was here: she said, wide-eyed, “Oh, are you THE Debbie Young?” #bigfishintinypond!
On a more practical level, the long-term relationships I’ve built up with each publication have encouraged them to be very supportive of my books and events. For this year’s Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival, of which I’m founder and director, the Hawkesbury Parish News not only printed the full program in its pages at no cost to me, but also gave a generous grant towards Festival costs, while the Tetbury Advertiser ran a large full-colour advertisement for free.
So if you’re wondering whether it’s worth while to write for a publication that serves your local community, don’t dismiss the idea without considering what part it may play in your wider marketing strategy.#Indieauthors - could #writing for local magazines help boost your wider #bookmarketing campaign? @DebbieYoungBN explains how that's worked for her. Click To Tweet
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From the ALLi Author Advice Center Archive