Article writing tips, techniques, strategies

Saturday, October 22, 2005

How to Triple Your Article Sales Writing Media Package Proposals

Dogs bark, birds fly, and writers write. It’s what we do, right? So why should a writer now become a shutterbug? Well, how about to increase your marketability, boost your article sales, improve your query acceptance rate and increase your income? Are any of those reasons that might interest you? Then read on Bunky, here’s the scoop.

Offer a complete package

Overworked editors will often jump at the chance for a complete package of text plus art. It means they don’t have to search for photos and graphics to accompany your article, saving them time, costs and stress. Most markets also pay extra for photography as well giving what might be a mediocre rate for an article alone a stiff boost when the photo fees are added in. Again padding the pay envelope – and you don’t mind THAT now do you?

What kinds of photos to take

To learn about composition and types of photos look at examples of what your target publications are using. Take a short photography course. Many community colleges offer them. You could also check at local photo shops or try one of the several good ones online.

Digital or film?

In today’s market there are a wide variety of choices for shooting your article photos. Films differ in format, speed and sensitivity. There are choices of from less than 100 ISA up to 1600 ISA or even faster for specialty films in 35mm format. Color, B/W, sepia tone and infrared films are also available for adding special effects. You needn’t chain your brain with these options if you’re not interested. Just stick with 100 to 400 ISA film in 35mm format. Shoot prints or slides depending on what the publication photography guidelines say.

Have it BOTH ways

Another point: film pictures can be scanned and digitized. Many photo shops offer to burn film negative photos onto a CD for a small additional fee, so you can have it both ways. Take them up on it. Find out from two or three different photo shops, what cross-media services they offer. Selling one good photograph can pay for months of photography. It’s not unheard of for a writer to actually make more money for the “art” than the article.

The debate over digital vs. film cameras rages on. Call me a wimp, call me a cop out, call me whatever you want: I use both when shooting on location. So whether I find a market that asks for prints, negatives, slides or high resolution digital images, I’m covered. So go ahead and snicker at me all you “purists”; you can follow me all the way to the bank.

On Location: what to shoot?

On location, a range of images from close ups to scenic overviews are useful. Try different angles and different heights. Take portraits, group and individual shots of unposed people doing everyday tasks. Photograph food, plants, products and people. Keep an eye out for splashes of color, interesting scenes, unusual clothing or costumes. While walking down a busy street in Quito, Ecuador, I saw a live donkey standing in the back of a double-parked pickup truck. I just had to take the shot. Waiting for the driver to come out also netted me a story about where the donkey was going to be sold – as food! In parts of Ecuador people eat donkey.

Quick keys for better photos

So you’re not exactly a pro at taking pictures? No problem. Here are a couple of quick tricks excerpted from the 5-week online course “Develop a Specialty and Get Published on the Web for Fun, Fame or Fortune”, that will boost the quality of your images right away.

• Get closer to your subject – fill the frame

Don’t stand there a mile off from that cute scene, get right up there as close as you dare and take the shot. Take two or three to be sure. Start from a bit away and shoot each picture closer than the last one by a lot. After a couple of shots you should be right up close. The vast majority of the time people who see you photographing them will either allow it politely, ham it up for you or throw rocks. Leave the third group alone.

• Use a tripod – take sharper images

Get yourself one of those small tripods, you know the ones around a foot tall. Use it to stabilize the camera whenever you can. Turn the car off and set it up on the hood, roof or trunk of the car. If your photos aren’t sharp, often they’re no good for commercial sale. If there’s a sign that says, “No tripods allowed”, be discrete. Plead innocence, plead ignorance, plead illiteracy or plead insanity, but get the shot. I get away with murder all the time. I just don’t push it or make a scene or an issue about it. Usually there’s no problem.

• Don’t “center” the subject – compose your shots in different ways

Look at any magazine. What direction is the cover image? Horizontal or vertical? Now, guess which way most people shoot their pictures? Shoot about half your images vertically and you’ll boost your odds for a possible cover shot. Don’t put the subject or horizon in the middle of the photo. Move it up to feature the foreground more or down to show more sky as with sunsets. Your photos will demonstrate better composition as a result.

Graphics anyone?

Photos aren’t the only form of “art” editors want and need. Data charts, tables and other information graphics can be produced to augment your articles. They show the editor you’ve researched and organized your topic data. Look at your favorite magazines, do they use only photos? Likely not. If you’re not familiar with Excel or another computer graphics program then expand your mind and income by doing so. Although it can be a bit challenging at first; No. it’s not THAT hard. Computers have turned themselves Off when they saw me coming. If I can do it, so can you.

In your queries to editors, if you offer a selection of photos and graphics to illustrate and accompany your articles, you’re going to start getting much more of the editor’s attention. Don’t send any photos, just say that they’re available. You’ll know what format the publication uses from reading the guidelines. Usually six or eight photos should do it. That means if you have around a dozen items available to send in for review and approval, you have an excellent chance of making the pitch sell. My first few months doing this more than tripled my success rate without changing anything else. If you need a virtual kick-in-the-pants to get you going or have a question, please feel free to e-mail me.

So get out there and take a few shots with your next article pitches in mind. Dogs bark, birds fly, and writers write – and offer media packages with photos for extra income. It’s what we do, right?

Prof Larry M. Lynch is a bi-lingual copywriter, expert author and photographer specializing in business, travel, food and education-related writing in South America. His work has appeared in Transitions Abroad, South American Explorer, Escape From America, Mexico News and Brazil magazines. He teaches at a university in Cali, Colombia. To get original, exclusive articles and content for your newsletter, blog or website contact him for a no-obligation quote and current rates. For free information on the 5-week online course “Develop a Specialty and Get Published on the Web for Fun, Fame or Fortune”, e-mail your request to:


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