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Getting Paid to Promote Yourself

by Keith Thirgood

We all know we can pay a magazine or a newspaper to run ads for us. Businesses do it all the time. In many cases, you're obliged to advertise to survive. But wouldn't you rather promote yourself and your company in a number of publications, and get paid for it?

You can. Simply by writing magazine articles. When you write articles as a business person, you gain on three levels: 1. You demonstrate your knowledge. 2. You help other people. 3. If you write often, you develop a following.

Contrary to common belief, most articles in magazines are not written by professional writing staff. They're written by freelancers. Many of these people are just like you, experts in their field, writing on the side. Many don't even write their own articles, they hire other writers to ghostwrite for them.

As a published author, you're exposed to a wide audience, with whom you've gained an authority and credibility you might not otherwise be able to achieve.

But how to get published? Study the magazines your target audience reads. Analyze the type of articles that are in them. (i.e. anecdotal, how-to, case studies, etc.) What's the word count? It's even a good idea to look at the titles and the subheads--how many words in them?

Contact the publisher and ask them to send you their Submissions Guidelines. It will be free, and it will tell you all you need to know about what the magazine is looking for, and what they pay. Study it--follow it.

Consider the readers. What kind of people are they? What interests them? Even look at the classified ads. They'll tell you who the advertisers believe reads the magazine.

Review what's been published in the magazine over the last couple of years. Don't try to submit something that's been recently published. The editor won't even look at it. And he will dismiss you as an amateur, potentially ruining any future chances of getting published.

Now, write your article based on all the profiles you've built of the readership. How-to articles are the easiest to write and, usually, the most in demand. Readers can't seem to get enough of them.

Your article must give your readers valuable information. Doing so proves to the editor and the readers that you're an expert on the subject.

There are two ways to submit an article to a magazine. You can send the editor a query letter, in which you tell the editor about your idea, why you think it will sell magazines and how it will help the readers.

Or, a few magazines don't mind you sending the finished manuscript directly to the editor. Your choice depends largely upon which method the magazine prefers. The guidelines will indicate what they prefer.

If you want a reply from the editor, enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) whenever you correspond with them.

Publications vary as to what they will allow you to put in your byline. Sometimes they will allow a brief bio, such as: "Keith Thirgood, creative director of Capstone Communications Group. Specializing in helping business get more business through creative marketing design." Some will even let you include your address, e-mail and phone number.

If you do get published, you'll get a cheque and more advertising than you could ever pay for.

What stops many business people from writing is that, try though they might, they feel they can't write an entertaining article. They may be able to write fantastic proposals, but magazine writing is a different kind of activity. Anyone who fits the above description, may hire a professional ghostwriter. It's not cheap. But it's still a lot less expensive than buying ad space.

Many writers charge from $1200 to $3500 to ghostwrite an article. Sometimes, this includes advice on how to sell the article. The client gets the byline and all the publicity it generates. The ghostwriter remains invisible.

The value of your article is more than just its initial publication. It has a life beyond. Include copies of it in all your promotions. Post it on your website. Show it to prospective clients. (Even after you have sold your article to a publisher, as the creator, you own the copyright on the article. Even if the publisher asks you to sell all rights, you are usually allowed to retain the right to use the work, with proper credit, in your own self-promotion.)

Does free advertising, getting published, and being regarded as an expert in your field sound good to you? Seriously consider writing for magazines; you may discover a whole new creative outlet in the process.

© Keith Thirgood, Capstone Communications Group

Keith is Creative Director of Capstone Communications Group, a Canadian marketing and design firm. He can be reached at
(905) 472-2330 or e-mail him at .

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