How to Break into Print

Your subject matter is the apple cider that Jack Smith makes. You admire him because in this one thing he excels. As a writer, you are going to tell the community about Jack Smith and what he does best.

This is a true feature story; newspapers never get enough of them and readers love reading about people in their community doing creative projects.

Newspapers are also interested in school projects such as sports, special events and the band. If you attend these sorts of functions with your children, interview people for the newspaper and snap several pictures to go with the story. After all, pictures are worth a thousand words.

Imagine you finished your feature story and you have your pictures. Create a package with a manila envelope or file folder. You are now ready to approach the newspaper editor.

When do you go? Who do you see? Do you call ahead for an appointment? What do you say?

A community newspaper normally comes out once a week. Visit the newspaper office the day after the newspaper comes out. Ask to see the editor and introduce yourself. Offer him/her your hand. Use a strong handclasp. This gives the impression of self-confidence.

State your business and don’t talk too much. “I have written a feature story and I wondered if your paper would be interested in publishing it?”

Show respect for the editor’s position. Hand the article over. Remain silent as he/she reads it. You can actually talk yourself out of a sale (even a contribution). You probably won’t be asked to sit down at this stage. You story has to hold its own.

You impress the editor with your bold, respectful approach. If you are a decent writer he/she is thinking that you know what you’re doing. He/she may offer you a certain amount of money for the article, ask you how much you want for it or inform you that the publication does not buy articles from freelancers. He/she may mention the rights connected with using the story. Newspapers normally require only one time rights. They seldom run reprints.

If the editor accepts your article, you will soon see your byline in your local newspaper. As will your family and friends. This brings you a lot of respect from community leaders, politicians, banks, businessmen and such.

No one knows whether you are getting paid or not, nor do they care. They think you are employed by the newspaper. Sometimes you even get fan mail. The more fan mail or hate mail you get, the more the newspaper values you. Any response at all serves as evidence that your articles affect people and this helps sell papers.

The week after your story comes out in the community paper, visit another community newspaper near your home and bring along a copy of the newspaper with your story and byline in it. Meet the editor and ask if he/she would be interested in running your story in their newspaper. Chances are, they will. Do the same the following week with another newspaper and soon you will have your name all over the place.

Soon, you can query a magazine publisher with an impressive resume. You are now a freelance, special feature reporter for three or more newspapers.

In time you will move on to small national newspapers or magazines. Then query regional magazines and larger, daily newspapers. You are on your way, and every time you publish an article, you add another notch to your belt. Other benefits include a press pass, the opportunity to write a weekly column, potential assignments and invitations to the country clubs to interview an icon of your community.

The stories you contribute will amount to free advertising for your skills as a writer. These community papers will be happy to run the press release for your new book once it’s published. The more you write, the more times you get your name out, the more press power you have.

Although newspapers can’t pay much money, they can help your career take off.

Janet Sue Terry was born and raised in London, Kentucky. The oldest of eight children, she always had a deep appreciation for education and the arts.