Question: I’d like to break into magazines but many of them say to send published clips. I don’t have much to send. What should I do?
Answer: First let me point out that while the term “published clips” is just how it sounds, “writing samples,” (a term you’ll also see a lot) can be UNPUBLISHED
pieces. If you’re writing for say, Parenting Magazine, but don’t have any published clips, you can send a general writing sample of a parenting-related subject.
But let’s assume we’re talking “published clips.” Here are a few ideas:
1. Create a blog or Web site and start posting writing samples so you can just email editors the link. If the pieces get published, you can update the blog/Web site with a note. “This article appeared in the July issue of…”
2. Write something for another blog or Web site and ask for the archived link so you can email it to editors.
3. Don’t rule out your clips from small publications – like a college newspaper or a company/church newsletter. Just mention the name. You don’t have to go into specifics, apologizing about how small the newsletter was. Most likely, your style of writing will speak for itself. Here’s an example of what I’m suggesting for someone who only wrote for her college newspaper, her church newsletter and her corporate e-newsletter:
“Jane Smith’s work has appeared in The Collegiate, The Glory Church Times and MCI’s corporate publication, Tech Today.”
4. Try to rack up some clips in local and regional publications before pitching to national magazines. Local newspapers and magazines are typically more open to unpublished writers.
5. Look for reputable online portals where you can post sample articles. Just to give you examples of two I’m familiar with: http://www.EasyLivingFrontRange.com (covers stories, news and people in the Front Range of Colorado) and http://www.YourHub.com (right now covers CA, CO, FL, NY, PA, TX, TN and OK)
6. If you choose to post your unpublished articles on places like Helium.com, wait until the article gets picked up and runs on another Web site – then send the new site’s link. Some editors are immediately turned off by links to article clearinghouses like Helium.
7. Yes, contests count. Most contests publish their winners’ entries someplace. If you win, place or get honorable mention, say it.