Every now and again someone asks me how to get writing gigs in non-English speaking countries. Ismael Murono Akango, who teaches writing wrote this guest post. Although it’s specific to Kenya, it strikes me that his suggestions are the same kind that I make – approaching writing markets has some universal aspects – aw
Contrary to what many writers believe, there is a wide market for every writer here in Kenya. What most writers lack is adequate information or maybe poor research. It’s true overseas markets pay a bit higher than Kenyan markets but a writer producing regular work here will hardly notice the difference.
I will start off with the newspaper market.The top three newspapers; The Daily Nation, The Standard and The Star are eagerly waiting for well researched and written articles. They can’t get enough of them and writers who have mastered the submission game are ripping good amount of income.
Queries Are Key
One thing you have to understand is that they hate unsolicited pieces, and I mean articles which land to their desk unannounced. Editors are so busy and they will consider scanning through an article idea that the whole article and this explains why most unsolicited articles end up in a dust bin faster than their finger hit the first key on the keyboard.
If you have an article idea you strongly believe is good, the best thing is to pitch the idea to the editor. Just write a short query letter of three to four sentences asking the editor if he could be interested in your idea; enclose or attach a short outline of your proposed article and send it to the editor. It will show the editor that you are a professional and you care about him that you’ve taken time to find out what he likes and what he does not. If he is interested in your idea, he will ask for the complete article and there you’ve won. If he is not interested, you still won since you now know, it’s time to move on and look for somewhere else.
The three major newspapers I’ve listed above do take articles from freelance; In fact some survey last year showed that almost 70% of the work published in those papers are from freelance writers. I am not so sure about People’s daily Newspaper but I can confirm that out of the tens of letters I’ve sent to them, none has been replied though each time I call them they pretend to accept work from freelancers. Another publication with this type of behavior is the money magazine (the pull-out in the Thursday nation newspapers). Otherwise the rest Pull-outs have been so encouraging, responding to each query letter I send.
Wherever you are in Kenya you must have come across magazines out there. No one will ever exhaust all magazines around. They are all over, which is the best thing for writers. If you have been passing them without a second look then this is the time to look at them again. All these are markets for writers, desperately waiting for your article.
This does not mean they will accept a poorly researched and written article. It has to be informative and entertaining. As a writer, do not underrate any kind of publication however small. As a serious writer you should get to know a good number of magazines from magazines for parents, to marketing in Africa, from maneno world, to Amua magazine and so on. The procedure is the same – write a query and outline to the editor asking if they will be interested in your article.
The following hints will help:
- Just like a normal business, you have to study your market properly. Study frequency of the publication you are targeting, the editor’s name, their house style and the language used before submitting work to any publication. Otherwise, you might end up receiving the greatest disappointment in your life which could slow down your courage and make you give up. For example, your idea could be the best on the planet but if you use the wrong angle ore house style for the right publication, then that is an outright rejection.
- Accept that rejection is part of your job and that it will only build you and not discourage you if you are to make it as a writer. But do not feel comfortable when you receive frequent rejection without any acceptance. Go back to the drawing board and try to find out where you are going wrong.
- In my writing experience, I’ve realized features sale more than other articles but this does not mean that you should hold back your article if you are convinced that it’s good.
- You could consider starting with smaller publication(like the Sunday express newspaper) as you slowly graduate.
Finally, think outside the box. As a freelance writer, you need to be flexible enough to take up any writing job that comes your way. It is worth it writing to your local business owner asking if you could help him out writing letters, flyers and so on.You can equally write to the marketing manager of a larger company asking if you could help out with your writing services. Ask if you can offer to write brochures, company literature, copy write and so on. I have done it and the results are encouraging – but your letter should be business like. Short and professional.
Ismael Murono Akango will teach you how to study magazines and newspapers, writing good query letters and outline, studying a publication’s house style, approaching companies for freelance work and many more. Go here: http://writing-right-online.com/writing.php
Flag map of Kenya: commons.wikimedia.org – found through Google images