1. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    How to get a foot in the door as a columnist

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by agentkirb, Dec 29, 2011.

    So to give you a little background. I'm a recent graduate with a Computer Science degree, and I already have a job and all that. I have no formal education in writing or journalism, but I do consider writing to be a major hobby of mine. It started with spending a lot of time on forums like these and that led to me writing a lot of technical "articles" (sometimes they were just long posts of article length). All of it was completely free but I actually got contacted a few years ago about potentially writing articles for a website. The opportunity didn't lead to anything that paid money, but that moment was what got me to thinking of taking up writing as a primary hobby. It's what led me to this site two years ago, I wrote a few short/medium length fiction stories and posted them on free websites and got a few positive comments from people.

    But I'm realizing fast that I'm probably not going to get any of the fiction stories that I'll write in the future published any time soon, and I'm fine with that. Like I said, I have a job to support myself with and writing is only really a hobby for me. However, I realize that there are tons of websites out there on various topics (sports, games, entertainment, whatever) and there are probably a lot of opportunities for someone to get paid as a contributor for a website on a part time basis. I'm not necessarily in this for the money, but I think it would be kind of cool to use my talents to write for a website and have people respect you (or think you are a joke depending on how good you are). The problem is that... because I don't have any credentials, I can't think of how to get a foot in the door.

    The only thing I can think of is to start a blog, and use that as a launching pad to potentially jump in as a contributor somewhere down the line. But even then... I don't know how to effectively get one of those going either.

    Anyways, anyone have any advice for me with this issue? Thanks for taking the time to read this post and consider my scenario.
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Do you know of any local magazines or newspapers that accept submissions? That's a great place to start. Once you get a few published articles to your credit, you can move up to bigger (higher paying) markets.

    Starting a blog is good, but just keep in mind that there are thousands of people out there blogging about the same topic you are. I would recommend just directly submitting to magazines or newspapers and working from there. Good luck.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i've been a paid magazine and newspaper columnist and i believe in starting at the top and working your way up... so i'd advise you to forego the unpaid, already-clogged blog route and do up a proper, professional column proposal based on your expertise in the area your column will deal with... include your cv with particular emphasis placed on your education and professional experience in that field, plus several sample columns on timely topics...

    send this with a well-written query letter to any paying publications [print or online] that focus on that field... as noted above, local venues are the best places to start, since locals would be given preference...

    before you do anything, bear in mind that writing a column involves making very strict deadlines... it's not something you can do at your leisure...

    good luck!
     
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  4. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    Well... I'll fill you in on what I'm talking about so that we aren't just talking about "that field". I'm really into the NBA, and specifically the Houston Rockets. But in addition to that, there's a segment of sports analysis that uses heavy statistics (and not just points and shooting percentage but more advanced stuff). And because of my Computer Science background I'm really into that as well. However, because I wasn't trained as a journalist/writer and don't have anything to show other than writing samples... and I don't know anyone in that field that I could use to get a job that way.

    You mentioned a CV... which I don't even know what that refers to other than Control Variable.

    I don't think I would mind blogging, even if it never paid. I'm not really in it for the money but at the same time I wouldn't want to just have an audience with just friends of mine either. And the only reason I'm thinking it might be a good way to go is I'm sure at some point (maybe 10 years down the line even) I'll kind of stumble into an open position for a contributor on some sports website. And at that point that's when I can show them that I've had a few years of keeping up with a sports blog and there would be plenty of writing samples for them to look at to see if I'm legit or not and it wouldn't matter than I have no formal education in the field.

    So I dunno.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    'cv' = 'curriculum vitae' otherwise known as a resume... since you're not looking to be a paid columnist in a print venue, i guess blogging is as good a place as any to start...
     
  6. Mercury12000
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    Mercury12000 Member

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    I've delivered newspapers for large and small presses for many years now and I've gotten to know a thing or two about how columnists come about. Some of the factors I've realized are:

    1. Education. Newspapers and magazines seem to feel much safer hiring columnists and journalists that have a strong educational background, particularly in journalism, english, and maybe literature.

    2. Age. I rarely saw any writer in the newsroom that was younger than 50 years old. There may have been one or two hipster types reviewing food or doing a single quirkly column, but by and large they were all older types..

    3. Conservatism (for lack of a better word). I just don't think that many publications are interested in a Rock Star columnist who could possibly fly off the handle. It's most typical to see buttoned down, early to bed early to rise, God-fearing types putting out columns.


    That's the bill you have to fit, at least in my observations.
     

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