Thursday, September 14, 2006

How to Break Into "The Business"

Dear Heidi: I have fairly extensive freelance/editorial experience. However, I have felt that God has been calling me to write more Catholic/Christian articles. Do you have any tips forbreaking in to this niche? If so, I'd love to hear them.

Dear Kate:

I've had people ask me this question before, and frankly I'm always at a loss about what to tell them. My "career path" was a bit unconventional -- starting with a serious car accident that marked the beginning of a spiritual conversion, to Bible school at a missionary training center and several short-term stints overseas, two years interning at a Christian book publishing house that was attached to the missionary training center, more schooling in California (International Studies and Communications)... Then a very dark year that culminated in my conversion to Catholicism. From there, a "hand of God" appointment to Servant Publications (a woman in my RCIA class was a media consultant, and recommended me for the job), where I was for seven years. During that time I edited Johnnette's book and met most of the people as authors who are now helping me in other areas of my career.

Here are a couple of thoughts that might help you, however.

1. Networking is everything. Never turn down an opportunity to meet and greet those in the industry -- writer's conferences, other conferences and church events. Look for ways to contribute to these functions, so you have a leg up on those who are merely attending as far as getting some "face time" with speakers. For you, it might be putting together an article for Canticle, and interviewing them on the spot. This means always being prepared -- business cards, tape recorder, etc.

2. Do what you need to in order to build your "brand." Keep building your writer's vitae even if you have to work for free at first -- contribute articles to CatholicExchange.com and CatholicMom.com. Build your own blog and/or website and become an "expert" on some area that people will want to read. For me, it was adoptive parenting.

3. Build your skills.
If you need more theological training to give you the credentials and insights you need to write, get it. Study the Chicago Manual of Style, and learn your proofreader's marks. When you meet editors at the conferences, etc., ask them if they need freelance proofreaders and editors, and hand them your card. It goes a lot farther than a cold resume. Then follow up with a note and a tear sheet from one of your articles, so they know that you do in fact have some writing background.

4. Last, but most importantly, pray. Ask God how He wants you to use your talents, and be sensitive to doors that are opening around you. Remember, too, that there are seasons of life -- and you won't be able to be as active with your writing when you don't have time to write. Seems obvious, but it took me a while to catch on to this. When the children are very young, concentrate on capturing the memories in your journal. The magazine articles will come later. Trust me.

I don't know if this is what you are looking for, but I hope it give you some insight.

2 comments:

Vicki Caruana said...

I second your recommendation about networking. Get thee to a writers conference! I teach at Christian writers conferences all over the country and as an editor for a Catholic magazine, it's a great place for me to meet freelance writers.

Karen E. said...

Hi, Heidi --
I just got a similar question from a reader this morning. Like you, my first reaction was to be a bit at a loss ... sometimes things just seemed to "happen" and there hasn't exactly been a strategy all along. :-)

At any rate, good advice!

And, you've certainly established yourself in that adoption niche. This morning, I was blogging -- an adoption-related post -- and thought of you, so I popped over here to see what you were up to. :-)