By Joan Stewart
When looking for journalists and reviewers to write about your book, don’t forget about one of the most valuable types of writers that are all too easy to overlook: freelancers.
Unlike a full-time journalist who is employed by a publication, a freelancer is an independent contractors who sells articles to various media outlets and is paid by the article or by the word.
How can you tell the difference between freelancers and staff writers? A byline that reads “Special to the Daily News” usually signifies that a freelancer wrote it. The author resource box at the end of an article might identify the writer as a freelancer.
Why Freelancers Are So Valuable
Here are the top three reasons why they’re such powerful media contacts:
1. They’re familiar with online and print media that buy articles and reviews.
Full-time or part-time freelancers, especially those who rely on writing to make a living, know far more than you ever will about the wide variety of online and offline news outlets, blogs, websites, newspapers, magazines and newsletters that will buy their work.
Many buy or have access to expensive media directories you probably can’t afford. They stay on top of media trends like which magazines are new and which are ceasing publication. They know the most influential bloggers in niches they cover. Most freelancers already have a golden Rolodex of media contacts.
2. You don’t have to worry about pitching a story to a busy journalist. The freelancer pitches it.
Emailing or talking to journalists can be intimidating. Not so much with freelancers who are always open to ideas that will make compelling stories they can sell. You must pitch freelancers with the same care and precision you would, say, a fulltime reporter. But you probably aren’t competing with a lot of other authors for their time and attention simply because it’s so easy to overlook them.
3. A freelancer can use you as a source for multiple stories sold to different media outlets.
Let’s say you’re a cookbook author, and a freelancer uses you as a source for a story she’s writing for Eating Well magazine. If she likes working with you, and she knows you’re a helpful source, she might return to you again and again for stories she’s selling to Cooking Light, Clean Eating and Plate magazine.
How to Find Freelance Writers
This is where you need patience and time to do your research.
The best way to find freelancers is to first identify the publication you want to get into and study it. Don’t skip this step! Look for the word “freelancer” or “freelance writer” in each author resource box. When you find one, do a Google search for the writer’s name. Look for other places their writing has appeared.
The Society of Professional Journalists’ Freelance Directory has listings for more than 1,300 freelancers. Many include contact information. Search by city, state or specialty. I like this directory best because it’s easy to use, and freelancers submit their own information. That means they want to be pitched!
Writer’s Market is the annual resource book for writers who want to sell their work. It’s published by Writer’s Digest Books and usually hits bookstores around mid-year. Go to the section devoted to your niche or topic. Scan the list of publications you think you want to get into. Then, go online and visit the website. Or buy a copy of the magazine. Search through it and look for author resource boxes at the end of the articles to identify the freelancers.
Twitter Lists, created by Twitter users, are curated groups of Twitter users. You can create your own lists or subscribe to lists created by others. When you subscribe to a list, you can see a stream of tweets from only the users on that list. Fashion blogger Aaron Lee has an excellent how-to guide on 3 Genius Ways to Find Twitter Lists in Your Niche Industry. Also see How to Use Twitter Lists to Find Freelance Writers – and Freelance Writing Jobs.
HARO, the free media service at HelpaReporter.com, provides leads three times a day, Monday through Friday, from journalists who are looking for sources to interview. Many freelancers submit their queries to HARO.
LinkedIn groups of freelance writers are, for the most part, private. But here’s another way to use LinkedIn groups. Go to one of your own big LinkedIn groups and ask the question, “Does anyone know the names of freelance writers who cover….” and see what your helpful group members recommend.
Many bloggers publish their favorite Top 10 or Top 20 lists of other bloggers, freelancers, photographers, reporters, etc. so you can sometimes search for something like “Top 10 mommy freelancers” or “Top 20 small business freelance writers.” A simple search like that might lead to dozens of contacts.
The Indie View includes hundreds of names and contact information for people, including freelancers, who review indie (self-published) books.
Associations for writers sometimes offer searchable lists at their websites or paid directories. The Religion News Association lets you search its member database by keywords. The National Association of Science Writers lets you search by specialty and expertise.
How to Pitch Them
Here’s a simple 5-part formula to pitch freelancers or full-time journalist.
- Follow directions. Go the the freelancer’s website and look for specific instructions on how to pitch. If you don’t find any, pitch by email and follow my template below.
- Let them know you are familiar with their work and what they do.
- Explain the value of what you’re offering.
- Include a clear call to action and contact information.
- Keep it short. Only a few paragraphs.
An Example of a Perfect Pitch
Here’s a fictional pitch I wrote to a fictional freelancer from a fictional author who is an expert on personal finance, with my comments in red. This is one of the easiest pitches to write, especially if you can’t think of a specific story idea but you want the freelancer to know you’re available to help.
Subject Line: Need a source on personal finance?
I’ve read your articles in Money, Inc. and Entrepreneur magazines and I loved your recent article on LinkedIn on creative ways parents can encourage their kids to save for college. (Lets him know you know which publications he writes for and you read his LinkedIn profile.)
I teach financial literacy classes for college students at the University of California Berkeley Extension, as well as a financial literacy program for immigrants through the National League of Cities. (Explains your expertise.) I’ve also written a book on personal finance for teenagers.
If you’re ever looking for sources, background, trends or story ideas and need someone with my expertise, feel free to call on me. I can also put you in touch with college students and immigrants who have been through my programs and agree to be interviewed about money topics. (Offering other sources saves the writer time.)
I can be reached at 234-567-8910 (office) or 456-789-0123 (mobile). Look for my invitation to connect on LinkedIn. (Lets him know you’ll be connecting online. If you are a 1st-degree connection, you can then send him email on LinkedIn.)
678 White Haven Blvd.
Berkeley, CA 94701
234-567-8910–Office or 456-789-0123–Mobile
Author, “Cool Kids Save Money”
Note: This pitch was excerpted from 19 Quick & Easy Ways to Pitch Your Book, my package of done-for-you templates that make it easy to recruit an army of people to help you sell your books.
Now that you know why freelancers are valuable, how to find them and how to pitch them, go find three who cover your area of expertise, do your research, and start pitching!
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