The Importance of Being Different for Writers

Being different can sometimes be a liability–something that sets a person apart from others and may even result in ridicule or exclusion. However, being different or unique is really a strength for most freelance writers.

Being Different in Where to Submit Writing

Many new freelance writers start submitting their work–understandably–to the places they know. Unfortunately, these places are often the big circulation national magazines that have the highest competition from other writers. Or they’re the well-known literary magazines that publish new writers, sure, but also mostly established writers. So how can a writer be different in choosing where to submit?

For nonfiction writers, consider pitching articles to regional and/or city magazines. Or, especially if you have experience in a certain field, try breaking into trade magazines. If you’re not concerned with bylines and want to make money writing, get the goods on breaking into writing copy for businesses.

For writers of fiction and poetry, keep submitting to the biggies (because you never know), but also find newer literary journals that publish writing you enjoy. This is a great way to break in and start forming an audience while proving that you’re serious about your writing career.


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Being Different in How You Pitch

As the editor of Writer’s Market and Poet’s Market, I receive pitches for both books once a year. Plus, I receive guest post pitches for the many blogs I maintain. So how can a writer be different in pitching?

First, pick a topic that is not likely to be covered already. Using Writer’s Market as an example, the book is about helping writers get published. So pitching a general article about how to write a query is pretty common. I’m not likely to accept such a pitch–unless there’s some sort of special spin on the topic that’s never been pitched before. Articles on negotiating rates or landing speaking gigs have better chance at being accepted–because they’re different.

Second, put a special spin on the topic. If you are pitching an article on negotiating rates, consider framing your negotiation tactics as a “fail safe system for getting the best contract–every time.” Or something along those lines. Make it exciting: believe me, that’ll make it different.

Being Different in What You Pitch

Back to national magazines (and even regional magazines), consider which pieces will get your foot in the door: the feature articles that everyone is trying to pitch OR the little pieces in the front and back of the magazine? Which will allow you to zig when others zag?

That’s right! Pitching small pieces for the front and/or back of the magazine are a great way to break in, because:

  • Pitching for a specific space shows you have knowledge of the magazine’s needs.
  • There’s less competition for these spaces than the features.
  • Less investment on an “unknown” writer for the editor.

And if you do an amazing job on the smaller assignment (as you should), then this small assignment should lead to bigger assignments down the road.

So Now What?

Many writers will read this blog post and think, “That’s nice. I wonder what my peeps are doing over on Facebook.” That is, they’ll read this post and keep doing the same old thing. However, you’re not like the others. You’ve made it here: How are you going to differentiate?


robert-lee-brewer-featuredRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community. He edits the Writer’s Market and Poet’s Market books, writes a poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine, maintains the Poetic Asides blog, co-hosts a podcast for writers with Brian A. Klems, speaks at conferences, leads online webinars and tutorials, and so much more.

Robert is also the author of Solving the World’s Problems, a poetry collection published by Press 53. A former Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere, he’s been a featured poet across the country at poetry events in Austin, Houston, Cleveland, Atlanta, and more.

Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.


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