Having a long list of publications after your name doesn’t always mean you’re the best person to write the article. Any editor can tell you that sometimes the best articles—and pitches—come from those with few clips to their names.
A unique idea, an uncommon approach to an issue, a particular personal angle that gets right to the crux of the matter. And many times, these are written by aspiring writers who don’t always have the longest list of qualifications.
But what they do have is ability, the right approach and the desire to educate and entertain your readers.
But for many aspiring writers, not having a large number of clips to your name can feel like problem that prevents you from getting published. And this certainly can play a role. And since we writers are a unique bunch, many of us lack the confidence we need to convince an editor that we’re the one to write a particular article–no one else qualifies.
There are three components to giving an editor your qualifications, and each of these should be written in a convincing manner.
First, demonstrate to the editor why youare the one to write the article. Why shouldn’t writer A or writer G complete the article? Well, it’s not just enough to say that it’s your idea.
This ties in perfectly with the second point: qualifications. Many writers assume that your qualifications only mean how many articles you’ve had published. Now, to be honest, a solid number of quality clips can and is important, especially if the article is potentially challenging to write or needs specific knowledge or contacts.
However, what oftentimes is even more compelling for an editor is personal background and how that relates to the article proposal. For example, if you query an editor about eating healthy during a cancer fight and you have personally traveled this journey, you are immediately more qualified to write the article than another writer who may have 127 clips to her name.
Personal experience can be the clincher you need to convince an editor that you are the right person for the job. Even if you won’t be writing the article based on your own personal experience, the fact that you have went through this will lead you to understand the issue better, to ask more appropriate questions and also more likely to put you in touch with the right people to interview.
So, play up the personal experience angle to your query even if you do not lack a large number of clips.
Finally, make the most of your clips. If you haven’t been published much, don’t just say “and I wrote a few entries for a friend’s blog.” Don’t treat your clips like second-class citizens, even if they’re small and seemingly inconsequential. That doesn’t mean you play them up to appear to be Pulitzer Prize winners.
However, there is a happy medium when you do not have a lot of clips to your name. Choose the best two or three clips and mention them in your qualifications, along with a brief note on each one. Maybe one of your blog entries resulted in more hits to the website than any other.
Or maybe your article in your church newsletter received dozens of comments from people. This may seem inconsequential, but by at least making mention of something, it gives your clips a bit of life—and potential.