||From: "Jackie Moore" <JackieMoore@virtuousliving.com
Building a Professional Writing Portfolio
by Lee Masterson
Regardless of what type of writing you do, most editors these days will give more
consideration to the work of those writers who can display at least some form of verifiable
Usually a publishing history will be vaguely summarized in a query letter, not giving the editor
much information about the specifics of each sale or submission you may have made, but
the fact remains that even small writing credits can do much to sway an editor's choice of
which writer's work to represent.
This preference for seeing a verifiable writing history serves several purposes:
1) - Shows the editor that the author has worked with submission deadlines successfully.
2) - Proves that the author is serious about submitting to his specific publication.
3) - Lets the editor see what other professional markets have taken a chance with your work.
4) - Allows the editor to familiarize himself with the author's prior style.
5) - (in the case of short fiction stories) Gives the editor an idea of current popularity with
other publications and readership.
There are other considerations that come into play as well, but these are the main factors
we'll deal with for now. Please bear in mind that any form of self-publication does not actually
constitute a professional writing credit to an editor.
I stressed this last phrase, because I am aware that most editors consider self-publishing
sites as a form of vanity press and do not officially count publication in these forums toward
a professional writing credit, despite the fact that there are lots of professionally researched
and presented stories and articles available.
So how does a beginning writer gain those all-important writing credits? It's actually a lot
easier than you think.
Beginning with the premise that "All editors need writers", remember that every newsletter,
newspaper, magazine, periodical, publishing house, web site, radio station, television station
and movie studio would be absolutely nowhere if some writer did not put pen to paper and
WRITE! Without those writers, editors would be out of a job, and the newsagent's stands
would be empty.
Now that nobody is so intimidated by the big, bad editors, let's take a look at how to fill that
professional portfolio with published work.
This is often the hardest obstacle for new writers to overcome. Finding the confidence to
send your work to a complete stranger can often delay, or even halt, a fledgling writing
Get online. Check out as many potential markets as you can find. Create a file for these
sources and rate them as to how difficult or how accepting you would consider them to be. If
you've done even a vague amount of homework on these, you would begin to realize that
some markets will be relatively easy to crack.
Submit articles to non-paying online sites. These sites won't make you buckets of money (if
any at all!) - unless you're into major self-promotion - but they will help you to develop some
confidence in your abilities.
Focus on the reader, or even editorial, feedback. You will soon discover which articles held
that 'spark' which pulled readers in and which articles did not make the grade. Learn from
this and follow your own examples when you write your next piece. When you are confident
in your ability to give readers something valid, aim a little wider with your focus.
If you are the type of person who prefers to aim high, then go right ahead and aim straight
for the top paying markets right off the bat. There's nothing wrong with that approach at all.
But if you would prefer to see your professional portfolio grow, and thus ensure that the
larger markets will eventually take you more seriously as a writer, then begin submitting your
work to the smaller markets.
Small press newspapers exist in almost every town in the world, serving the communities with
local news, events, and trivia. Most of the time, these small press papers exist on a
shoe-string budget, but almost all of them will gladly accept a submission from a fledgling
author. Offer your work in return for only a by-line (your name printed below the article or
I am aware that advocating "Writing for no pay" will bring a round of protests my way, but I
am not suggesting you do it often. You only need to submit this way for as long as it takes to
get that one clipping with your by-line into your portfolio.
Persistence and Patience
Submitting any writing to a publication is going to mean learning the art of patience. Editors
are usually busy people and can often take up to several months just to send you that
much-awaited rejection slip.
Rather than sit back and wait for a response from that first piece of writing, sit down and
immediately create something else. Then submit THAT, too. While you have more than once
piece circulating the 'submission rounds', you will find it easier to cope with the waiting game.
When your response from the editor does arrive, you need to be aware that the envelope in
the mailbox could very well be a rejection. Don't give up - and don't throw the piece away.
Persist - and submit it to another publication the same day!
Rejection is a way of life for a writer. Even the all-time greats were rejected at the start of
their careers, and you are no different.
Rejection does not necessarily mean your work is no good. It may mean the publication or
publishing house you submitted to is filled to brimming at the moment. It could mean the
editor has already blown the budget for that quarter. It could also mean that some other
writer has already submitted an article or story that is similar in topic to your own.
Realize that for each rejection you have in your 'rejection file', you are one rejection closer to
receiving an acceptance. File the slip accordingly and send the article or story back out the
same day .
Expand your Horizons
Armed with a newfound confidence in your abilities, and a small list of professional, verifiable
writing credits, you should begin researching larger markets. There are literally thousands of
publications wanting more and more submissions from writers just like you. So what are you
- 2005 Writer's Markets (Click Here to View Amazon's Reviews) - this is the must-have book
for any writer serious about turning his or her craft into a career. Contains thousands of
market listings, submission guidelines and more.
- Fiction Factor (http://www.fictionf actor.com/ markets.html) - offers heaps of paying online
markets, including markets for fiction, non-fiction, poetry, contests and anthologies.
- Ralan.com (http://www.ralan. com) - brilliant market site for fiction writers. Always up-to-date
and filled to brimming with great opportunities for any writer.
- Writer's Markets (http://www.writersw eekly.com) - list hundreds of current paying print and
online markets weekly.
- Literary Market Place (http://www.literary marketplace. com/lmp/us/ index_us. asp) Grab a
copy of this excellent writer's market resource from your library, or better yet, buy a new
- And if you're still short of places to look for markets, check out our own resources page
(http://www.fictionf actor.com/ links.html) - there are plenty more market listings and writer's
pages there for you to choose from.
Study print magazines and genre periodicals. Even the women's glossy mags accept
freelance articles and short fiction these days.
Make sure you have a feel for the style of work they prefer to accept before you submit. List
your current writing credits on a professionally written query letter, and submit your work.
By this stage you should be seeing those small clippings beginning to work for you. A
non-paying by-line in an online web-zine could be the step you need to get you accepted by
a large magazine publisher. In turn, that clip from a magazine publisher could just be enough
to convince an editor to take a chance on a bigger project, or even your novel.
Good luck with growing your own portfolio!