I had read things on The Huffington Post and The Mighty, so that’s where I started my search. By the grace of the Google gods, I came across Beyond Your Blog. I listened to the podcasts Susan did with both HuffPost Parents and The Mighty which were extremely helpful. Then on that Sunday night, I held my breath and submitted to both through the instructions on their respective websites. (Note: Both these sites are unpaid and accept previously published material so this was acceptable. Many sites require exclusivity for original content, especially if you are compensated, so it is important to know each site’s policy before submitting to more than one place).
I knew it was a long shot. Who was I? I was an unknown “educator turned stay-at-home mom” with no prior bylines or real writing experience. But, I had nothing to lose by trying.
Less than 24 hours later, I received a response from The Mighty saying they wanted to publish my piece. I could not believe it! They liked me! They really liked me! I was overjoyed.
I had not received any response from HuffPost yet, but I knew they were a bigger site so I waited. In the meantime, I read everything I could get my hands on about being published there, including Susan’s interviews with five HuffPost contributors. By doing my research, I learned that the HuffPost Pitch Form wasn’t always the best way to get noticed by the editors, and I feared my article went into the black hole of submissions. So, being impatient and naively determined as I was, and based on what I had learned from reading about other people’s successes, I found the email addresses for the editors, as well as for Arianna Huffington herself. It was now Wednesday. Over the course of the next day, I emailed my piece to each of them individually, starting with Arianna herself.
Less than 24 hours from my first email, the unimaginable happened. I received a personal response from Arianna Huffington! (Even typing this now I am getting butterflies and feeling all fan-girly). She thanked me for sharing with her and said they would like to publish my article. A few hours later I was set up with Backstage Access and that night I submitted formally through there.
On Friday, exactly a week after I put pen to paper, I became a published HuffPost blogger! Unfortunately, my piece seemed to be published into the depths of cyberspace and was not visible on the HuffPost Parents page. But, I had made a connection with HuffPost and I was thrilled. I promoted my piece through social media and in online heart health communities, so it did what I consider very well for my first article (1,700 Facebook likes). The Mighty published the piece with a different title and a few minor edits the following week, and to date it has been shared 4,900 times on Facebook.
Here is how I did it:
1. Write about what you are passionate about. – I have found that writing about my passions comes easily to me. I am able to put my words together much more eloquently when I am invested in the topic. Find what you are passionate about and grab a pen (or laptop). Don’t forget to edit, edit, edit.
2. Do your research. – Gather information about different blogs. There are so many great sites out there that cover a variety of topics, from parenting to travel to health and more. Research what types of content different blogs publish, and see where your topic would fit. Also, learn what worked for other writers and find the contact info for site editors, if possible.
3. Be open-minded. – It is good to have a goal list for publication, but keep an open mind. Don’t cross off the unpaid sites, either. For new writers, exposure can be just as valuable as money.
4. Submit. – Read up on the submission guidelines for the sites you are interested in. Make sure to follow these! Every site is different with what they prefer. Some request you copy and paste your piece in the body of the email, some prefer attachments and some have their own specific submission form. Take note of the word count guidelines as well, and try to stay within the suggested range. Also, sites often ask for a short bio and a headshot, so have these ready.
5. Follow up. – If you do not hear back, follow up with the editor of the site. A polite, brief email is appropriate to send if you have not heard back in a reasonable amount of time. Often sites will specify a time frame in which you should hear back within their submission guidelines. Some sites are very large and cannot respond to everyone. These places may say if you do not hear back within a certain amount of time, you should consider it a no, in which case no follow up is necessary.
Since February, I have continued writing and have had several more pieces published and have several more “on deck” awaiting their publication date. I am so excited to be embarking on this new adventure. I am very glad that I took the chance to submit my first essay two and a half months ago. My advice for those of you who are just starting out with hopes of being published is to follow your heart. You, too, could go from zero to published in one week flat.