5 Big Reasons Your Article Idea Isn’t Selling
I critique a lot of ideas in my Write for Magazines e-course, and I see the same problems over and over again. I compiled some of the more common ones here — so you can speed through the learning curve and start brainstorming ideas that sell.
1. Your idea is actually a topic, not an idea.
Ten tips for destressing? That’s a topic, not an article idea. Tips on how to destress in 10 minutes a day, or from people with pressure-cooker jobs, or using calm-enhancing foods you already have in your fridge — those are ideas.
Here’s a trick for figuring out if you have a topic or an idea: Ask yourself, “Could there be a book about this? Are there already books about this?”
For example, bookstore shelves are bursting with many, many books on beating stress. It’s such a broad topic that you need like 200 pages just to do it justice. Your job is to focus on and expand upon a small slice of that topic.
2. Your idea is too narrow.
This is the opposite of the problem we just discussed. For instance, if you pitch an idea to a national magazine on three Ohio women who are doing great things in their communities — well, the editor will know that only people in Ohio are likely to be interested in this article.
3. Your idea doesn’t resonate with the magazine’s readership.
Many writers I work with want to pitch the women’s and health magazines about a disease or condition they’ve had a run-in with. Unfortunately, though, often this health issue affects only a very small percentage of the population.
When I pitched an article on transient tics and Tourette’s to Redbook, I let the editor know that 10-20% of school age kids will develop a tic. The idea sold, because many of Redbook’s readers — who are moms of kids in that age range — can relate. And even if their kid doesn’t have a tic now, they want to know what to do should their child be one of those 10-20%.
Whatever issue you’d like to write about, tell the editor in your pitch how common it is among the magazine’s demographic. And if it’s not common at all — you need to rethink your idea. One way to do this is to offer a round-up of four or five similar issues.
4. There’s not enough there.
Often, writers pitch a feature that doesn’t have enough meat to it to warrant 1,000+ words. It’s more of an FOB (Front of the Book) piece — these are typically under 300 or so words.
If you want to pitch an FOB, great — this is a good way to break into new-to-you magazines. But if you prefer to query a feature, use the tips from this blog post on expanding your idea.
5. Your idea is really just a vent.
Sometimes we writers try to pass of a personal vent as an article idea. You hate it when people don’t hold the door for you and leave books on the table at the bookstore café? Hey, you think — why not sell it as an article or essay on how impolite people have become?
Sorry — a rant without reader service will rarely sell. People don’t want to be lectured to…they want information that will help them change their lives for the better right now.
I wrote a whole blog post on this: Are You Making This Idea Generation Mistake That’s Costing You Assignments?
So sure, be inspired by what pisses you off. Just don’t try to turn it wholesale into an article.
What do you think? What are some other reasons a writer’s ideas may not be selling? Add your thoughts to the Comments below! [lf]
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Oct 8, 2012 Ideas