The Word for Writers
GET a Gimmick
For this freelancer, a single word was the key to a series of successes.
by Charles Baker
I didn’t even have to open a Writer’s Digest magazine for it to help my writing career. It happened one day when I was looking at the cover of April 2003’s Start Writing Now, one of WD’s special issues. The cover lines read: “Get Started! Get Involved! Get Inspired!”
The repetition of the word “get” was an inspiration to me. It’s short. It’s catchy. It implies activity and instant gratification. I realized I could use “get” as the hook for a wide variety of articles. So with only that word to go on, I quickly came up with an idea for a column: Get God, directed at Christian publications.
The first editor I pitched it to loved the idea. I’ve now written more than 20 articles for her, including “Get an Amazing Offer,” and “Get a Faith Lift.” I continue to write a new one for her every week.
Emboldened by that first success, I explored the “get” idea further. I wrote a few Get Writing columns for a local newspaper’s Web site, including “Get a Journal.” I also created a poetry column, Get Poetic, for an online literary journal.
By the time I discovered that a Web site catering to beginning writers was looking for a regular poetry columnist, I’d already planned 50 articles and written six of them fully. I had a fair amount of work with which to query the Web site’s editors, and it paid off. Now I write a column for them twice a week. I’ve also written a 30-page workbook to go with the first six columns.
Building ideas for these poetry columns led to compiling a book-length manuscript of my poetry and submitting it to publishers. A poetry press accepted my collection, and Cross Examinations is to be published later this year. Even better, one of the poems, “Homeless,” won a first-place prize in a paying contest.
But back to my articles. I sold two more, from my new Get Healthy series, to a wellness publication: “Get Involved—How Volunteering Can Help Others … and You” and “Get Stressless.” The “get” idea had opened up yet another category for me.
Next was the business market. I wrote a few sample pieces, began querying and soon a magazine editor in New York assigned me three articles. I had completely finished one of these articles already: “Get Your Boss’s Attention.” Though the title was eventually changed, it allowed me to get into both the June and July issues of the magazine.
Using a similar approach, I then wrote and pitched three health and lifestyle articles to a men’s magazine, including “Get Your Hands Up,” a grooming article about caring for your hands. All three were accepted.
All this work has added up to great exposure for my writing and thousands of dollars’ worth of assignments, but it gets even better. The original editor I sold on the Get God concept? She agreed, in her parallel capacity as a book publisher, to publish several titles I’d proposed, including Get Love, a Bible study based on one of my columns. There’s also talk of setting up a publishing schedule for one or two more “get” books each year (Get Faith and Get Prayer have already been planned).
The momentum for these “get” projects may peter out eventually—I’m already formulating my next gimmick—but so far it’s going strong. Just recently another editor called, saying that he wanted to print my Get God columns (and another of my columns, Man Alive, as well) in his weekly newspaper. He asked, “Is a 52-week contract OK to start?” I said yes. Yessir, that’s just fine with me.
And, finally, in the interest of keeping the ball rolling, I have just one question for the editors and publishers who read Writer’s Digest: What can I get for you?
Charles Baker (www.getgod.tk) is a freelance writer based in Coquitlam, British Columbia.
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