Thursday 6 January 2022

Simon Elson, "Pitch Perfect: Make Money From Your Writing"

Simon Elson is a Freelance Features Writer. His articles have appeared in over a dozen national magazines including Best of British, Britain at War, Derbyshire Life and Writing Magazine. He also writes for the popular cycling website and has been a guest blogger on The Huffington Post.  His self help health book Sugar Beat was a top-10 bestseller on Amazon. His features have covered subjects ranging from transport to history to fitness. His new e-book is Pitch Perfect: Make Money From Your Writing. You can see his online portfolio here.

About Pitch Perfect, by Simon Elson

I’d been writing for years; unfinished novels lay neglected in a bottom drawer - okay, actually, nowadays they sit on a flash drive in a coffee cup in a display cabinet. After abandoning the fiction (for now), I started blogging, following a shout out on a cycling forum. Then I started my own blog. A large online newspaper followed that. When they accepted several of my pieces, I thought I’d made it as a blogger. Then the realisation dawned: they were earning money from adverts on my posts, but I was being paid in kudos. As much as I appreciated the exposure and links to my own blog they permitted (traffic to my own site did go up when I wrote for them) I was getting jack-all for my toil.

I decided to start writing for magazines and I wanted paying for my work. Some websites will pay for your words but not many. Without a degree in anything, only a GCSE in English Language and a day job in sales, I wondered how to convince magazines that I was a serious features writer and get paid for my writing output. 

I managed through a few simple steps to become accepted in this competitive market. In this book I take the reader through the easy process I came up with, to become a successful freelance features writer - from blogging, through prize letter-writing, to honing your skills, to your first feature article and the dreaded pitch to an editor. Looking professional and taking your own images to accompany the articles are also covered in depth.  

From Pitch Perfect

From Chapter One – Honing Your Writing Skills

If you're reading this I assume you can write blog posts and articles. But ask yourself truthfully: are they any good? They may be, but asking your Mum or Auntie Edith to read the website you’ve created is often useless. They will be your biggest fan - you could take the shopping list off the fridge door and post it online and they will love it, or say they do, as that is what they think you want to hear.

You need an editor to reject articles or ask for alterations to make them editorially tighter or punchier. You can’t be your own editor. Trust me, it doesn’t work because you will either be over-critical and bin/delete everything or, on the flipside, it will all seem excellent and perfect.

So how do you get an editor? Easy, you borrow one. As I said in the introduction, I’ve written for other people’s blogs. There are lots of websites out there that are crying out for content. Find one on a subject that interests you and offer your services to them. I answered a request on a cycling forum from a fellow member requiring content for a new website he was launching. I answered the call and became a regular contributor to it. Over the years, he gave me advice on style and technique. On the odd occasion he gave me a commission, a subject he wanted covering would drop into my inbox. I happily wrote the articles and submitted them. He became my first editor. He helped my writing confidence enormously by making me write an ebook on Type 2 diabetes and cycling based on an article I sent in, and then editing it for me. It became a bestseller on Amazon. 

Blogging for someone else can give you tremendous confidence. When the cycling website finished several years later, I approached the Huffington Post. They were a bit different; they didn’t offer advice on content but did reject more ruthlessly than the cycling blog. I was happy to write for them for free because of the readership - hundreds of thousands of page clicks every day and syndicated to other countries. A post on staycations went viral, all over Twitter, but unfortunately it still didn’t earn me a penny. It was time to approach the magazine market ...

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