“Don't pursue a career in the Arts unless you love the Arts truly, madly, deeply. And do not have any delusions about what awaits you both in educational settings, and in the job market. …If you think you're gonna get a break because you have a disability, think again. …You better be the best you can be at what you do, and do not allow yourself to use your disability as an excuse NOT to work continually and consistently towards total professionalism and high standards of quality.”
-- Jaehn Clare, professional theatre artist, from "A Career as an Artist Ain't an Easy Row to Hoe," keynote address for The Art of Employment: Careers in the Arts for People with Disabilities on March 25 & 26, 2002 at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis MN.
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An ArtsWORK exclusive by Jody Michele Powers
If you are a writer, you may wonder about the best way to get your work published in magazines. I sold my first article to a national magazine, New Mobility, back in 2009. Follow my advice to increase your odds of making your first big sell:
1. When you think of your idea, find the magazine that best relates to it.
I wanted to write a piece on how people without personal experience shouldn’t speak on the behalf of people with disabilities.Since I knew New Mobility empowers people with disabilities, I knew my article topic would be appealing. You may have to read several issues of a particular publication to understand its style.
Remember each magazine caters to a specific audience; its goal is to give relevant content to that population. In other worlds, it would have been pointless for me to pitch my idea to Cat Fancy, a magazine devoted to cat lovers (an absurd example that makes my point).
Of course, you could always write your idea from a different angle in order to make it more appealing to a different magazine.
2. Once you select a magazine, find out their rules of etiquette and follow them.
Each publication likes to receive communication from writers in different ways. Some don’t mind if writers send completed articles with a cover letter. Many prefer if writers sent query letters (see below).Many like electronic submissions, while others still prefer to have submissions mailed to them.Their guidelines will be listed somewhere within the magazine and usually online. Whatever they may be, follow them. Editors will be attracted to this kind of professionalism.
This is the third of six pieces written by artists affiliated with ArtsWORK Indiana. We'd like to hear what you think, so go to our Facebook page and tell us! Check out other articles in the "View from the Field" series, published monthly.
3. Learn to write good query letters.
Basically, a query letter is a pitch of your article idea.It’s also the first impression you will be making. Editors take only a few seconds to decide on your idea, so make those seconds count. I suggest reading The Writers Digest Guide to Query Letters by Wendy Bunt-Thomas.
For now, though, you should know that a query letter for an article should be brief. It should explain your idea, why it would fit the particular magazine, and why you should be the one to write it.
Also, always address the query to a specific person. Just like writers, editors don’t appreciate the form letter approach.If the magazine doesn’t list a person, look for the listing of the staff members. Choose an associate editor to address the query to. It may not be the best person, but the effort you made will be noticed.
4. Use Manners.
If you read that it may take six weeks for a response, wait six weeks to do follow-up.
If you receive a rejection, thank them for the consideration and express your hope in working with them in the future. Since publishers network with one another, writers cannot afford to burn any bridges.
If your idea is accepted, make sure all the parties understand the details of the agreement. This includes the payment, the length of your article, the due date, and copying rights.
5. Follow through.
Do you know what happens when you are known for your dependability and ability to work with others? Publishers want to work with you. This makes it easier to sell other pieces to the same places. In fact, a good reputation will also cause publishers to request you to do work.
Seeing one’s work in print and being paid for it are experiences I truly want you to have. If you have any questions on my suggested tips, feel free to email me at email@example.com.
Jody Michele Powers is a writer and visual artist who lives in Muncie, IN with her husband Jay. She advocates for people with both physical disabilities and those with mental illnesses.
See profiles of a few of the many accomplished individuals working in diverse fields of the arts who also have a disability.
Go to People in the Arts
Gina Soo Golden is a painter from Indianapolis, Indiana. “I like to mix realism and surrealism.” “I aim to give a visual definition of feelings one could never quite describe with words,” she has written in her artist statement. Pictured above: The Gray Room.
read more about Gina Golden
Nicolas Lyford-Pike is an artist from Columbus, Indiana. Pictured above: Toyota Avalon.
read more about Nicolas Lyford-Pike
Warren Miller is an artist from Indianapolis, Indiana. Pictured above: Rub-a-Dub.
Wug Laku is an artist from Indianapolis, Indiana. "My art is about ideas and finding the purest, simplest ways of expressing them," he says. Pictured above: Earth Poems.
read more about Wug Laku
Stu Johnson specializes in Central Indiana subjects, from black and white shots
of architectural landmarks, to picture-postcard fall landscapes, to
prints of trucks and buses digitally enhanced with tie-dye colors.. Pictured above: The Ruins.
read more about Stu Johnson
Louisville, KY artist Susan Gorsen has exhibited her art in New Albany and served as Artist-Facilitator for ArtsWORK New Albany. Pictured above: Blue Moon.