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Looking For Blog Topics? They’re Right In Front Of You

lfbtWhether you’re in a position to take advantage of one or both of the above, here are a few steps to turn news stories into publishing success:

Watch television and read newspapers from a marketing perspective and look for media trends.

Every day for at least a month, watch as much television news and talk show programming as you possibly can, and read at least one national newspaper and your local daily paper. Pay close attention to which news stories are making the most headlines, and the names of the reporters and producers covering those stories. If you’ve authored a book, ask yourself if there’s anything in your book that relates to these current hot topics, and pitch yourself as an expert to the press on that subject.

For example, I was publicizing a book on divorce and getting little response from the news media until the Donald Trump divorce broke in the press. I immediately started calling every television and radio show in the country, telling producers that I had an expert who could make sense of New York’s most scandalous breakup. The author got so many bookings that the book hit bestseller lists coast-to-coast. The same goes for getting a book deal.

Publishers are always looking for book proposals that capitalize on current media trends. If you can cleverly tie a book idea to a hot media topic, your chances of getting a publishing deal are increased exponentially.

While I was getting my divorce-expert author on television, literary agents were getting book deals for writers who had manuscripts on the subjects of relationships and divorce law, among many other related topics.

Think creatively about how you can position yourself and your subject to tie in with current events.

Think beyond the obvious. When a front door is dosed, you can usually find a side door that’s open. Look at the big stories the press is covering, and develop an unusual approach or an intriguing take on a hot topic.

For example, let’s say you’ve written a cookbook called Comfort Foods, featuring recipes for higher-calorie dishes such as macaroni and cheese or chocolate cake. If you wanted a publicity placement in your local paper, the obvious reporter to pitch would be the food writer. If the food writer says no, how could “working the headlines” help you snag the coverage you want? Suppose you’re doing your media research as described in Step 1 and you come across a huge feature article about stress written by the psychology writer at your local paper. You could custom-design a pitch for him that focuses on the emotional importance of comfort foods.

Perhaps the article could be entitled “Food for the Soul.” Taking this idea one step further, that article could even become the genesis for another book that you write with a psychologist or that very same psychology writer on the value of comfort foods, why we love them, and their place in culinary history. The point here is not just to be creative, but also to be creative in a whole new kind of way.

I remember once doing publicity for a novel written by a former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent. The publisher was struggling to obtain coverage because the media kept insisting that if the book were nonfiction they would do something, but a novel wasn’t news from their perspective.

So what did I do? I turned to a beat reporter, who rarely gets any attention from publicists, whose work–covering high school sports–often has been taken for granted.

To me, the tie-in was obvious. The author was an expert on drugs. Where else is the threat of drug abuse more disturbing than in America’s high schools, particularly among young athletes who want to improve their athletic performance? I pitched the high school sports reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times about interviewing the author on this topic: “10 warning signs a student may be using illegal drugs to enhance his/her game, and what to do about it.”

The reporter was thrilled, because his readers were parents and coaches. I agreed to give him a great interview and he did a boxed review of the former DEA agent’s novel.

When the piece ran, it was a two-page spread that not only went out on the wire and ran in over 500 papers nationwide, but generated so much buzz that the author was then sought after by all the country’s top talk shows.

Look for opportunities in your hometown news.

Following media trends and headline stories not only generates book publicity and book proposal ideas, it can also lead to exciting and lucrative collaborative projects. It’s all about looking at the world from a new vista.

As you’re reading newspapers and watching TV news shows, keep a creative eye on big, unfolding local stories with national potential. They could lead to book deals and commissioned articles. Here’s how. Often, a story will emerge in the press that has tremendous human-interest appeal. These are small-town dramas that over time capture the attention of the entire country. They can range from bizarre murder cases, dramatic legal battles and major corporate debacles to medical stories, unusual personal tragedies and triumphs, and intriguing local mysteries. Frequently, these stories can be fodder for successful books and major magazine articles. Stay alert when it comes to big news stories in your hometown.

Several years ago, a college football star made local headlines because “boosters” (college football fans who give star players money, girls, cars–you name it) were lavishing such riches on this particular player that it drew the attention and ire of the FBI. It also landed this kid in prison. The debacle became an unprecedented scandal. A local journalist who followed the story decided it had enough juice to make a good book. He approached an agent who agreed, and within weeks he had secured a generous publishing deal. The book, which I then publicized, made headlines, too.

If there’s a particular story that’s dominating local press and it’s something you’re genuinely interested in, seize the reins. You could approach individuals directly involved in the story and ask if they’d like to explore the possibility of doing a book with you. Or, pay attention to the name of the reporter who’s covering the story in the paper and contact him about the possibility of co-authoring a book with you. Many journalists who cover these prominent stories would love to author a book but don’t have the time to do it on their own, and would be happy to have a collaborator.

Watch what’s happening around you. Use the local news as your guide and barometer. If you see a story that could be told in a book or magazine article, jump on it. You have a gift. Offer it, use it and feed it.

Hooks from the headlines

Mayflower Madam Sidney Biddle Barrows given jail sentence for running bordello

Possible book spin-offs: a novel featuring a debutante who turns into a criminal; a nonfiction book on good girls who go bad and why; the history of famous American madams.

New England Journal of Medicine study says eating chocolate can lower cholesterol by 80 percent

Possible publicity angles for books already published: If you’ve written a cookbook, pitch food writers on succulent chocolate recipes; if you’ve written a history book that touches on the history of certain foods, pitch the cultural reporter on the history of chocolate; if you’re a romance writer, pitch the relationship reporter on how to use chocolate to sweeten up your love life, or write a romance novel featuring chocolate in the plot.

Interview Tips… You’ll Need Them If You’re Serious

ivtsResearch your subject and use that knowledge. Author Bill Warner, whose articles on model aviation have appeared in publications in the United States, England and France, does extensive research before interviews. He refers to related newspaper and magazine articles, press kits and the person’s Web site, if any. He also talks to people who may know the potential interviewee.

All of this can help in formulating a list of questions you want to ask. The person may be an expert from whom you need facts, statistics or an authoritative opinion. Knowing something about the subjects–their work, talent or whatever makes them special in your eyes–can open doors to a great interview. People love talking about themselves, and your subject will share more if you show you care enough to do advance research.

Don’t be afraid to send a few questions in advance. I once interviewed a famous author who was media-shy. He had been burned by being misquoted in another interview and felt he had been depicted unfairly. By faxing him a short list of three to five questions, showing him the general direction I was heading with my article, I eased his fears and got my interview. Doing this can give your subjects a chance to consider a few responses in advance and reduce some of their own nervousness. Shojai, who interviews almost exclusively by phone, says that she doesn’t mind the subject knowing questions in advance, because the answers are usually more usable when the subject is “calm, collected and prepared.”

Choose open-ended questions that require some thought in answering, A question that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” is going to make for a very short and dull interview.

E-mailed interviews are gaining in popularity. Yasmine Galenorn, author of numerous metaphysical books, including Embracing the Moon, finds that e-mailed answers allow for more detail, rather than just a few short quips. She feels e-mail allows the person “to think about what the questions mean to them and to elaborate on things they otherwise might gloss over when they are fumbling for quick answers.” If time is an issue and you are having difficulties reaching the person for a phone interview, e-mail may be the answer for you.

Interview with your readers in mind. Having been trained in religious history, I began my own writing career in the Christian press, doing mainly historical and travel pieces and interviewing leading religious figures. When I decided to expand my markets to include secular publications, the learning curve was steep. My audience changed, and it was important to find out who my readers were so I could interview with questions of interest to them. Are you writing for a popular women’s magazine? A science bimonthly? A children’s newsletter? Vocabulary, slant and tone will differ in each case, and the best way to prepare is to read past issues of the magazines you intend to write for.

Consider the publication’s demographics when formulating and asking questions. To whom are the advertisements geared? A trade or specialty periodical may be more technical, while a consumer magazine may be a lighter read and more service-oriented. Knowing your market will help you ask the kinds of questions your readers want answered. And don’t be afraid to ask your subjects for clarification if their answers are too technical, vague or jargon-filled.

Develop an easy rapport with your subject. Dress comfortably and professionally, so you feel at ease. If you’re tense because you just noticed a button missing, it can throw off the entire interview. If you are well-groomed, the interviewee will take you more seriously. Also, an unkempt appearance can be distracting. The attention should be on the interviewee, not on you.

Remember, you are both human and likely to be somewhat nervous. A warm greeting and some light conversation the first few minutes allows everyone to take a few deep breaths before getting down to business. Giving your undivided attention and positive feedback to their responses will go a long way toward getting the person to loosen up. Your goal is to get them to talk, so don’t hog center stage. If you help them feel comfortable enough to be themselves in your presence, your problem won’t be getting them to open up, but rather, getting them to stop!

Be ready to wing it and deviate from your initial questions. There is a poetry to interviewing that can only be learned by doing it. Sometimes, an interview will change direction as a result of something your subject says. I once interviewed a woman who had recently lost her close friend and had taken over that friend’s business. She shared heartfelt emotions about the extensive process of learning how to run a business in the face of grief. This was unexpected, but turned out to be the highlight of my article. Gems like these could have been missed if I had ignored her wistful sighs or allusions to sorrow. If you clue in to what is being said, you will learn to pick up on body language that bespeaks of powerful stories untold.

Balancing spontaneity with the necessary questions you simply must ask can be a gamble. You will need to trust yourself to wander into uncharted territory. Leaving room for spontaneity can mean the difference between lifeless facts and information borne out of human experience.

Spontaneity can, however, also lead to an interview spinning out of control, where the interviewee’s own agenda snakes its way into the interview. The person may insist on getting colleagues’ names in print, expect to tell you how and what to write, or insist on discussing topics outside your scope. While you want to be courteous and not cut the person off, it is important that you swing the discussion back to the subject at hand. Remember, you are the writer.

Get comfortable with telephone interviews. No doubt about it, there’s no substitute for being there and putting your personal experience and authority to work. But if time and geographical limitations are issues, the telephone is quicker and cheaper than an air ticket. Take detailed notes during the call, or invest in a telephone taping system. Shojai, who interviewed more than 80 experts for her latest book, prefers telephone interviewing and swears by her tape-transcription machine, which has a phone coupler that allows both sides of the conversation to be taped. With headset and foot pedal for transcription ease, it is an ideal tool for a writer who often interviews by phone.

If you interview infrequently, less expensive equipment–even a regular tape recorder placed beside your speakerphone–can suffice. Regardless of which machine you use, be sure to also take notes as an emergency backup.

Kelly James-Enger, a lawyer turned freelance writer, found her written notes invaluable when her handheld tape recorder failed to record during a phone interview. (See article about recording snafus on page 42.) She was faced with a nightmarish 30 minutes of dead air on the tape. With note-taking skills honed during years of legal hearings and depositions, she was able to piece together the untaped interview with just her own notes.

Be sure to ask the interviewee if it it is OK to tape the call to ensure accuracy. Some states legally require you to tell callers that you are taping them. Legalities aside, it’s also the ethical thing to do.

To tape or to take notes–that is the question. In person, it is preferable to do both. When I sit down with my subjects, I place my tape recorder in the open, off to the side, and ask if they would mind if I tape our conversation, as it would allow me to concentrate on them more fully. No one has ever refused my request. Taping the conversation allows you to watch your subject, focus on what is being said, and clue in to their body language.

Taking notes is especially handy for recording proper names. Don’t guess. Ask for the correct spellings, titles and other factual details.

Equipped with tape recorder, extra batteries, notepads, pens and–if you use them–your calling card, you will show that you are a pro, even if you’re a bit nervous.

Engage with your subject. Emotional connection isn’t always necessary or even desired, but sharing a personal moment can lead to a more rewarding interview.

“The emotional impact adds incredible value to the work,” Shojai believes. “It puts the information in a real-life context with which readers most easily identify.”

I once interviewed a religious leader who was also an author. Our meeting had been originally scheduled for one hour, but our time together stretched to two and a half hours as, afterward, I was invited to see a new chapel built on the property. Entering that serene world for a brief time gave me an additional connection with the author, which helped me write a deeper, more layered feature.

Another time, my interviewee brought his dog to our meeting, and Rover’s presence among us unabashed dog-lovers made for a very easy interview.

Galenorn remembers special emotional moments such as interviewing a female athlete who relayed how she walked the rough final miles of a marathon in memory of leukemia victims. “That was a poignant moment that you just can’t fake or invent,” Galenorn says.

Berridge agrees. “Without the personal moments and emotion, my books would be flat. Human interest is what it’s about.”

Finish up on the right note. All your questions have been answered and the interview is winding down. A great way to end interviews is to ask your interviewees what they would most like readers to know about them, and offer them the chance to add anything that may not have been covered.

Given permission to open up, interviewees can provide unexpected treasures. They may want to clarify earlier impressions or show a softer, more human side. These special moments can add zip to your article.

The end of the interview is also a great time to ask to take photographs, if needed. Pulling out your camera on arrival is likely to make people clench their teeth and turn shy. Few people love having their photos taken, but they will be more willing if you have already shared some time and put them at ease. Thank the interviewee and offer to send a copy of the published article. Follow up with a brief thank-you note.

Writing For Yourself Is Key When You’re Thinking Freelancing

wfyfMost writers consider the ability to work at home to be one of the most positive aspects of freelancing. You can get up when you want, work wherever you’re comfortable and wear what you like.

Working at home also means having more time to spend with your family. “I love being with my children every day,” says Shirley Kawa-Jump, who divides her time between writing freelance articles and marketing materials. “I see them off to school, go on the field trips, bake the cookies, read them stories at night.” Briggs has been able to save money by keeping her four horses on her property, instead of at a boarding stable. “This is a wonderful luxury, even if it means a lot of time spent with a pitchfork in my hand,” says Briggs.

Drawback: Isolation. Working at home, however, can also mean working alone. If you’re used to lunches with coworkers, chatting around the water cooler or regular face-to-face meetings with clients and customers, you may find the writing life rather lonely. “When the FedEx guy shows up, it’s an event!” says Briggs. Peter Vogt, who writes primarily for electronic markets, agrees: “You know you’re lonely when you walk to the gas station just to talk to someone.”

Solution: Writers have found many ways to overcome this isolation. Some keep up “virtual” connections and stay in touch with friends and other writers by e-mail. Or they join online critique and discussion groups. “I rely heavily on e-mail for human contact and work-related discussions and gossip,” says Briggs. Other writers make a special effort to get out of the house and meet colleagues for breakfast or lunch, or they keep in touch by phone. “I don’t have any rules about not chatting with friends during working hours,” says magazine writer Barbara Stahura. “When I get a little twitchy from lack of face time, I go out to lunch or for an evening with friends.” Several writers recommends taking a class at a community college, signing up for exercise classes at a gym, or taking one’s writing to a local coffeehouse.

Patricia Fry, author of 11 books and articles for more than 160 magazines, has solved the isolation problem by incorporating human interaction into her work. “I do a lot of interviews, for example, and I work with an occasional client. I speak publicly to promote my book. I belong to writers/publishers groups and attend book fairs and other events. I also get out and do some volunteering locally. And I have the company of four lovely cats.”

Variety, flexibility and self-esteem

Benefit: “It simply would not be possible to write for such a wide variety of audiences in a salaried job,” notes Suzan St. Maur, who divides her time between business and corporate clients and writing nonfiction books. “It is this variety that keeps me interested, perky and inspired.” Stahura reports that her magazine topics range from spirituality to technology, including personal essays, radio essays and poetry. “I get to talk with interesting people I’d never otherwise have the opportunity to meet … [and] to indulge my curiosity about a wide variety of subjects and get paid for it.” Sobczak’s writing ranges from speculative fiction to nonfiction coverage of a variety of social topics (including minority relations, ethics, business law and history), as well as “nongenre works centered on relationships and modern means of communication.” Lawrence Schimel, who left New York City to pursue his writing career in Spain, publishes fiction and poetry and edits a variety of fiction anthologies.

A writing career is psychologically rewarding as well. “Any success is sweeter because it is based solely on me expressing myself,” says Nobleman, who divides his time between magazine articles, nonfiction books and cartoons. Briggs feels that writing puts her in “control of her destiny.” Another magazine writer, Amanda Vogel, enjoys “the sense of accomplishment I feel when I complete an article or score a plum assignment–and the opportunity to constantly set and achieve new goals.”

Drawback: Your job is now “9-to-forever.” That sense of accomplishment often comes with a price: When one’s home is one’s office, it can be very difficult to “leave” the office. “There is almost no line at all between my business and home life,” says Turk. “I take a weekend day off very reluctantly. I constantly check e-mail after hours and on weekends and work on projects until late in the evening, on weekends and vacations.”

While some writers (notably those who were single) don’t consider this a problem, those with families note that work often interferes with family time. Kawa-Jump notes that in her ease, family was actually the cause of her erratic work hours: “With a 3-year-old, I work around his schedule, which means lots of early mornings, late nights and working weekends. Clients and interviews happen during the day, so there really is no time when I am not working.”

The temptation to take on more work than you can handle (or handle on a “normal” work schedule) can be hard to resist, especially when income is tight and every new assignment can mean a much-needed cheek.

Solution: Experienced freelancers advise that you choose your assignments carefully. A $500 article offers a much better payoff for your time than five $100 articles. Another suggestion is to learn to say no, especially when

editors make unreasonable demands. One writer, for example, was asked to proof her book-manuscript galleys over the Christmas break. Yet another is to learn to recognize, and turn down, “bad” clients–clients who don’t know what they want, or keep changing their minds, or ask for endless revisions.

Another solution is to take physical steps to “close the office door” at the end of the day. One way to do this is to set an alarm clock for a particular time–for example, 5 p.m. When the alarm rings, your workday is over. Granted, there will always be times when an important assignment requires “overtime,” but this should be the exception rather than the rule. Another approach is to change into “work clothes” during the day, and back into “casual clothes” at night. A simple change of wardrobe can mean a change of attitude as well. Finally, if you find it hard to resist the temptation to check e-mail, actually turn your computer off at the end of your workday.

What it takes to succeed

If you want to be a successful freelancer, forget the 40-hour work week. Most respondents work at least 45 to 55 hours per week, and nearly a third work more than 60 hours. In addition, the majority of those hours (generally as much as 80 percent) were spent writing, rather than in other tasks such as marketing or bookkeeping. Respondents offer these additional tips for success:

Don’t quit your day job right away. Rather than plunging directly into full-time freelancing, start by freelancing in your spare time, while keeping your regular job. “It may initially mean late nights, weekend work and missing some social engagements,” says Nobleman. It also means, however, building up a client list, building skills and work habits, and determining whether this really is viable and something you want to do full time. In addition, keeping your day job will help you build a financial reserve. Medical writer Turk recommends having at least six months’–but preferably a year’s–income stashed away before you “make the break.”

Diversify. Several writers recommend finding more than one type of market area. “I’ve found diversification instrumental in growing my business–I’ve written for Web sites, corporations, hospitals, magazines, newspapers,” says Amy Sutton, who has been freelancing for just under a year. “Don’t limit yourself by saying `I only write for magazines.’” Schimel agrees. “Some years I make scads of money from writing poems, and other years it’s the anthologies, and other years it’s my own story collections. I think it’s exactly that versatility that lets me be a full-time freelancer, because whenever one of the genres bottoms out or if my muse in a particular area dries up (last year it was fiction), I can still make a living writing in other arenas.”

Specialize. Even as you diversify into different market areas, it may be a good idea to pick a subject specialty. Pick an area in which you have particular expertise, so that you can sell editors on your credentials as well as your writing ability. “You’re more appealing to editors if you know what you’re writing about,” says Vogt, a career counselor who writes about career development issues. “Figure out what you’d like to write about, and then find markets for it.”

Work hard. “Be prepared to work harder at this than any other job,” says Kawa-Jump. Again, most respondents report working far more than 40 hours a week. Keep in mind that as a freelance writer, you also have to handle all the administrative tasks that would normally be handled by “other departments” in a corporate office, including marketing, bookkeeping and billing. In the office, you get paid “even when you’re having a nonproductive day,” Sobczak points out; as a freelancer, if you’re not working, you’re not earning.

Learn to market. In the corporate office, work lands on your desk whether you want it or not (and often, you don’t!). The freelance life is just the opposite; work doesn’t come to you unless you go out and find it. This means learning how to write effective queries, how to conduct good market research and find opportunities, how to negotiate contracts and payments, and how to follow up.

Some writers make a commitment to send out a specific number of queries per week–five, 10, even 20. “I think many freelancers underestimate the time and effort involved with marketing themselves,” says Briggs. “They don’t feel comfortable selling their work, but they need to come to grips with the fact that editors aren’t going to come swarming to their door, begging them to write for them for large sums of money!”

Be professional. “Your reputation is everything,” says W. Thomas Smith Jr., who specializes in everything from military science to Southern culture and history, and also teaches a senior-level course in magazine writing at the University of South Carolina’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications. “Never lie or misrepresent anything to an editor. Never make excuses about anything. Meet your deadlines. Don’t be afraid to send flowers and thoughtful notes to an editor, but very sparingly, and never in a fawning, kiss-up manner. It’s all about commitment.” Good writing may bring in your first assignment; qualities like reliability and responsiveness are what keep editors coming back.

Accept rejection. Rejection is an inevitable part of the writing life. “Don’t get discouraged by rejections; learn from them,” says magazine writer Vogel. “Let the negatives roll off,” Smith agrees. Keep in mind that rejection often has nothing to do with the quality of your work; editors can accept only a limited number of articles, which means even very good work must often be turned away.

Have faith in yourself. If you don’t believe in your writing ability, you’ll have a tough time trying to “sell” yourself to others. It’s important to keep a realistic perspective: Success in the writing business rarely happens overnight. “Work diligently; be patient,” says Stahura. “If you’re following your heart, success will come.” Smith agrees: “Be persistent. Never quit, because that’s when you lose.” Successful freelancers are those who stay with it in spite of the rejections and the setbacks.

Success can also take time. Though half the respondents became self-supporting in less than one year, nearly a third found that it took two to five years to become fully independent.

Follow your heart! “Don’t become a full-time freelancer unless it is a compulsion,” says Fred Bortz, who left a 25-year career as a physicist in 1996 to pursue a career in writing. He notes that freelancing is a perilous venture; it isn’t for the easily discouraged. But if writing is your joy and your passion, freelancing can offer an opportunity to do what most people only dream of–the chance to earn a living by doing what you love!

101 Great Posting Ideas That Will Make Your Blog Sizzle

gpiGreat posts are hard to do consistently on a day-to-day basis. Probloggers really have to work at it. I thought about all the different ways and angles a blogger can approach choosing posting topics. Here are 101 different ideas that I think are great to stimulate your mind and jumpstart your blogging.

  1. Brainstorm by matching up your readers wants and needs using the Visitor Grid method of brainstorming<.
  2. Write a post by examining the pros and cons of an issue.
  3. Write a tutorial.
  4. Do an interview with key people in your niche.
  5. Create a mock head-to-head competition like what Daniel did.
  6. Do a case study like what Read/Write Web did with the hot topics on Technorati 100.
  7. Take an alternate position.
  8. Write a long comment.
  9. Pick a topic by reading business book titles.
  10. Research a topic by doing research on Amazon.com.
  11. Drill down on a topic using Ask.com‘s search feature.
  12. Do a post that answers your readers’ questions.
  13. Create a comprehensive list.
  14. Create flagship content.
  15. Interview controversial people in your niche.
  16. Post about current events in your niche.
  17. Invite your readers to submit articles.
  18. Instead of exchanging links, get together with other bloggers and review each others’ blogs.
  19. Connect with bloggers around your same level and share ideas.
  20. Do a “speedlinking” post.
  21. Post about posts made by others in your My Blog Log community.
  22. Be opinionated in your post.
  23. Turn off the nofollow attribute to encourage comments.
  24. Do a “tag” post and have other bloggers who are tagged add to a list.
  25. Do an “IM” PPC campaign and then post about the results.
  26. Be a guest blogger and share ideas with new readers.
  27. Review your statistics to see what keywords referred your visitors to your site and post about those.
  28. Answer your readers’ questions with more questions (i.e., have you thought about…?).
  29. Contrast two or more positions in a post.
  30. Make a post that solves a problem.
  31. Make a post that is inspirational.
  32. Make a satirical post.
  33. Write a series of posts.
  34. Post your research findings.
  35. Post an “advantages/disadvantages” post.
  36. Update an old post for new ideas/findings.
  37. Link ideas from different genres in your posts (e.g., Celebrities and the gadgets they own).
  38. Debunk a myth in your post.
  39. Make a post for beginners.
  40. Make a post for advanced readers.
  41. Invite experts to comment on your post.
  42. Ask your readers to Digg your best posts.
  43. Change up your posting style (e.g., tutorial, reviews, etc.).
  44. Write a funny post.
  45. Create a huge list of your best posts.
  46. Add to a list started by another blogger.
  47. Create a mission statement for your blog.
  48. Make a post simplifying a complex problem for your readers.
  49. Create a guide for your niche.
  50. Make a post turning a negative into a positive through humor ( e.g., tell a joke: “My parents tell me I’m autistic. I tell them they have an attitude problem.”).
  51. Browse through a thesaurus and see if synonyms help spark ideas for your posts.
  52. Respond to criticism in a post (e.g., respond to the Wall Street Journal’s criticism of bloggers).
  53. Write a post like you are telling a story.
  54. Spruce up your posts with pictures.
  55. Post about frequently asked questions in your niche.
  56. Pose a rhetorical question in your post.
  57. Post about what’s popular and why it’s beneficial ( e.g., “Twitter” for tech blogs).
  58. Pose a hypothesis and conclusion in your post.
  59. Support your post with related post links.
  60. Make a [blank] for dummies post.
  61. Post a picture that speaks a thousand words.
  62. Buy a how-to book from a bookstore and use some of the ideas from that book to generate ideas for posting (e.g., a book about Photoshop).
  63. Look at the archives of your niche competitors and see if any of their old posts can be expanded in an “update” post on your blog.
  64. Post with a personality (e.g., John Chow is evil).
  65. Write about how to do something more efficiently in your niche.
  66. Write about generally unknown secrets in your niche.
  67. Write about how to use a product in an unconventional way.
  68. Do a post transcribing live events (e.g., Macworld conference).
  69. Dissect an argument in a post.
  70. Make a post summarizing someone else’s post.
  71. Make a post about how things have changed from the past.
  72. Make a post that expands on someone else’s post.
  73. Create a post that incorporates the words, “desperate” and “futile”.
  74. Make a post alleging a conspiracy (e.g., Is there a Digg Bury Brigade?).
  75. Make a post that encourages visitors to subscribe by offering a reward.
  76. Make a post that involves New York City, London, San Francisco or Sydney.  For example, review a local business like this one about New York movers.
  77. Make a post that incorporates in the title the word “crossover”.
  78. Create a post that utilizes a bar chart or pie chart.
  79. Create a post that has a cliff hanger to be answered in a later post.
  80. Make a post about pitfalls in your niche.
  81. Participate in a reciprocal guest blogging scheme where you blog on someone else’s blog and that other person blogs on your blog.
  82. Do a paid posting targeted to your readers.
  83. Profile the competition in your niche.
  84. Post linkbait.
  85. Make a post about your fellow bloggers’ top posts.
  86. Make a post about your most popular posts.
  87. Read some sports (or other genre) magazines and incorporate some of the writing styles in your posts.
  88. Write a post that pinpoints similarities and differences.
  89. Write a post giving a free recommendation.
  90. Write a post about something that is merely “good” but not “great”.
  91. Write a post about a hack for your niche.
  92. Make a post that constructively criticizes someone else’s post.
  93. Run a poll and post the results of that poll.
  94. Ask your loyal readers to email you links to their best resources and make a post about what you found.
  95. Write only about a particular theme for a week.
  96. Designate each day of the week as a theme day where you will always post about a particular topic on that day.
  97. Review your blog’s (weekly, monthly, yearly) performance and post the results.
  98. Write an “attack” post by setting up an argument and then shooting it down.
  99. Combine some of your best posts from your archives into a new series.
  100. Hold a conference via blog posts.
  101. Make a “101 ideas” post. :razz:

Getting Married? Write About It.

gmwaiNicole Burnham Onsi, a freelancer in the Boston area who specializes in bridal-related topics, makes an effort to stay up-to-date on the bridal industry by reading magazines and lurking on message boards where soon-to-be and recent brides post their experiences. She then often takes an “evergreen” topic and gives it a new twist.

“You’ll notice that most bridal magazines do all the basic planning articles in-house. If you pitch a story on the different types of invitations brides can order, how to select flowers, etc., you’re likely to get a rejection letter,” Onsi says. “Look at the less obvious issues brides face, then be as specific as possible in your query. For example, `Getting Along With His Family’ might not work, but `Five Strategies for Getting Along Better With Your Future Mother-in-Law’ might.”

Freelancer Leslie Gilbert Elman, who writes about bridal and travel topics, agrees that coming up with unique story angles is essential. “In a sense, you’re not coming up with new ideas. You’re repackaging the ideas that work,” says Elman, who lives in Woodbridge, Conn. “Say you’re writing about managing money as a couple, which is a perennial bridal magazine topic. One time you might cover the subject using real-life case studies of three or four couples and how they handled their finances after the wedding. When you’re asked to revisit the subject, you might repackage it as a his-and-hers money management quiz. For a third time around, you can spin it in another direction by writing a Q&A with a financial expert. The information in the article won’t change substantially, but your treatment of it will.”

Target the market

While they may look similar, bridal magazines each have their own unique voice. Show you’ve captured the magazine’s essence in your query and you’re more likely to nail an assignment. “I like to see that the writer has taken the effort to look at the magazine and study the material and style to see what we’re all about,” Canole says. “So many times, writers propose articles that are inappropriate for this magazine.”

Most editors prefer queries over finished manuscripts, which they simply don’t have time to read. “The best way to break in is to be targeted, specific and persistent,” Schipani says. “For example, a writer might see we have done features using real brides to illustrate a point–say, on how brides have planned their long-distance wedding. Using that info, she might query me on a story to do with saving money for the wedding, and propose an idea in which she talks to four recent brides who have spent varying amounts on their weddings, and will profile them as well as write a sidebar on wedding budget tips. After a brief description of how she would handle the story, she should then tell me what her experience is, and then enclose clips. That’s the perfect query!”

Track down compelling sources When writing for bridal magazines, you’re also expected to come up with both expert and “real people” sources. You may interview former and future brides, wedding consultants, psychologists, financial professionals, religious officials and vendors like caterers, florists and musicians. Finding the best sources may also require a little legwork, depending on the nature and complexity of the story.

“This can be tough. In the past, I interviewed friends or friends-of-friends. However, now that I’m at the age where I don’t know too many newlyweds, I have to be a little more creative,” Onsi admits. “I talk to bridal consultants to see if they’ve had clients who fit the profile I’m looking for, I occasionally ask people I’ve `met’ online on bridal message boards if they’re interested in being interviewed, and finally, I ask neighbors and relatives if they know someone who fits my criteria.”

Elman also casts a wide net to locate sources. “I network with people I know, and that includes people on the Internet newsgroups I read,” she says. “I always try to find a geographic mix of interview subjects. Weddings and attitudes toward weddings are quite different from region to region in the U.S. For experts, I go to associations such as the American Psychological Association. They generally provide lists of experts who are good interview subjects and who are amenable to talking with the press.”

There are also similar associations for financial planners, wedding consultants, florists, photographers and other wedding professionals–try searching on the Internet or check the Encyclopedia of Associations, which is available at your local library, for relevant groups.

Pulling it together

When you’re writing the article, keep the bride’s perspective in mind. Don’t be preachy or suggest that there is only one “right” way to do things. While you’ll want to offer plenty of service-related information, your articles shouldn’t be stuffy or boring–keep the tone light when appropriate.

“Brides are stressed out as it is,” Canole says. “Adding some humor to an article, whether it’s dealing with relationships and in-laws, planning a reception when your parents want to invite everyone and his mother, and even a honeymoon travel piece can reveal it’s OK if some things don’t go as planned.”

Be aware of the stress the typical bride is under and what she wants and needs to know. “Brides face the same problems year after year, generation after generation. Though most of them have little experience in planning events, they are faced with planning the biggest event of their lives,” Elman says. “They have to manage their stress. They have to cope with difficult family relationships (which seem to become ever more difficult in the months leading up to a wedding). They have to set up house–maybe even buy a house–decide how to manage money as a couple, and plan for the future.”

Consider reprints

One of the benefits of writing for bridal magazines is that many of the articles are timeless, and offer reprint opportunities. (Make sure you read your contracts carefully to confirm you’re retaining reprint rights to your work first.) Smaller circulation or regional publications may be interested in purchasing reprint rights to stories that were originally published in national magazines–I’ve resold many articles this way. While reprint fees are usually lower than the original fee, it’s easy money for little additional work.

As a bridal writer, you may be constantly covering the same ground, but don’t forget that your audience is always new. “Most women read bridal magazines only in the 18 months or so leading up to their weddings,” Elman explains. “After they’re married, they’re pretty much through with bridal magazines, and a new crop of readers takes their place.”

The bottom line? Even if you’re dedicated to a single lifestyle, you should enjoy writing about weddings and bridal topics to succeed in this field. “Your readers consider this the most important time of their lives,” Elman reminds.

“You have to feel the same way.”