Two Fatal Reasons Print Publications Reject You

Every aspiring writer should include print publications in their writing career planning. It’s all about building your reputation, making publishing connections and gaining niche audience visibility.

Besides all that, there are two other facts to consider:

  • Print publications often pay astoundingly well
  • Magazine editors live to have the perfect article pitch arrive on their doorsteps

Many writers ignore print publications. The most common reasons I hear for not bothering to approach print publications (apart from living life online): “It’s too hard. I always get rejected whenever I send in an article.”

Here’s usually why:

  1. You did not query the publication first (i.e. pitch your article idea)

If you haven’t sent a query letter, you’ve wasted your time and theirs.

Send one, and you automatically double your chances of acceptance.

An editor might even say “we already have someone covering Easter Traditions in the Ukraine, but we’re looking for a piece on Twenty Different Egg Decorating Techniques.”  If you can respond with a quick affirmative, presto—you’ve just gone from being a freelancer to landing a solid commission.

  1. You ignored the publication’s editorial calendar

Every magazine has a schedule detailing themes or topics for upcoming months. Themes are loosely planned at least a year ahead. If you can offer an article on Plant Phenology to a gardening magazine that is scheduling a Natural Gardening edition for April (and you offer it at least six-to-three months before April) your chances of acceptance soar yet again.

Finding a Magazine’s Editorial Calendar

It’s usually drop-dead easy to find a publication’s editorial calendar. Look for it on the publication’s website—look in the “Advertise with us” section first. In addition to relevant stats and demographics about the publication’s audience, you will also usually find a list of upcoming themes and topics, along with submission information–like this example from Horse Sport magazine…

magazine editorial calendar example

(If you can’t find it on the website, call the publication’s advertising department and request a copy.)

In the print non-fiction world, making the right pitch to the right editor, the right number of months in advance on the right topic makes getting accepted much easier.

Every serious writer (including fiction writers) should build their own offline editorial calendar, and plan to submit a comfortable number of non-fictional article queries per month to print publications on a regular basis.



Why You Should Always Put the Date on your Blog Post

CopycatThis morning while researching a topic, I came across two blog posts that blatantly mimicked each other. It became immediately apparent that the plagiarist had simply taken the originator’s four points and rewritten them in his own words (same headings; same order!)

Using my keywords in Google search, I came across version after version of this same post. Based on coherence and quality of writing, I have my own idea on exactly which of these posts was the original and which were plagiarized versions, but there’s really no way of telling for sure who wrote the original. Why?

Because half of these posters (including the one that I think was the original author) did not date their posts.

I am not talking about what Google thinks here: My suspected original author did manage to secure the top Google spot in the rankings for the search keywords I was using—but his superb post could just as easily not have gathered top ranking: I have known other authors totally frustrated at having their site archived for “duplicate content” when thieves literally literally lifted these authors’ blog posts and passed them off as their own.

Thou Shalt Not Steal

To the plagiarists, I would like to say: STOP IT.

You’re not fooling anybody. You’re stealing someone else’s work and flooding the net with garbage, wasting the time of people searching for real information–ticking off the very “targets” you were hoping to attract.

You are also de-valuing the original author’s post. That’s not cool. It’s stealing—no matter how “cleverly” you rewrite it.

If someone has said what you want to say before you or better than you could hope to do, curate the post you like instead, crediting the original author.

Here’s how to curate instead of steal:

  • Pick a point from the original post that really resonates with you.
  • Quote it
  • Credit the author for her original article
  • Start an original discussion on what struck you most.
  • Send the originator a polite note and a link to your article, referencing theirs.

If you want to reprint the entire post, ask permission first–but be prepared for a “no”. (You’re depriving the original author of traffic and possible revenue by presenting the entire post on your own site.)

If you curate the original post well, the originator will feel complimented and pleased. Why? You’ve created a situation where you brought that originator quality, targeted traffic by re-introducing her post to the world and starting a conversation about it.

You didn’t just steal it and pass it off as your own.

The Best Solution

Or better yet: Come up with your own original angle. Write a completely original article, presenting another “take” on the topic.

But just be sure you date it.

A Walk in York Forest

York Forest in AutumnWhen I look back on my early life, it isn’t the hundreds of days I went to school that stand out in my memory. It is the one single day my duty-driven father unexpectedly said to my sister and I: “Girls, it is too beautiful a day to go to school. Get in the car. We will drive to York Forest.”

He packed a picnic lunch—his famous ham-and-tomato sandwiches, and a thermos of lemon tea with honey. We drove out to a favorite regional forest, and walked the forest trails for miles on that sparkling, bright morning with golden leaves fluttering down all round us.

We sat on a bank at the side of the trail in the cool October sunshine, warming our hands on cups of hot lemon tea, eating our sandwiches. And my father spoke with simple happiness about God; of how beautiful the world He made could be.

Forty-five years later, that morning still shines.

And even though he died many years ago and I am now disabled, I still walk in York Forest with my father, and rejoice.

Marya Spruce Bog Trail

The Golden Gates

My very quiet 12 year old granddaughter just wrote her first official piece of writing. It is a cross between stream-of-consciousness narrative and personal essay and I was struck by the honesty and intensity of her feelings, so I promised her I would publish it in Copywriter’s Corner.

I think this is the most I have ever heard her “say”!

Guest Post by Emily Miller

EmilyThe Golden Gates’ eyes open wide when they look deep inside your hopes and dreams, but when you open up they look for your real purpose. Why? And when they see how much you want this, you need this, they choose if you are ready for it.

It is for this reason that you aren’t ready…

The Golden Gates’ purpose is to bring the best of the best to the very top. They search every inch of time and space for the amazing people and things who will change the world forever; the kind of people who better the history of time and space. Mostly for the best, but at times the world needs dark to rise, to even the fight. There is such a thing as too much good.

Like they say: Without night there is no reason to fight for tomorrow and without tomorrow there can be no yesterday.

The Golden Gates are the people who just know that a particular person will do great things. The Golden Gates are made up of everyone who knows they will make the world a better place–or worse–by making choices.

The choices we make say what kind of person we really are, and what kind of person we want to be. So what will you choose to do with your life? Do you want to better the world, or will you choose to destroy it with every bad decision you make?

I am not going to stop you. I am here to bring life and love to the world. I know that I may never be anyone special but I’m okay with that, because I can be unique, different from everyone around me: And I would much rather be unique than special.

It is once and a life time to be unique, because even through people will stare at me I know that I love me and my family loves me, so in my own way that makes me one of the thousands of Golden Gates–an unknown, unique, amazingly talented person who doesn’t care that people don’t know her yet. The only thing that matters is that I know me.

So here is my speech to everyone who has ever put me down, dissed me or said untrue things about me…

I forgive you… I am sorry that I made you so upset or hurt about something someone said I did or I really did. Words can’t take away hurting, empty thoughts that I might have made you felt.
I’m sorry that I might have been a girl who said terrible, untrue things; but I am only human and the truth is that with every good deed I have done, I have also done horrible unspeakable things that can’t be undone.

I am truly sorry that I am cold-hearted at times. The reason I act this way is because I find that sometimes people leave you or hurt you, so you are too scared to let anyone in. You are too terrified of the feeling of being alone; that no one wants you; that you are just handy at the time, and now that it’s over, they no longer need you. They just leave you at the scene of the crime so you can take the fall for what they’ve done.

I know that one day someone from The Golden Gates will need me and I’ll be there. They will tell me that I am so unique so amazing that there is no one like me; that I am once and a life time thing, and if they say no, that is going to be one of the worst mistakes they have ever made.

Days–maybe even years later–I will see this person and they will be lost and I will help them. The difference is I will not let them say they are sorry because I am stronger than to give into self-pity.

They don’t need forgiveness. They just want closure.

The only way thing that matters is to forgive yourself and you will be forgiven.

Silent Night

TwilightGetting old these

Christmas images whirling with the
snow outside my blind window
fragments in glass balls, soap bubble

almost gone

except for the sequined vest
my grandmother made

and the holy wafers from Poland
that come no more

Why Arch Villains Bore me to Death

Arch villain Moriarty

Professor Moriarty; original illustration by Sidney Paget. (PD.US)

Sherlock Holmes had Moriarty, Superman had Lex Luthor and so on – right down through the inevitable spill-over into the movies and television, with Jethro Gibbs facing terrorist Ari Haswari and Harry Potter facing dead megalomaniac, Voldemort.

The “arch” in arch enemy actually originates from the Greek “arkhos”, meaning “paramount”. Arch villains are supposed to be the most important fly in any hero’s ointment: And here’s why.

A true arch enemy in fiction…

  • Matches the hero in intelligence
  • Provides a mirror (the hero’s dark side)
  • Is both psychopathic and narcissistic
  • Is always diabolically clever
  • Is evil incarnate

The trouble is, an arch enemy (rather than a mere antagonist) can all too often be called:

  • A plot device for when stories or episodes are beginning to grow stale and boring
  • Predictable (yawn)

Hey, there’ s no mystery about the fact that whenever Moriarty turns up in a Sherlock Holmes tale (or TV episode), he is going to totally oppose Holmes in a very personal – and evil – way. And all of a sudden, the little people we care about in the story don’t matter. It’s all about Holmes and Moriarty.

And that’s why, for me, arch villains ultimately fail in literature and film.

The arch villain/personal nemesis is never greater than the sum of his purpose – a plot device to provide conflict – often when a book series (or movie series) is flagging. Arch villains can also be a writer’s greatest self-indulgence or weakest creation. In fact, part of the fascination with creating arch enemies might lie in the fact that the writer gets to “explore” evil and stretch their own human experience.

But the main reason that the Gibbs-Hawari, Director Jenny-LaGrenouille, Holmes-Moriarty type of arch nemesis tends to bore me is that I don’t find it believable they would assign the hero that much power; would make it personal.

Face it…

“People are just not important to psychopaths”

That’s why real ones are truly chilling. Real arch villains see people as either obstacles or objects – never as individuals. Hitler saw so-called ethnic minorities as obstacles in the way of his schoolboy Aryan Knight fantasy. Paul Bernardo saw his victims as objects to gratify his sadistic impulses. And the worse arch villains are all too often rarely recognized – such as the husband who abuses his wife at first in small ways, until she no longer has self-esteem enough to protest against steadily escalating abuse that becomes truly appalling behind closed doors. This type of narcissistic psychopath impression-manages all around her with wit and charm, so that the wife is not believed when she finally attempts to seek help or tell the truth.

Or the kindly uncle who sexually abuses his favorite niece, silencing her with a subtle mix of threats, guilt trips and presents.

Or big corporations like Monsanto, taking over the earth with money and mergers.

Or Donald Trump; the only truly chilling cartoon-style arch villain out there, currently masquerading as a white knight in an eerie echo of early Adolf Hitler.

But we’re getting too dark here. Let’s get back to our fictional arch villains. Their predictability has actually turned the whole arch-villain trip into a genuine, one dimensional, twenty-first century cliché, goatee and all.

“Selfishness is the new ‘evil'”

Get rid of the “arch”. Make your villains realistic. True villains – the really clever ones – are often incredibly likable; but the truly chilling factor that creates high-stakes conflict is that your true villain cares only about himself. And that’s when bad things start to happen to those around him or her. (Yes, Virginia: Selfishness is the new ‘evil’.)

Chuck out the “my hero’s personal nemesis” temptation, and you’ve got a complex human being (or Belorgian or Tremnops), with both good and bad character flaws, warped (tragically or otherwise) by his past and his obsessions.

Such a villain may be the antithesis of a genius mastermind. Pathetic, or clumsy – likable, even. He may be funny and make you laugh, or stir your sympathy (like Loki does, at times, in ‘The Avengers’). You may hate or despise him, or even secretly root for an antagonist and his twisted motivations, but ultimately his obsession or flaw will make him step over the line.

And that’s normal readers will sheer away. All of a sudden, you’ve got true, high-stakes drama.

There’s nothing clichéd about that.

Your favorite – or most hated – Arch Villain?

Ghostwriting cat

Cat at computer

No, it’s not called “outsourcing” when a ghostwriter suddenly finds her material being altered. It’s called “Zachary the cat”.

While I was staying at my sister’s last week, I caught Zachary editing my article.

He was quite smug about it.

(Has your pet ever “helped” you write?)

Word of the Day: Pareidolia

PAREIDOLIA: The phenomenon of seeing faces or figures in nature. For example, I see a fat, nesting chicken in this spectacular lump of ice.

The term itself originates from the Greek words “para” (“instead of”) and “eidolon” (“shape”).


Apophenia: “Seeing patterns in random data”  (

What do you see when you look at this photograph?