If you want others to see you as an expert in a given practice area, consider getting published. Published articles tell others that what you have to say is important enough and authoritative enough to be in print. But how do you get your article published? Consider the following in order to get your idea read by hundreds, possibly thousands, of others.
Brainstorm. So what do you want to write about? Sit down and brainstorm different ideas worthy of being transformed into articles. Where are you going to find your sources of inspiration? A landmark U.S. or Florida Supreme Court decision can serve as the basis of an article. How about a recent legal trend? A "how to" piece on how to take a deposition or retain an expert? How about an issue a client has asked you to look into? If you’re going to be a writer, always be on the lookout for ideas and ask yourself, "Would this make a good article?" Once you start thinking like a writer, you’ll never be short of ideas to turn into publishable pieces.
Compile a list of potential publishers. Before you sit down to write, decide where you want to get your article published. Compile a list of publications, including trade journals, newspapers, magazines and newsletters, which might be interested in your idea. You don’t know which publication to pitch your idea to? Most bar and trade associations have their own magazines and newsletters, and their editors are always looking for articles to fill the pages of those publications. If you can’t think of any publications to write for, look at the web pages of these associations to see what publications are out there.
Read the publications you want to write for. If you’re going to write something a magazine wants to print you first have to know what it wants. To do this, you need to read the publication. Don’t pitch a story without first knowing what types of articles appear in the pages of that publication.
Read the writer’s guidelines. Many publications provide guidelines about what articles they are looking for, how they want articles pitched, and to whom. Read them carefully and follow the recommendations.
Write a query letter. Once you know who you’ll be writing for, write a letter pitching your idea. In the letter, provide a brief summary of your proposed article, a proposed title, why the piece is relevant to the publication’s readers, your qualifications to write the article and a brief history of your writing experience. To save money on postage and speed up the process, determine whether the publication accepts email queries.
Study the masthead. Most magazines and journals have a masthead, which contains the name of their various editors and staff writers. The list is important, because it will tell you who the different editors are and which one you should address your query to.
Update your resume. The editor you’re pitching your idea to will likely ask to see your resume. Therefore, make sure yours is updated. Include any writing experience and editing experience you have, whether as an editor on law review, a writer for the school newspaper or a contributor to a firm newsletter.
Start small. If you want to see your article in a national magazine or trade journal, start out small and work your way up. Generally, the bigger the publication, the more likely that it does not work with novice writers. Those big publications are looking for authors who have written articles elsewhere and have a proven track record. Generally, the smaller publications are open to working with new writers. Start small, get some experience and climb the ladder to the bigger magazines and trade journals.
Gather clips. Make sure to save any articles, or clips, you publish. Editors will want to see them to get a flavor of your talent and style.
Avoid editors’ pet peeves. If you want to increase the odds that your article will be accepted for publication, avoid the pet peeves of the decision makers. Make sure your query is flawless, with no typos or grammatical errors. If an editor doesn’t want you calling to pitch an idea, don’t. If you’re given a deadline, meet it. If you’re asked to make revisions, make them. Trust that the editor knows best about what the final piece should look like.
Writing an article is only half the work. The other half is getting it published. To get your article published, look for publications which would be interested in your idea, and when you find them, pitch your idea in a persuasive, convincing way. Start out with the smaller publications, and soon you’ll have enough clips to see your name bylined in a piece which is read nationally.