The rumors are true… I was recently published in O, The Oprah Magazine! (If you haven’t read my published story yet, you can check it out here.) When I shared the news, several people have messaged me asking, “How did you land that writing gig?” So, I thought I would break it down for you here.
Want to know the simple answer?
I sent an email asking if I could write for them.
Yes, I did spend time writing a well-crafted email, which is called a pitch. Basically, you send a few short paragraphs pitching your idea for a story with a hook that catches the reader’s attention. You set the scene for the story, you tell them how you would write it, and you ask if they would like to partner with you on the journey. (Fun fact: You don’t actually send the fully written piece. That comes later after you sign your contract.)
You give the specifics about what you will deliver: how many words? Will it be a first-person essay? How will you structure the piece? Will it involve outside sources for research? (For me, the research element was a later addition after my OprahMag.com editor suggested it for an added direction!)
And then you end your pitch with a short description about why you’re the one to write this piece. Why are you the one for the job? How are you qualified? Have you written anywhere else before?
There’s a lot more to crafting a solid pitch (do a quick Google search and you’ll find some really helpful articles), but here’s what I learned in this process that really applies to everyone, writer or no writer: You have to ask for the opportunity!
I spent a lot of time researching publications that might accept my story idea about taking a road trip with my empty nester parents and boyfriend. Would this be a good fit for Oprah? It felt like a match for their multi-generational audience.
Then, I spent even more time researching who to send my email to. (This is the hardest part!) I ended up finding a contact in a private Facebook group of editors seeking freelance writers that I was invited into after my time as a regular contributor to Upworthy. But it was still a bit of a shot in the dark. Three other publications turned down my pitch for this same story.
I never really emailed directly with Oprah, but I did like to use the phrase (often): “Oprah emailed me back!!”
Over a three-month period of time, from pitch to publication, I exchanged more than 50 emails with my editor at Oprah Magazine. And many of them were exchanges about the piece before she even accepted it and before I ever signed a contract!
Trust me, I wanted to quit So. Many. Times.
I felt like that annoying person popping up in her email every week to follow up. But I knew she had interest in the angle of my story, so following up paid off in the end.
Want to know the not-so-simple answer to how I wrote for Oprah?
Creativity. Patience. And a little luck.
Maybe my email hit her inbox at exactly the right time. And she liked my creative idea! The idea popped into my head during a regular writing workshop time that I have with my amazing aunt and mentor who writes over at Elegant Country Style. She helped me shape the pitch… and then she said, “Go for it!”
Then, after a BIG YES!, the refining editorial process began. The first draft, second draft, and third draft were not the piece that you see published. A good editor will guide you through the process to the finish line with a final product that will resonate with their audience. Every word counts.
I learned a lot through this process of quieting my doubting voice to persevere, to trust in the nudge to follow my curiosity. Is it weird that I consider my parents my best friends? Let me explore.
Ask for the opportunity.
Believe you’re the one for the job.
And then deliver what you promise. On time!
A little flexibility, patience, and communication through the process will go a long way for achieving that by-line of your dreams.