Is Writing for the Web Holding You Back from Writing for Print?

by Deborah Ng

When I first began writing for the web, it was just as practice. A way to earn money and get my rhythm going while querying magazines. This was about nine years ago, and my fellow web writers all had the same goal. To earn some money, practice writing and gain experience until we break into print. As of this writing, many of the web writers I started out with have had limited print success and they don’t care. Same here.

Once I started writing for the web on a regular basis, I started cutting back on my querying. I had a bite now and then but it didn’t matter. My web clients published quicker and there was none of this “pay on publication” business where the check came six months to a year later.

While I love the path I’ve taken, I sometimes become a bit wistful. Writing for the web has been a blessing, for sure, but I no longer have print aspirations. While I have no regrets, I wonder what would have happened if I didn’t get so involved in this Internet thing.

What do you think? Has Writing for the Web put off your print dreams? Do you care?

Discuss…

Comments

  1. Deb, I started off writing for a couple of niche print mags and trasitioned into web writing. A year later I realize that I don’t want to completely abandon the oportunity to write for magazine. I think it’s a matter of making it a priority. I’ve started querying again (not regularly, but I’m doing it) and I’m really out of practice. I’m going to include print magazine querying into my weekly schedule and just do it. Otherwise I’m the only thing standing in my way.

  2. Having clients in both web and print media benefits me both professionally and personally. It diversifies my income and offers me the opportunity to do different things. Print is a challenge; lead times are huge and you have to squeeze a lot into a pretty miniscule word count. But doesn’t it look great when you can see your words on glossy paper?

  3. This might be fairly tangential, but oh well. This post got me thinking about finding print markets. Of course, I’d imagine that the Writer’s Market continues to be the Bible of print leads, but has anyone subscribed to the online version?

  4. I started out writing for the web four years ago, and never had any thought of writing for print. I really enjoy this type of work and it has simply never occurred to me that print writing might be interesting. I like fast turnaround and short deadlines & the long lead time of print doesn’t appeal to me much.

    Ironically, I got a gig for the Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader book from a post here a few weeks ago and have just turned in my first print assignment.

  5. I know this may sound silly, but I don’t feel like I am an “established” writer. The only way I can secure that feeling is getting my byline in a magazine on the stands, whether it be a trade journal or a consumer magazine. It does not matter, as long as it is a magazine that someone can flip through. Writing for the web, has been a good experience, however I don’t market myself enough. I know if I market myself more, and hone my skills I will get more work.

    FOR MELISSA: I just purchased the 2009 Deluxe Edition of Writers Market, where I was given a free year subscription to the online version. I do admit that the online version, is very quick and easy, to pinpoint exactly what you are looking for. It also has a lot of publications that are not printed in the book. I also noticed that the 2009 book version has cut back on a lot of magazines listed. I used to rent 2006-2008 version of Writers Market from my local library, and the older versions have way more magazine listings than the newer versions. But I am looking to break into the Trade Magazines, since my primary goal is to write for Businesses. I hope this helps!

  6. I agree about most of what Andy says, but lead times depend on the pub. I’ve worked daily newspaper (on staff and later as freelance), and at times had to call in articles “on the fly” (pre-Internet). Even now, time between article assignment and deadline can be tight if picking up for another writer who blew an assignment, or for an editor that dropped the ball on sending out assingments in a timely manner.

    It might still be several weeks before it’s printed, but the lead time for the writer can be very short, even for print.

  7. This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I started out doing a combination of print and web writing, and though I still do the occasional print article, I’ve had less and less time to pitch story ideas to print publications over the last five or six months. I really want to pitch to print pubs more because I enjoy it, but at this juncture in media history, I am conflicted about whether it’s worth the time. A few magazines I pitched to last spring have recently folded, and I can’t help wondering who’s next. For some pubs the layoffs mean more opportunities for freelancers, but for many magazines, that’s far from the case. To save money, many are just piling the work on their remaining editors and having them do more writing. That said, I really am going to start pitching more because, well, I love it.

  8. I’ve made the transition from book and print to Web only. In fact, it wasn’t long ago when I perused a huge magazine shop and noticed many of the magazines I once wrote for were no longer on the shelves. I can’t say that I am at all wistful or regret my choice.

    When an Editor cuts a line out of Google analytics and sends it to me I realize how many more people my words can reach online. With Web writing I can reach a massive audience and I feel a greater sense of accomplishment doing this than I have ever felt just seeing my name on a glossy page. :)

  9. I used to write for magazines but found it frustrating–by the time my articles were printed, I had forgotten all about them. I love the WWW—from the fast turnaround times from when I submit to when I’m published, to the fast payments for my work.

    In terms of legitimacy, I’m not sure there’s much of a distinction between the Web and print these days, especially among young people, so I’m as proud of my Web contributions as my print ones.

    Also, as Aurora mentioned, more people see what you’re doing on the WWW than in most print publications. When I first started my blog in August, I had just 23 visitors that month. Now, I’m up to 4500 visitors monthly and I love the instantaneous feedback that I receive from my readers!

    Bobbi

  10. I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments. Almost all of the writing I do now is Web-based. I don’t have time to wait 6 months to receive payment for my work.

    I think the final nail in the hard copy coffin was when I was offered payment for a reprint article and spent over a year waiting to receive same–and then the goods weren’t delivered!

    Our bills don’t wait and neither should writers have to . The Internet has revolutionized freelance writing.

  11. I write for the web and print (magazines and book form), and am happy that I am able to juggle the two media. I think one of the reasons the juggling act works for me is that I market myself in terms of certain subject areas, not the medium the content is consumed. For me, the starting point is the story, and I then think of various ways it can be presented.

    For example, two weeks ago I attended a roundtable on high-performance computing. The session lasted 4 hours, giving me presentations from 5 experts and notes from the debate.

    A communications company invited me to the event, wanting me to write a press release for their client. During the session, I also gathered enough material for a news article for an online publication, a profile of a company that uses ordinary gaming graphics cards to build super computers (for a monthly print mag), and two trend pieces.

    But, I still want to write books, and neither web nor magazine publication satisfies that need.

  12. I first started pitching print-only pubs, then gradually understood most have online mirrors. Since then (going on eight years, I’ve written only online. Now, with ad budgets along with the economy in freee-fall, we are seeing more and more print pubs also turning exclusively to online editions. So, in the end, whether you write for print or not, your pieces are online.

  13. This is an interesting thread…because when I think of print, I think of much more than magazines…I write corporate collateral, PR, business proposals, not to mention video, speeches, web, and training/education. I guess what I love is the variety of media…having to understand the appropriate voice, the medium. the business intent. Are there many corporate writers here?

  14. @Pat-I’m one

  15. I’m one, too. I also love the variety of media, but there’s something about print magazines that’s alluring to me. Shiny objects.

  16. So Laura – have you broken through to the other side…magazine writing has always held a certain allure for me as well. Question for you corporate writers out there – do you specialize in an industry? We’re big on automotive here in Michigan…needless to say…it’s a bit slow right now (understatement of the year)

  17. I approached writing similarly when I began a few years ago. Web writing was available, quick and a great way to get my feet wet. My true goal, however, was print writing. I have dabbled in print, writing for some regional publications and am still actively pursuing larger national magazines. The idea of writing for a magazine that I’ve read since I was a kid is very inspiring.

    I think print will always be the most prestigious–even writing for a well-known, established website doesn’t quite have the same rewarding feel. That being said, I recently found that web writing offers a variety of advantages that print can’t match. There is an energy to certain types of web writing that can’t be duplicated in print(outside of a newspaper, perhaps)–blogging about breaking news or product releases for instance. Web also offers the advantage of being interactive. It’s fun being able to see feedback on your work and even respond. It’s also exciting and interesting when you see your work being linked to and covered by other random sites/blogs–all things that you aren’t likely to get in print. I always enjoy googling the title of my articles to see where it’s turned up.

    While I still intend to pursue print for the better pay and prestige, I have found that web writing is very rewarding and advantages more than outweigh disadvantages.

  18. Pat and others,

    I’ve sort of gone the other way, from magazines to (indirect) corporate, through PR support work. I still do the magazine work, but they’ve cut back drastically and will continue to do so.

  19. Pat, I have “broken through,” so to speak. I have written extensively for a trade magazine and for several smaller print pubs and have broken into a few big national women’s mags this year. That said, I probably haven’t been as effective as I’d like just because I have had so little time (and am typically spending my time better focusing on web stuff because of the current state of the media and economy).

    Re corporate stuff: I specialize in health writing and educational materials.

  20. I am a “newbie” and wondering where the best place to pitch your articles once written? I write on healthcare and lifestyle changes and would like to incorporate coaching for these topics but don’t really know where to go for answers or ideas.

    Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    Sincerely,

    Nina

  21. Hi Nina,

    To say, one place to start looking is http://www.writersweekly.com

    –> “Markets”–> Click on this link to search our markets database for markets that welcome new writers

    Good luck!
    Bobbi

  22. Hi Nina,

    If you’re writing articles (as opposed to, say, personal essays/memoir), it’s usually better to send a pitch rather than a complete article. A pitch includes a hook, key points, why the story is relevant/important, why you should be the one to write it, who you would interview, etc. Typically a couple of paragraphs.

    Writers Weekly is good. So are MediaBistro and Wooden Horse. Perhaps most helpful, though, is to find publications that you like and that you think would be a good fit for your work (style, content, etc.). Then, look at the masthead for that publication and find the appropriate editor to pitch. Better yet, call up their editorial assistant and ask him or her who to pitch. With so many layoffs, there’s a lot of turnover, so it’s always a good idea to pitch to someone who’s still working there;)

    Good luck!

  23. I started out doing PR pieces and newsletters and from there went to local newspapers and magazines. I now write for web clients and provide content for a few other sites. I miss writing for magazines, miss the longer style and the interviews I used to do. Writing for the web is great but I do love seeing my name in print.

    I haven’t done too much corporate writing but would really like to as I’ve heard it pays really, really well :) I’ve avoided going to endless networking meetings so I’ve sort of left myself out of that loop. Does anyone have an easy way to break into corporate writing?

  24. “Are there many corporate writers here?”

    Another one here Pat. And I agree, the diversity is a wonderful thing – news releases, corporate blogging, white papers, video scripts, radio PSAs – gotta love it. As far as magazine writing goes, I’m perhaps in an odd boat.

    I was published in a few trade mags this year, but it’s always ghostwritten. I don’t get paid directly by the publication, so I never wait on their lead times. Instead, I’m paid by the corporate client to ghostwrite features, which they then review and pitch to their trade pub contacts for free (increases the chance of publication, and you get paid whether or not the piece is picked up – and generally very quickly).

    I love those projects, but one of my goals for ’09 is to finally publish one with my own byline. I’d never trade Web writing for print writing in the grand scheme of things though.

  25. Hi Edna –
    I’m not sure there’s an easy way to break into anything. But I would evaluate your own writing for similarities to an industry that you would like to break into. I would then use my contacts to find a contact at that corporation. I would contact the targeted corporation using my contact as a reference and ask for an informational interview ONLY. People love to be thought of as important….and they are. Be well-prepared for the interview, asking relevant questions about their company, future plans, etc. At the end of the meeting ask this person for another contact at a different company, and permission to use their name. Continue until you break through. It worked for me and continues to do so. Good luck!

  26. Hi Jenn –

    I’m with you. Even though the market crash has brought automotive to a standstill, and hence, my work, I’m working hard to turn the environmental work I’ve done for the autos towards another industry. Here’s hoping that Congress approves the loan today.

    On another note for the whole FWJ community, here’s just a plea from a contractor to a contractor to the autos…it’s easy to bash Detroit…but if you really check into what they’ve accomplished…from new technologies to cost-cutting to quality…and the problems they deal with…legacy expenses, benefits (that the foreign companies do not pay)…to the susbstantial direct financial support that foreign governments pay to their automakers, you may just change your mind about Detroit. JMHO

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