How to Write for the Internet

By Lynette Rees

Published in the AuthorMe newsletter - Publishing New Writers - March, 2002

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Do you have access to a computer? Are you able to log on to the Internet? Have you got reasonable writing skills? If the answer to all three is yes, then what are you waiting for? You could be writing for the Net.

Yes, that’s all very well but how do I go about it?

You have a head start by reading this article. Last year, although having been on the Net myself for about 18 months, I didn’t know how to go about it either, but I’m passing on my tips to you. In less than a year, I have managed to have 14 articles published for payment, plus I’ve had another 4 recently accepted for publication.

The first thing I did was to go to a search engine, I suggest using a well known one like Google: or Yahoo: By typing in something specific in inverted commas like for example: ‘Freelance writing on-line’, the search engine throws up a mass of information, anything from sites that offer freelance work, to articles about freelance writing or sites that publish market listings.

By constantly trawling the Net over the weeks I was able to find some good sites that printed market listings. Some had newsletters for subscribers, this just involves sending them your e-mail address, they send you a weekly/bi-weekly or monthly newsletter. A weekly writers’ newsletter usually contains articles on writing and a market round up, some include warnings of which sites to avoid (generally ones that haven’t sent payments to freelancers.)

So now I can get started what do I do?

Initially you need to think about what type of articles you would like to write. There are a wealth of ideas out there. Focus on what hobbies or interests you have, you may know a lot about genealogy and what advice to give to a novice, or you may be a keen gardener who knows how to grow organic vegetables. What jobs have you had? You may have had an unusual one, or be able to write an article about nursing or policing for example. If you have children then there’s plenty of fodder there: Suitable childcare for you child, Listening to your teenager etc. Do you know a lot about cats/dogs/horses etc? Perhaps you’d prefer to write a personal essay instead e.g My first day at school or My first boyfriend, for example. Brain storm your ideas onto paper.


The Query Letter

This is your pitch to an editor to offer him a taster of the article you have written or the idea you have for an article. More experienced freelancers tend to submit the article idea first, then write the article later if the editor shows interest.

To submit a good query letter you need to use formal letter format and address the Editor by name ( you can find this at the web site). You need to ‘hook’ him/her in so that they want to read the entire article. If you can get your idea highlighted in about 2-3 paragraphs, that’s all you need.

If you have had any work published on-line, you can send the url of web page where it was published, or photocopies of any work in print e.g an article you had published in your local paper. If you haven’t had anything of note published then don’t worry, don’t mention it. Ensure to spell check for any grammatical errors before submission. Most web sites now take on-line submissions, but if they don’t, then use good quality writing paper and envelopes to send your query, preferably letter headed.


The Importance Of Following Submission Guidelines

If a web site asks for an article of between 600 and 800 words, then it’s no good submitting an article of 1,200 words. So it’s vital you check the guidelines, there’s usually a writers’ guidelines or submission link on the home page somewhere. Sometimes the web site will inform you what topics they are looking for, so this would increase your chances of publication if you could write on one of those.

The style is important too, so check out the articles that are already published on the site, are they quite formal? Or are they informal and humorous? Are they written from the writer’s personal experience in the first person, or are they written as if he/she is addressing you personally in the second person?

What is the tone of the web site? What type of people are reading it? It’s no use writing an article on crochet if the site is aimed at fishermen for example.

The difference between writing for the Net and print publications

Readers on-line tend to read faster and the attention span is much shorter. So you need to break your writing down into bite size chunks, small paragraphs, to make it easy to read. Put in some sub headings to catch the readers attention.

How to format e-mail submissions

Most web sites like you to submit your article/story in the body of an e-mail in plain text. Or if they are willing to take file attachments, then they usually ask for the file to be saved to Word or Rich Text Format.

How do I manage to get paid on the Net?

This is easier than you may think. Most of the web sites I have been published at are American or Canadian. Some will send a check to your home address, the only problem here is that usually it is made out in the currency of that particular country. So you have to have it converted into your own currency for which your bank will charge you a fee. Some of the bigger web sites will have converted it for you.

Another method of receiving payments is by setting up a Pay Pal account. This is a way of obtaining payment via your e-mail account. Pay Pal hooks up your bank account to your e-mail address to send or receive payments. It costs nothing to register. It is secure as the the web site is encrypted, and has over 12 million users world wide.

I’ve given you the basics so what are you waiting for? Get out that old type essay writer, switch on the computer or pick up that pen and paper. Start writing and find a market for it!



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