I like to write and I like to write about what I know. Thus, when I began writing, being a hands-on mother to a toddler, the topic that I chose to write on was parenting, specifically toddler-based issues. The best part about parenting features is that you will never run out of ideas. As your kids grow, they will keep giving you more and more fodder for your writing.
Here is what I have learnt on how to choose the correct parenting site to write for:
One factor that is very important in your choice of websites is its market of operation. As a novice it is always better to begin with a domestic one.
For example, when I began to search for the sites where I could freelance, I started by pitching my stories to foreign sites, mainly being tempted by the dollar payments. That was a huge mistake. Not many were open to giving a beginning Indian writer a chance. So I did my research again and this time I chose an Indian site. The one I picked, indusladies.com, was one that I had consulted during my pregnancy and when my child was born. Thus I knew this site well -- the kind of audience it catered to, the topics that did well and the style of writing that they encouraged.
Only when you have a good base of published features with various sites in the domestic market should you try the various international parenting sites. In such cases, the best way to begin is by pitching for reprint submissions. Pitch even to those that state that 'only local freelancers may apply' in their guidelines. This will help you to avoid writing a lengthy feature and then being rejected. Once reprints begin to get accepted, you can start pitching fresh features to them and others.
Sometimes a feature that is heavily skewed towards a particular region can be easily revamped with little tweaking to fit a more global audience. So don't feel scared to do that when you are pitching reprints.
Some parenting sites that accept reprints are:
Sites tend to be one of the following types:
For beginners, it is far better to stick to those sites where queries can be submitted online. For such mails, don't forget to attach a few writing samples unless the guidelines state that e-mails with attachments will be deleted. In such cases provide links to your published work within the body of the e-mail itself.
Make sure that your query is not vague. For example, state that you want to write about 'tips on how to teach a toddler colours,' not just 'toddler learning'. Unless the requirement is already stated, mention the word length of your article.
Depending on the market you choose, you will need to make decisions about the tone of your writing, and whether to share personal experiences.
Tone: While, in general, the tone of features on parenting is best kept friendly and supportive (mainly because the audience is other parents who might have a different style of raising their kids), different tones of writing are encouraged by different sites. So while choosing your market, you will need to decide which tone of writing suits you best.
Personal Experience: Some publications encourage the addition of personal anecdotes within a feature, while others don't. Going through previously published articles is one of the best ways to gather this information. So while you might be keen on sharing how you trained your child from throwing the house keys out of the window, the publication might not deem it appropriate.
Remember that even if penning personal experiences is not an option in your final article, it could always be your source of inspiration. You can always use what you learn in your day-to-day affair as a mother as a tip in your features. Also, you can include such experiences while drafting your query mail -- it often catches the editor's eye.
Parenting is a universal topic and most parenting features found on all sites will talk about such subjects as weaning, potty training and introduction to finger foods. Yet the approach of each remains different, because there are different types of parenting styles.
For example, some styles of parenting recognized by parenting websites today include:
Thus, an important factor in choosing a parenting website is understanding your own parenting style, and finding a parenting site that matches that style.
Another important factor that will determine which site you ultimately decide to write for is your 'niche'. While some will give you a topic to write on, like the Indian site ayushveda.com, others will leave it to you to come up with a topic "that is out of the box and will get the attention of their target audience" and also grabs the editor's eyes. The best way to maximize the possibility of your success as a writer is by building your expertise on a niche topic wherein you feel you know a great deal and are best able to connect with the readers.
Parenting niches include:
Once you decide upon your niche, take it for a test drive. Write a few articles and share them on your blog or on blogging communities (like indiblogger.com in India) and see the reader response. If you don't get the kind of appreciation that you are looking for, don't get discouraged. Think again!
For example, I personally love craft sessions with my daughter. So when I began writing, amongst my first features was one titled 'how to make a peacock out of a paper plate and a cup'. I wrote about it and even took a picture of my creation and sent it to dabblingmom.com. They did not accept it on grounds that the picture was not of great quality. However, I appreciated their response because it gave me a direction. I knew I should not focus on craft-based articles at that time, because I wanted to concentrate more on writing and less on the art of taking great photographs.
Also, learn to receive feedback (not all will be good all the time) and brush off the ones that have been written by those who are simply unable to appreciate the work of another (yes, such people exist). If you have chosen topics like breastfeeding, attachment parenting, ADHD, etc., as your niche you can expect quite a few strong and passionate responses. So learn to take it in your stride.
As I mentioned above, your choice of a parenting site is affected by pictures too, especially if you have decided to write features on arts and crafts, birthday parties, etc.
In this context there are two types of sites:
While non-paying sites like literarymama.com and mothering.com are good for a beginner, once you have established yourself it is best not to write for free. Once money is involved, the quality that a site demands and the quality that you will submit automatically goes up. And once you know that you will be paid, never forget to invoice. If you are unaware of the procedure, then after the acceptance of your piece, discuss it with the person with whom you have been communicating.
There is no end to the tips one could explore when seeking a parenting market. While I hope these will be useful for you, don't let them hamper your natural style of writing. There are many parenting websites that welcome both new and experienced writers, so there is never going to be any dearth of work for you. Just know what you really like and want to write about, and even if it looks challenging, don't give up. "Start small and aim big" – that should be your motto. Kind of like children!