Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Becoming an Instant Garden-Writing Expert

Yeah, we know. There's no easy way to sell yourself as an expert these days without having been to the mountain and scaled Everest. Or is there?

Actually, when it comes to garden writing, many "experts" are born over a matter of hours, rather than years. After all, haven't you been a gardener forever? Haven't you grown philodendron, dracaena, and ivy in pots all around your house since you went away to college? And perhaps planted an apple and pear tree in the back yard of that first little place in which you and the spouse set up housekeeping? And haven't you had your share of luck growing roses and carnations?

So, the truth of the matter is that you very likely are an expert gardener--at least to a degree. Now the only question is, how do you convince that hard-nosed editor that you're also an expert garden writer?

You can (and should) list your history of gardening successes on any resume, author's bio, or query letter you send out, of course. But you should also have a history of publishing gardening articles.


What's that you say, bunky? You haven't sold a single gardening piece in all your years as a writer? Well, for starters, you don't need to have sold a piece, you need to have published one. Something that an editor can pick up and scan to reassure himself that you're good enough to create reliable gardening articles for him. How do you get to be a published garden writer without having sold any gardening articles?

Oh, yes, the Web.

Think about it. Here we sit, in the midst of the greatest technological revolution in history--the WWW, or World-Wide Web--and you're asking so silly a question. Go to http://google.com/ and type in the search box, "gardening." See how many hits come up. Visit a few of the sites. Evaluate them. Do they run gardening columns? Do they have a "Contact" e-mail address? If so, write them and ask if you can submit a gardening piece or two for their consideration--free of charge. If they say yes, go for it. We don't often recommend that writers write for nada, and we're not doing that here. When you write free-of-charge gardening pieces for a Web site, you're helping to build a resume to show to an editor who--and this is the ultimate goal, of course--will be more likely to give you an assignment for that paying piece down the road. Think of it as an investment in your future.

Then, when you go to query that editor, print out a copy of the piece and mail it to him ... or paste it into the body of your e-mail query, if that's the editor's preferred method of querying, being sure to indicate where the piece was first published.

Most gardening editors want to know only two things: can you write with authority on gardening subjects; and do you have a history of publishing on the subject in the past.

Convince them that the answer is "yes" to both questions, and it's practically a done deal. Just be careful, be factual, and be inventive. And, above all, remember the advice that Steve Martin gave to the landscapers laying new sod at the end of the movie, My Blue Heaven. "Green side up, green side up!"

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