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Wednesday, February 11, 2015


Writing Locally for National Markets

What do you write?  History?  Parenting?  Gardening?  No matter what you write, publishers want something new, something they and their readers haven't already seen. This makes sense, but if you are trying to break into a national market you have to find something with . . . can you guess? . . . national appeal.

I write a lot of history and coming up with something that is both unknown and has broad appeal is tough. After reading Don Brown's Henry and the Cannon's (Roaring Brook Press), I have a much better idea how it should be done. He found an unknown person with a local story (Boston), but the story involved a national event and a big name.

If you already know about Henry Knox then you're way ahead of me. I had no idea who he was until I read this book. When Washington (yes, George Washington) was trying to take Boston from a larger, better armed British force, he and his officers realized that cannons would solve it all. Benedict Arnold (yes, that Benedict Arnold) had captured Fort Ticonderoga, 300 miles away. Knox was the man who said that he, in spite of 300 miles of winter weather, could get the cannons from Point A to Point B.

Before she read this book, the editor had probably never heard of Henry Knox. Brown gave her an irresistable hook -- an event of national importance (American Revolution) and two big names (The mighty George Washington and traitorous Benedict Arnold).

If you are interested in selling history, consider -- what big events or people have ties to your area? 

I'm in St. Louis, Missouri which means that I can easily hook into the Louisiana Purchase and through this Thomas Jefferson, Lewis and Clark as well as the Civil War, Teddy Roosevelt, and Charles Lindbergh. I came up with that list off the top of my head on half a cup of coffee.

This same technique can apply to home decorating (local business, national trend), gardening (local success/innovation, national trend) or science writing (new discovery, national problem).  What hooks can you use to turn a local story into a national sale?


Sue Bradford Edwards teaches our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults.  The next section starts on March 2nd.

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Blogger Renee Roberson said...

I interview a lot of people with the local magazines I write for. I've taken some of the more compelling stories and tried to pitch them to some of the national pubs. I haven't had any success yet at the national level, but I'll keep trying. I clip stories out of the newspaper every once in a while too just in case I ever want to use them in a novel one day!

5:27 PM  
Blogger Sue Bradford Edwards said...

I've never interviewed anyone locally for a national magazine piece. I do have an nonfiction picture book idea that has now moved up the queue. (Do all writers have idea queues?)

8:19 PM  
Blogger Margo Dill said...

This is great advice--always looking for that unique angle to a well-known story. I see authors do it all the time! I COULD DO THIS! :)

12:12 PM  
Blogger Angela said...

This is very interesting! I never really thought of it in that way before. There is so much going on here in Long Beach, CA that applies nationally. I'm not thinking so much about pitching history, but I'm heavily involved in MMJ policy, and Long Beach's story and cases that are in the surrounding area have impacted the nation and other state's policies. I'm going to all these meetings, so I might as well at least get a sale out of it! Great advice, Sue. :)

1:10 PM  
Blogger Sue Bradford Edwards said...

An Angela said, this doesn't have to be about history. You can do similar things with any social issue, sports, technology, etc. Whatever your interest, really. Good luck, all!

10:32 AM  

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