Just starting out as a health writer, have an idea for a piece … but not sure how to get your first article published?
Or, are you looking for ways to share your passion for health with others?
When you’re beginning your journey as a health writer, searching for your first big break as an author, it can be hard to imagine getting published for the first time.
Why is it that the first step is also the hardest? It could be that you’re unaware of where or how to start – or, very commonly, it’s the fear of being rejected that’s playing a part in holding you back.
This is easier said than done, I know, but it’s important to fight the fear. If fear is preventing you from taking charge – whether it’s the fear of being unsuccessful, criticized, or that you’re lacking in self-belief – remember that even writers who have written hundreds of articles started from zero. If they can do it, you can.
Fear is a writer’s biggest enemy and will continue to hold you back until you can find ways to overcome it. Knowing that getting an article published for the first time involves a considered and somewhat systematic approach makes the entire process seem less scary.
A planned, methodical strategy will give you a good chance of getting published – and, it will help you to produce quality content, too.
1. To get your first article published, you need to be clear on your reasons: What, who, why and where
Regardless of whether you have an idea for a health article, or want to be a published writer but don’t know how to get there, this first step will help you to become clear on all your reasons for getting published. Consider:
- What are you writing about? What is the topic of your health article? Is it relatively original, or has it already been written about in many different ways? Can you put your own spin on the topic? Also, what value can you add – a unique perspective, a personal anecdote, an expert interview, a clever insight?
- Who is your audience? Are they working mothers, carers for the elderly, informed consumers, chronic disease patients, people who read the news every day? Your audience is rarely “everyone” – the more specific you can be, the better. You need to know who you’re talking to in order to produce the most effective writing.
- Why are you writing about it? It could be because you want to share an exciting new piece of medical research with the community, have an interesting idea, want to entertain your audience, or want to help your readers understand a new journal article. Understanding the ‘why’ will shape the direction of your piece, because you know the point of it – and you could also provide some useful take-home messages.
- Where do you want the article to be published? Identify some target publications – around half a dozen – and study them. Look at the writing style of the articles they publish, and ask yourself if you could write in a similar style. If you think you can’t, or don’t want to, then choose different publications. Consider your subject matter as well. If your article is about new fad diet trends, a women’s health website would be perfect. If it’s about an issue impacting women trying to conceive, a parenting or baby website is ideal.
2. As it’s your first published article, you may need to write the piece in full before pitching to an editor
When you’re starting out, you need all the practice you can get. It really does help to be writing all the time, at every opportunity. You should want to write the article first. As a new writer, you may not be fortunate enough to be given an opportunity to get published without showing the client or editor a completed writing sample.
Also, editors know that writing an effective pitch is not the same as writing a great article. Having an idea is one thing, but being able to translate that idea into an impressive health article is something else entirely. As an editor, I would need to trust that new writers can deliver before I promised them article space and payment. That may mean just writing one article.
Also, you may not get paid for your first article. If that’s a problem for you, just be prepared that it could take you a lot longer to get published. (It may not, but it could.)
If you’re willing to sacrifice that initial payment for the experience of getting published – that is, the process, dealing with a client or editor and securing your name in print – then I’d say that’s money well spent. Think of it as an investment in your career. But there are some writers who think it’s never acceptable to write for free, even when you’re starting out. Ultimately, it’s a personal choice.
Writing an impressive health article will take practice. It can help to become familiar with the article format, study the work of others, do your research well, learn how to write high-quality content, study common formulas of health features, and read about what works and what doesn’t.
3. Show your unpublished article to others for feedback
As a beginner, you are still learning and it’s easy to make small mistakes – anything from minor grammatical errors to major structural issues. As you’re looking to publish your first article, you need all the help you can get. the article to a few more pairs of eyes – like friends and family members who will give you honest feedback. You can also use Grammarly and Hemingway for proofreading tips.
Look for an experienced health writer who may be willing to give your work a quick once over, too. You may not get detailed feedback; however, the more people who look at your work and give you some helpful, constructive criticism, the better.
4. Write an impressive article pitch
So you’ve written your article, received feedback and adjusted your piece. You’re now ready to pitch it to some of those target publications you identified in tip #1 and get that first article published!
Whatever you do, don’t send the same generic spiel to everyone with only the editor’s name changed. It is really obvious when writers do this, and it doesn’t take a lot of effort to personalise your pitch.
It’s helpful if your pitch is highly targeted to the specific publication. Demonstrate that you are familiar with the publication’s target audience and that you’re able to write in their writing style. For example, you could explain that your piece has a similar approach to another piece they published last week which had hundreds of shares.
Other tips for writing an impressive pitch include:
- Make it incredibly personalised – editors know when you’re writing a generic pitch and just inserting their website or publication name, so mention the publication, the theme, other articles they’ve published
- Address the editor by name – or the relevant editorial team
- Send your pitch to one publication at a time – you want to avoid having two rival sites or publications accept your article at once as that could be problematic
- Include some information about yourself – explain that you’re just starting out and are highly driven and passionate. If you have health credentials, mention them – or highlight the reasons why you want to be a published writer. Show your editor you care about being a published health writer.
- Write for the long-term – know that, if you’re successful, there could be the chance of ongoing work – so write to forge a long-term relationship with the people you’re approaching.
5. Keep on keeping on
When you’re aiming to get your first article published, it’s important to persevere. You will have magazine ideas rejected – and there’s no need to take it personally. Every rejection is an opportunity to improve and understand why your idea didn’t work and think of ways to improve upon your approach for the next time.
Keep trying, and you will get there. And, when you do get your first article published, know that you have achieved a huge milestone. There’s cause for celebration!
You’ve proven to yourself that you can do it. You’ve proven to others that you can do it. And, more importantly, you have learned what’s actually involved in getting an article published – which means that the next time you try, it will be easier if only for the simple fact that you’ve already done it once. Good luck!
Are you trying to get your first article published? Share your tips in the comments.