How many books does it take to make a NYTimes bestseller? Some float the number (there are a tonne of variables) that you need 100,000 books sold to make it on that list. That’s a lot of books. Reader’s Digest had a monthly circulation of over 500,000 in Canada and over 5.5million in the United States in 2012.
If you’re looking for exposure – eyeballs on your work – do the math.
Newspapers write in a different format than magazines. Editors want articles written in the inverted pyramid style. What’s that? Picture an upside-down pyramid, the widest part at the top. Every newspaper article has a headline and a lead. Reporters relate the most important details at the very top, with more details following in order of descending importance. This is done so that if an editor needs to find space they can lop off the bottom paragraph or two and know that readers are still going to get the most important facts. This also accommodates readers who skim for details.
Reporters and journalists do more than tell readers the who, what, when, where, how of the story. They relate the So What? They examine all the facts and discern the point. What does it mean? Why does it matter? Why should readers care? Burying the lead is when a writer doesn’t prioritize the information/details correctly.
Most newspaper articles are between 300-500 words – some are longer, some shorter. That’s not a lot of words to work with. This isn’t a 1200 word magazine article where you have room to add your own opinions, euphemisms or verbal flourishes. You have to get to the point fast.
Newspapers, especially local ones, can be one of the easiest markets to break into because they always need fresh local content. The stories must be current. Typically, they’re more interested in promoting an upcoming event than telling about something that’s already happened. The bigger news is what’s about to happen, what’s coming to town, what’s new and exciting.
Learning the disciplines required to write for a newspaper translates in all other kinds of writing. Newspapers teach you to interview, prioritize information, work on a deadline, ask questions, write tight and write clean.