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Freelancer: Become one, or need one

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Anyone can earn good money from home writing short pieces for publication in various magazines or periodicals, but here we are going to look at selling quizzes, questionnaires, word games and puzzles.

There are many publications which publish word-searches, games and puzzles, but did you know that many weekly and monthly news-stand magazines, not to mention regional and national newspapers and comics publish crosswords and quizzes regularly? Over recent years 'tabloid' type, large circulation, magazines have blossomed, bursting with every type of puzzle. Gail Miller explains:

I tend to write puzzles for just one or two publications because I do many other types of writing too. Having a 'foot in the door' in a couple of puzzle magazines makes it easier to submit more and more work with a high possibility of having it published and not rejected. Once a magazine 'knows you' they tend to stick with you ...…. providing your work is up to scratch of course! If you have some good and original ideas, you may be lucky enough to find a market willing to commission you on a regular basis, however don't worry if at first you only get the odd one or two acceptances - it happens to us all when we are beginning writers.

This report focuses on types of puzzles, how to present them for the best possible chance of acceptance and where to present them. One word of caution here however. EVERY writer, even established ones get rejections. If you have work rejected, do not be dejected. It's not personal. There are many reasons why work is rejected; maybe the publication has recently published something similar, perhaps they have a large amount of work waiting to be published ie. they just don't need any more at present, or perhaps your work just doesn't 'fit' in that publication. This does not mean your work is not up to scratch! If you have anything sent back to you, just re-parcel it up and send to the next market! Do not give yourself time to brood and lose confidence. This sort of thing happens to us all. I had 65 rejections before my first full length book was accepted!


Types of puzzles

The best known puzzles are crosswords or word searches of course, and if you like doing crosswords there is a good chance of you being able to compile them well. If you are going to write crosswords for a particular market however, always research the type and size of crosswords they usually publish. It is no use sending a giant crossword to a magazine that only prints mini-crosswords is it? You can make your job easier by investing in a crossword dictionary or even a computer program which helps you to compile them. This goes for word searches too. I have a program which aids me to compile both types of puzzle. I have a small regular income from one particular magazine that publishes only word searches. They don't pay a fortune admittedly, but the money is there, it is regular and EASY to earn! Could you make your crosswords different by using a certain theme throughout the puzzle, say seasons or horoscopes? You would have to be knowledgeable about the subject of course, but being a little different gets you noticed.



Can you resist trying to answer quiz questions when you see them in magazines? I know I can't! Compiling quizzes however, is just as enjoyable as doing them. When I compile a quiz I try to add a touch of cleverness or uniqueness by using topics that are quite obscure to the average reader. When you are researching markets for quizzes, look for ones which don't already feature them on a regular basis. This way you can offer to supply as many as they can take from you. Alternatively, if you have a specific subject you are interested in, say computers or trains why not try that type of publication with an offer to supply quizzes on the subject in question. I once had a series of quizzes on 'soaps' accepted by a very well know TV listing magazine. Not only did I get paid for them, I also enjoyed writing about one of my 'pet' subjects!


Word games

One of the most popular word games of recent years has been the type which uses numbers and initials for phrases, such as The 12 D O C (The 12 days of Christmas), 11 P in a C T (11 players in a cricket team) and A T W in 80 D (Around the world in 80 days) These puzzles are really addictive and once you get started on them, either compiling or answering them, you can get really hooked! This type of feature is something which can be published as a 'filler' at the ends of pages, or slotted into little spaces on magazine pages, not filled with text. It is an idea, if you are going to submit fillers such as these, to just do four or five to a page. Do not cram as many as possible onto the page; it just doesn't look professional ….. after all, as a writer you are not that hard up for paper are you?



You may not think that there is much of a market for questionnaires, but I am talking about the type you see every week in Sunday newspaper magazines, TV listings or teen magazines. The ones which ask; "Which kind of Spice girl are you?" "Are you a saint or sinner?" or "Do you get on well with other people?" These types of features usually consist of a number of questions, maybe five to a dozen, with multiple choice answers. After filling in the questionnaire, the reader adds up his or her 'score' for an assessment of their answers. Sometimes silly or frivolous, sometimes serious, these types of questionnaires can be found in many different types of magazines and are extremely popular, especially if they have a unique 'twist.' The good thing about this type of feature is that it can be geared to many different markets. Young girls' comic type magazines, womens' glossies, such as Marie Claire or Cosmopolitan or the more mainstream publications such as TV Quick, the Weekly News, or local or national newspaper publications, not to mention specialist subject publications; pet magazines, collectors magazines, men's titles etc. Another idea for this type of feature is to design it for two people ie. partners, husbands and wives or friends. First one fills it in, then the other. At the end, the answers are compared and conclusions are reached.

When you have had success with one particular publication, don't just sit back. Submit another idea straight away. Especially if your work has been especially well received. Always keep submitting to markets who accept your work readily. You can always submit to others at the same time, you've got nothing to lose. Good luck then! If the standard of your work is as good as features regularly published you should have no trouble placing work. If you follow the guidelines here you will be giving yourself a head start and minimizing your chances of failure. To follow are some markets you might like to try to start off with, however an up to date 'Writers' and Artists' Yearbook' (published every November by A & C Black) is an essential tool if you are serious about making money by writing puzzles, quizzes and the like, for publication.

About Gail Miller

From the UK, Gail Miller freelances writing and designing for womens magazines. She is author of "WILD CHILD - A Mother, A Son & ADHD" the true story of her battles with the 'powers that be' for recognition and treatment of her son's condition.