Op-ed articles, also known as opinion/editorial articles, are a great way for aspiring writers to publicize their work and, in exchange, receive an amazing amount of publicity for free. You can write an op-ed piece and get it publicized provided you follow these simple rules.
Before you begin to write, you need to target which newspaper you would like your article to appear in. You stand a greater chance of getting into your local paper than in a national publication like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, or USA Today. Still, if one of the national publications appeals to you, then give it a try.
1. Follow the rules. Every newspaper has guidelines on what its specific requirements are. Familiarize yourself with these guidelines and stringently hold yourself to their requirements. Failure to do so will mean you will be rejected.
2. Write with precision. Newspapers do not like verbose writers unless it is for a feature piece and it is for a high-end publication, such as The Washington Post. Short, crisp, and to-the-point sentences are the order of the day.
3. Write with persuasion. Whatever your point of view, write persuasively. Do not muddy the waters by giving vague answers. If you are discussing a problem, count on offering the solution. Expect that your article may occupy one-half of the op-ed page; the other half may feature a rebuttal or an opposite point of view.
4. Double space. As with any submitted writing, you must double-space your text. Expect the editors to work their magic on your piece, including removing entire paragraphs to make everything fit.
5. Submit a cover letter. Yes, you more than likely will have to snail mail your letter, so send it off with a cover letter to the appropriate contact person.
6. Your contact information. Your name, address, city, state, country, zip, contact numbers, and email address are all needed. More than likely none of this will be included in the piece, but they do need a way to get back to you.
7. Resource box. Unlike ezine sites where you can write a lengthy discourse on who you are and have links to your site, it is likely that only a one or two-word sentence about “who you are” will be included. So, consider writing your own resource box and hope that they like it. [You can count on it being changed if they do not.] It could be written something like this:
John Doe is a Detroit based freelance writer affiliated with Writer’s Write.
Yes, that may be about all the information they want to share about you with their readers.
More than likely you will know within two weeks’ time if your piece will get published. Some papers will contact you to let you know if you have been approved/rejected, while others will simply publish your article. Do not hound them as you may want to become a regular contributor.
What is the next step?
1. If you are approved, you can expect letters to the editor — from readers — in response to your piece to begin appearing in subsequent editions of the newspaper. Do not be surprised if letters begin arriving in your home or place of business too. Expect phone calls from people who may want to discuss your point of view further, or invite you to speak in front of their group, etc.
2. If you are rejected, consider modifying and resubmitting your piece or forwarding it to another publication. Accept criticism about your writing style, if offered.
3. Op-ed pieces are sometimes picked up by syndicators such as Reuters or Google News; your piece can have a life well beyond the local newspaper. If you hit the national press, you can count on your article having widespread coverage. Do a search on Google a few days after publication and you may discover how wide a net your piece has cast. If that is the case, good for you!
Above all, an op-ed article can help shape local or national opinion, so think of the greater good you can do as well as the publicity you just may receive when crafting your article. Although newspaper circulation continues to drop, online versions of these same newspapers continue to grow, thereby giving you exposure far beyond the intended market.