Grab your latest issue of “Woman’s Day” off the coffee table. Flip through `Saveur.” Sneak a peak through the pages of “Cosmo Girl” at the newsstand.
Wonder what they have in common? Fillers.
Fillers are those small boxes that accompany certain articles. They are the jokes peppered throughout your child’s favorite magazine. Fillers can be quizzes, humorous tidbits, sweet remembrances, or announcements of new products, recipes or restaurants.
The pay is small, from $5 to $50. The time it takes to put a filler together is also small. You can write a 100-word piece while watching television. You can list 5 ways to do something better in between putting your water on to boil, and adding the pasta. Write fillers while traveling to work on the bus, waiting in the school parking lot for your
children, sitting at a coffee shop enjoying a moment alone.
Fillers take less time to send off to editors, too. Selling fillers to magazines and websites doesn’t require researching and writing a query letter. Do write a cover letter including your contact information and writing background. Include a self-addressed stamped envelope. Call the publication and ask for the name of the editor to whom you should send it. Type up the envelope, slip in your filler, cover letter and SASE, and pop it in the mail.
Where do ideas for fillers come from? Be very attentive to conversations you are having. Did you just toss off a comment about a new kitchen toy you have? Maybe you rattled off one of your dozens of fruity salad dressings. If anyone says to you, “That’s wonderful. I never knew that,” take it as a hint that your little tidbit would make a great filler for a magazine.
Why do editors love filler pieces? 25- to 500-word pieces are great for filling gaps in the pages. Editorial policy at some publications include a certain amount of easy
games, funny stories or quickly scanned lists of information.
Readers love fillers. Fillers pack a lot of information in a small space. Think of sitting at the dentist’s office, nervously passing the time with a magazine. You may not be
able to read 12-page articles on political matters, but you will probably retain the zippy list of how to tell produce is fresh.
Successful writers of fillers say that paying close attention to the calendar brings in more sales. Assume a magazine is running at least 6 months ahead of the actual publishing date. Send your Christmas and New Year’s fillers in by May.
Here are seven ways to brainstorm filler ideas:
1 – Write cooking tips:
Aim for the magazine’s readership when writing cooking tips, and don’t limit yourself to women’s or food magazines. Send “YM” (for teen girls) a filler on the Five Easiest- To-Make, Can’t-Go-Wrong Dinners to Make for Boyfriends. “Cosmo,” on the other hand, might take a short piece on Six Aphrodisiac Foods that REALLY Work. “Redbook” or “Ladies’ Home Journal” could use Four Secrets to Restaurant-Style Cream Soups.
2 – Design Food Quizzes:
You know food, right? Share your knowledge in a fun, interactive way by writing food quizzes. Take a produce item and make-up five questions and answers about it. Alternatively, write questions about the nutritive value of foods, or dishes, and have the readers select which answer is the lowest in fat, highest in calcium or best health bang for the buck.
3 – Birthdays are always special:
Get online and do searches for the birthday (or anniversary) of potato chips, for instance. Oops, we all missed that one — it was last month. You get the idea — take a favorite, quirky or curious dish and track down when its fifth, fiftieth, two-hundredth anniversary is. Write up five sentences about it and send it to newspapers, magazines,or food websites. Writing anniversaries of products also translates well to full- length articles. (For future reference.)
4 – How to Use Tools:
Write up to 500 words on new (or classic) kitchen tools and how to get the best use out of them. Food writers may be up to date on slicing and dicing equipment, clay crockery and milk steamers but your readers may not. Sitting on your couch with your feet up and a cat on you lap doesn’t stop you from explaining how to season and keep your clay roaster in perfect condition.
5 – Best Ways to….:
Your readers need to know the best ways to get calcium in their diets, to quiet menopausal symptoms with nutrition, to fry chicken perfectly, and to eat for optimum energy in the morning.
6 – Recipes:
One-recipe fillers are a natural for food writers. Go further and share one recipe plus additions to change it. A basic muffin batter can be improved in many ways: add blueberries, grated lemon and orange zest, or cinnamon and pecans. Suddenly you have a filler article.
7 – Profiles of chefs:
This idea seems to fit food magazines best, but can also be great for alternative newspapers, or newspapers’ food sections. Choose a local chef who has received rave reviews for a particular dish – corn chowder, roasted game birds, vegetarian feasts – and interview her or him for background information, favorite dining spots, and a recipe to share.
Fillers can ‘fill out’ your writing resume, and add cash to your coffer, by using what you already know and can dash off in spare moments of your busy day.
(c) Pamela White, 2007
About the Author:
Pamela White published Food Writing, an ezine for food writers. Subscribe for no cost at www.food-writing.com. Her book, Make Money as a Food Writer in Six Lessons, is available at Amazon.com .