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Improve An Article By Packaging
Moving Beyond Vanilla Articles
At one time I loved vanilla ice cream. That was before I tasted chocolate.
At one time I loved chocolate ice cream. That was before I tasted Reese’s Peanut Butter Chunk ice cream.
The same can be said for article writing. Back in the day it was enough to simply write an article about home remedies for the flu. Today if I do a Google search for “home remedies for the flu” I am presented with 3,250,000 articles to choose from.
Now imagine that you are a health magazine editor inundated daily with article queries from writers and writer-wannabes. On this particular day you get two queries proposing an article about home remedies for the flu. You also get a query from an enterprising writer who proposes to write an article about those same remedies that will also include sidebars, graphics and other enhancements.
Which query do you suppose the editor is going to accept?
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but competition is stiff in the writing business. Every writer must find a way to be unique in the eyes of the readers and, if you are a freelance writer, in the eyes of editors and publishers; thus the need for a complete package when writing an article.
Packaging, then, is the inclusion of additional elements that will complement your story or article. For a second think like a reader; what do you want to learn from the article? What questions do you want answered? Now think like the writer that you are; what are the best ways to answer those questions and deliver the information?
Perhaps the following suggestions will give you a leg up the next time you write an article.
Facts and Statistics
These are particularly helpful when your article is about a person or issue; they tend to spice up an article that could otherwise easily be mundane. Toss in some statistics that give some meat to your mashed potatoes. Readers like to know that the writer is not just winging it, that he/she actually has the facts to back up a statement.
For instance, if you were doing an article about an actor, you could do a sidebar showcasing the box office sales that actor’s movies have generated….or if you were doing an article about the horrors of homelessness, and you are striving for emotional impact, you could do a sidebar that gives homeless statistics.
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Related stories from experts in the field can be very effective. If I am writing an article about the Afghan War, including stories from soldiers who served there could have great impact.
Similarly, if you were doing an article about traveling to Italy, and through your research you found an article written by a famous politician about their first trip to Italy, that might give your article a nice little push upwards.
As long as it is relevant to your main topic then consider using it. Using current events as a reference to your topic is a great packaging prompt.
Writing about gun control, it would be quite easy to find a related news story that would compliment your article. Name a topic and chances are you can find a current news story that relates.
Do you use any of these already?
Readers love quizzes so give them one. In fact, a very effective introduction can be had using a quiz at the beginning of your article.
The most memorable example of this packaging element that I have seen was a poll asking readers “Are You Healthy?” There was a twenty question poll, and after the poll the results were explained in a fine article about general health. Very, very effective!
Graphics are great for travel articles. Included in your article could be a list of the top ten restaurants in an area. Or how about a food article? A list of the top ten chefs who specialize in a particular recipe that you are writing about would be very nice.
I could go on and on with examples but why take the fun away from you. Think outside the box and find different ways to bolster your article.
Videos are very useful
In the year 2013 with the millions of YouTube videos available, a writer would have to be a fool not to use a video as part of the package. Videos are everywhere on practically every subject you can imagine. Use them! People love videos and the visual learners among your readers will be very thankful.
Another effective use of videos is to find a music video that relates to the subject of your article; that way readers can listen to music while they read your article. That, my friends, is a win-win situation.
And finally, try your hand at making your own videos. If this writer can do it then so can you.
Don’t ignore Facebook or Pinterest or Twitter. The world uses them so there is no reason why you shouldn’t use them as well.
A simple example would be a piece written about a musician. On a sidebar give that musicians Facebook page or their fan page.
Photos Are so Very Important
Most magazine editors will pay extra for high-quality images, so if you are a writer hoping to break into the magazine market, get yourself a quality digital camera.
If you are a writer not looking to sell to magazines, add images anyway. People love to look at pictures, and with the millions of pictures free online, it would be a shame not to use this obvious enhancement.
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Think Outside the Box
Listen, I would love it if we were all judged solely on our writing skills. On a level playing field like that I would take my chances every time. I am just enough of a traditionalist so that I am insulted whenever I have to dress up my writing in order to make it sexy and appealing. However, that is not reality in today’s writing world. Writing is important and always will be important, but packaging is right up there on the importance list.
Think in terms of marketing if you are struggling with this concept. When Madison Avenue takes on a new product, they design a marketing package that appeals to all the senses and can also appeal to the broadest market possible. That is what you want to do with your articles and you can do it by using the packaging approach.
If you are a writer on a site like HubPages, you will recognize these principles immediately. The bells and whistles are what make an article “evergreen.” However, few writers use these principles when sending queries to magazine editors and they are sadly missing the boat by not doing so.
Sure, there are still people out there in the world who prefer vanilla, but their numbers are rapidly decreasing. If you want proof, just look in the frozen foods section of your local grocery store. You might find it difficult to even find the vanilla.
Figure out what your readers want and then design a marketing plan to deliver. It’s as simple as that!
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”