In today’s technology-driven world, the landscape of modern media has drastically changed—not just in the last fifty years, or twenty years, but even in the last five. No longer is print king—eye-catching visuals are. Ten years ago, social media was just starting to become common. Today, it’s essential. The gatekeepers to media have all but vanished with the rise in popularity of platforms like YouTube and Buzzfeed, which largely rely on user-generated content.
As a burgeoning author, your job (other than writing books) is to be current and prolific online. This doesn’t just mean posting on your social media often—although posting great content frequently will certainly help attract followers and elevate your profile. You have to generate content and pitch it to the media. A publicist can help with pitching, but they can get expensive, and you don’t just want content coming out only during the months surrounding your book release. Consistent content between books keeps you relevant.
Whether you decide to pitch yourself or use a publicist, you should consider length and format when writing content to make it easier to place.
Today, audiences’ attention is fragmented more than ever. There are a million distractions and other things we should be doing, so when an article is too long, we tune out. No one is going to read your 3,000-word essay. Keep it short.
You can pitch an article before you write it and ask for a desired length. Then stick to it. If pitching before you write isn’t an option, but you do know where you’d like it placed, run some popular articles from the platform through WordCounter to get an idea of the target range.
Not sure where you want it placed or planning on pitching it to a few places with wildly different word counts? You can actually write the longest one, save it, and then cut it down for a shorter version. By cutting introductions, extraneous details, tangents, and unnecessary adjectives, you can cut a lot of words. You know the old adage: kill your darlings.
Generally, 700 words is a pretty safe spot. Any shorter than 500 words and it’s hard to develop a point; any longer than 1,000 words and you’re likely to lose audience interest because of length. Think a two-minute read. And please—don’t be offended if it gets cut down.
Along with the decline in audience attention span came the rise of alternative formats. While traditional articles are still around, gif-heavy listicles, infographics, and short videos are going to get more attention, clicks, and views.
Instead of writing a traditional article, consider an alternate format:
Listicle: This is a list-article hybrid. Popularized by Buzzfeed, this format relies on being quick, entertaining, and providing new information. A typical listicle will have a number in the title, like Top 11 Tricks to Overcoming Writers’ Block or 7 Signs Your Cat May Be Trying to Kill You. Most listicles include a short paragraph (1-5 sentences) explaining each point. Many listlicles include gifs or images to accompany some or all of the items.
Roundup: Similar to a listicle in its list-like format, this type of article informs the reader about new products and/or encourages the reader to buy. It’s less number-driven than a listicle as well. A typical roundup would be named something like The Biggest Books of Summeror Cozy Mysteries to Curl Up With. Roundups always include links to buy the books.
Q&A: This format is very similar to an interview format. The biggest difference is that the questions are likely not catered to you specifically. Many platforms have their own Q&A questions that they send to everyone. That means there’s no follow-up questions and it’s less personal, but it also means that you’re answering the questions the readers want to hear.
Infographic: This type of article is entirely visually driven. This is a great way to introduce new information, especially number-driven data, in a digestible format. There are a variety of formats within graphics that you can play with. Flow charts, timelines, and statistical infographics all fall within this realm. This article gives a more in-depth breakdown of types of infographics you can make. We recommend Canva for authors new to making infographics.