Archive for Mortification

December 28, 2007

Breaking in as a Freelancer: Have Confidence

Are you desperate to get published, to get your first byline and clip to show friends, family, and especially editors you’d like to write for? Don’t be. And don’t let publishers make you feel like you should be.

No doubt, it can be hard to get your first magazine article published. Many editors like to work with previously published writers. The pressure to get that first byline is legitimate, even for published writers who are trying to break in to a new market.

photo of billiard balls breaking - do you need a big break?

Breaking in is hard to do

It’s the age-old question, but it’s not unique to writers: How am I supposed to get experience if no one will hire me? We all have to get that first job/clip/whatever for our resumes, regardless of the field.

That’s why unpublished writers should exhibit confidence when they interact with editors; in no way should they assume or behave as if freelance writing is different from other professions. We all need to get our foot in the door at least once.

Don’t Let Editors See You Sweat

To a certain degree, I’m echoing sentiments expressed a short while ago by Linda Formichelli of The Renegade Writer Blog. Linda notes that writers should never let editors see them desperate for work. No matter how empty your bank account, Formichelli cautions, always present yourself in a positive, “how can I help you?” light.

That advice holds true whether you’ve published 200 articles or none. Editors shouldn’t see you as someone who so badly wants that first clip that you’ll accept just about any terms they toss your way.

As I mentioned in my previous post, in a recent call for submissions, a magazine editor announced that she needs several articles for her next issue. Unfortunately, it’s a nonpaying market. As compensation for published articles, writers will receive two subscriptions to the magazine, a $55 value.

I’ll write more about weighing the decision to write for free in another post. For now, let’s just say that writing for free does sometimes, under the right circumstances, have benefits.

But this editor also wants writers to work on spec, to submit articles that she may then hold for as long as six months before making a go/no-go decision. That means a writer could spend tens of hours researching and writing an article that never had a chance of being published in that magazine. And while the editor takes up to six months to decide whether she wants to publish it, the article is worthless to the writer, who can’t shop it around to other markets.
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