Tag Archives: advice for writers

Ten Don’ts for New Editors

When freelancers make the leap from writers to editors, there are a large number of booby traps waiting for them in the early months of that first editing gig. Are you about to get a promotion and a title change? Are you considering an image change in your marketing campaign from writer to writer/editor? Here’s my “Don’t Do This” list to help you avoid some of the more troublesome problems you’ll face in the early days of the gig.

10. Don’t get promoted without a raise. If you plan to do editing work, your compensation should increase according to your new responsibilities. For freelance and contract people, that means raising your rates. For freelancers who are about to become employees, that means calculating your current worth and tacking on something extra to make the switch from freelance freedom to employee status worth your while. DO NOT take an increase in pressure without an increase in pay!

9. Don’t wait to be told what your duties are. Tell the people who pay the bills what YOUR expectations of the job are and ask them what their input is. Always try to get a hand in defining your duties whenever possible so you can keep your work load reasonable and commensurate with your pay. You can do this by drawing up your own job description in as much detail as possible and submitting it to your boss or editor-in-chief for discussion. First time editors can benefit from drawing up this job description in many ways, but the first is to clarify in your own mind what you think the job will entail. Continue reading Ten Don’ts for New Editors

Freelance Writing: Anatomy of a Bad Query Letter

WARNING: The following contains EVIL HUMOR and is not for the easily alarmed. It’s Friday, I’ve had too much caffeine, and in my current state of mind I think things have been far too serious round here as of late–not that there’s anything WRONG with that, but it’s time to lighten up a bit. So without any additional fanfare, read and learn.

What follows is a fictitious example of a bad query letter taken from the thousands of real e-mails I’ve gotten in the last few years…the EVIL HUMOR comes in because what I put in italics are the ACTUAL THOUGHTS of editors who read this crap. Not all editors are as EVIL as I am, but many share my penchant for EVIL HUMOR and feel the same way I do when they read the following: Continue reading Freelance Writing: Anatomy of a Bad Query Letter

Confessions of an Editor: Top 10 “Don’t Hire Me” Traits

I spotted the above sign while driving back to Chicago from Toledo, Ohio and was inspired to write something for new editors who are about to put out a call for freelancers or writing staff. Writers, you should read this and take notes–knowing the mind of a potential editor is important to your survival in this business. As I am about to put out a call for new freelancers, this list is definitely top of mind. I dread posting those “freelancers wanted” ads, because I’ll get a flood of responses from people who belong in clown college rather than behind the keyboard. The three to five good results I get are worth the hassle, but when I am reading the slop, I don’t believe it.

I don’t view this so much as advice as sharing about how I personally do business. For some editors, this top ten won’t work, and that’s the nature of the biz, but I’m willing to bet at least 75% of those new to the editing game can find something useful here:

Top Ten Writer Traits Which Scream, “Don’t Hire Me”:

10. Misguided Cover Letters. Don’t tell me anything unrelated to the job ad–and don’t bother replying to an ad which seeks a specific type of writer unless you fit the bill. I once put out a job ad requesting replies only from writers who were also musicians. One cover letter in my inbox started out, “I am a voiceover artist.” That’s nice, buddy, but that’s NOT what I asked for. In case you’re wondering, the rest of the ad made it perfectly clear I was seeking musicians only, no other type of performers. The respondant clearly couldn’t follow instructions.

9. Clips From “Content” Websites. Sorry, kids, but if I see Associated Content, HubPages, or any other content mill material used as writing clips, it sends big warning flares off in my head. I’d rather see an unpublished clip directly related to my publication’s focus than some generalized crapola you took five minutes to write and edit before posting to the content mill. Submitting content clips screams “amateur” to me.

8. Clips From Blogs. If I am LOOKING for a blogger, I’ll ask for blog clips. If I need ARTICLES, blog clips don’t do me a damn bit of good when trying to evaluate the appropriate skills. Blogging is NOT article writing, and vice versa.

7. Submitting Fiction. Unless specifically asked for fiction clips, never include your short stories or novel excerpts when replying to a job ad. This is among the worst judgement errors you can make as it shows a fundamental lack of understanding about how the game is played. I have plenty of time for noobs and beginners as long as they show initiative and at least TRY to respond properly to a job ad or call for writers. Continue reading Confessions of an Editor: Top 10 “Don’t Hire Me” Traits

Sarah Skerrett on Personal Branding

Yes, we should be at the end of our technical problems today (with a little luck) and Sarah will be posting under her own login soon. In the meantime, check out her take on personal branding…she indirectly raises an issue I’ll have a go at in my own editorial next week–the value of using content sites such as Associated Content to raise your Google clout, as opposed to the dubious practice using it to build a list of writing credits. I got the idea after following the link Sara provides in the article, so cheers to both her and Tina Samules for inspiring more content on FZ! In the meantime, check out Sarah Skerrett on Personal Branding. Once again, welcome aboard, Sarah…

The most challenging personal aspect of securing freelance projects is tooting your own horn. There is a fine line between honest self-promotion with the intention of highlighting your credentials and sounding like a pompous, know-it-all jerk who can do anything. There is also a fine line between taking a long shot on a project because you think you have the aptitude and knowledge to complete it successfully and wasting a client’s time because you think you can “quickly acquire” technical terminology needed for an HVAC manual for a heating and air company. Continue reading Sarah Skerrett on Personal Branding

Confessions of an Editor, Part One

It’s true–I’ve been pulled back into the dark side. I’m currently doing editor duties for as as-of-yet unannounced online publication/e-commerce site, basically setting up the editorial department from SCRATCH. What does that mean? For starters, I had to create all the company’s documents and policies for the editorial side—everything from freelance writing terms and conditions and training manuals all the way to “about this website”.

Then there’s the part I truly love about creating new websites—hiring new writers. I enjoy this process so much I forget to pee. Ahh, sarcasm. It just doesn’t work in print when you write it straight. I SHOULD have put down that I tuh-ruhhhhly loooo-huh-huh-hoooove hiring new writers. That would have conveyed my utter disgust with the whole process.

The thing I hate most about hiring new writers is the deluge of wildly inappropriate responses from the online “help wanted” ad. I figure this must be my karma, since I have fired off too many blind queries in my day–utterly wasting some poor editor’s time with poorly researched pitches to magazines that couldn’t care less. Yes, it is clear that I’m being punished for NOT reading at least two issues of a magazine before querying in the early days of my career.

What kind of punishment, you ask? Continue reading Confessions of an Editor, Part One

What Advice Do You Follow?

There is tons of advice out there for the beginning writer. If you take a look at the suggestions, they range from, “write at least 1,000 words a day” to “don’t quit your day job”.  Since I don’t write 1,000 words daily, and I jumped right into freelancing, I can’t say either of these worked for me.

The advice I keep coming back to, and that I have found the most valuable is this: Continue reading What Advice Do You Follow?