A plea to editors and publishers: Do you want to attract pro writers or not?

At a party late last year, the owner of a new local web site asked me about freelancing. He’d been soliciting articles for his site from business owners and people who liked writing for exposure; he wanted to know how to attract professionals.

“Well, you’re going to have to start paying them,” I said. (Too frank? The party was hosted by a generous sponsor who’d paid for an open bar.)

Seriously, though, there are three things I just wish editors would do that would make everyone’s lives a little easier. This applies to blog editors as well as those in the print spectrum.

  1. Offer pay–and not pennies per word either. If you want people (potential writers) to take you seriously as a business owner and editor, you need to make sure you are taking writers seriously, and offering rates so low that they are a joke is a great way to show how little you care.
  2. Offer sample copies, and make them easy to buy. I just tried to get a sample copy of a magazine I liked, but didn’t want to put my credit card number onto their UNSECURE (http:// vs https://) server. When I called and asked if they would take Paypal, I was told that only their merchandise can be paid for through Paypal. This is for a $3 magazine. Now I have to write them a check and stick it in the mail because they can’t code their Web server correctly? I might just skip this mag altogether.
  3. Provide writer’s guidelines. It’s really important that writers are familiar with your blog, magazine, or other publication. But on the other hand, I shouldn’t have to sit there with my sample copy counting the number of words in an article so I know how long my piece should be. I shouldn’t have to guess whether a certain department accepts freelance or not. If this is all spelled out in your guidelines (which are online as a PDF or HTML file, not ones that I have to send in a SASE for) you save both of us time.

Feels good to get that off my chest, actually! Editors, take note–you’re affecting my health 😉

  1. Scribette left a comment on February 4, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    All good points!!!

  2. Rachel left a comment on February 4, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    Hey, thanks for commenting, and welcome to a much quieter blog than FWJ. (Quiet not because my commenters are politer, but because there are fewer of them 😉 It’s so frustrating seeing editors ask for peanuts–and it’s more frustrating, yet laughable, when they don’t understand why the work they’re getting is of poor quality.

    Sadly, I know many large and well-respected publications that are guilty of sin #3.

  3. Scribette left a comment on February 4, 2008 at 11:34 pm

    I think I am loving the “quiet”! 🙂

    I am surprised to hear that so many well-respected publications do not offer writer’s guidelines though.

  4. Rachel left a comment on February 4, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    Maybe it’s just been my bad luck, but I would say that 30% of the places I’ve written/called/e-mailed to ask for guidelines have been prompt. 30% of my calls have been completely ignored, and 30% have been met with “you should just read the magazine/newspaper.” Hence me sitting there counting every word in a paragraph so I can estimate the number of words in a feature. Argh!

    But even those places, once I’ve built relationships with editors, have become much more welcoming. Maybe the whole counting words thing, annoying as it is, is part of a test–or hazing ritual.

  5. Danny Lucas left a comment on February 5, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    Um, I do not think your commenters are too few.
    I also believe that your commenters ARE politer.

    People who have a concern with words, and the power of the precise word to convey a thought in one brain, and transfer that thought through thin air to many others, stop here.

    The rest of folks comment under assumed names and use foul language to convey their token umbrage and anger.

    It takes time to build an audience.
    And, a great audience takes much time.

    I comment in many places; I AVOID comment in far many more, because of the comments I always read BEFORE I read any post. When I see zero comments, like any blogger at http://www.GoErie.com , I know that the content of the post was not enough to stir a passionate thought out of anyone on the planet.

    So I come here.

  6. Danny Lucas left a comment on February 5, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    In reference to the actual post, money talk is not necessarily rude. It depends on how it is approached.

    I recall one hire process where the person speaking to me proclaimed (regarding money in the opening lines):
    “We will pay you EXACTLY what you are worth…..

    I responded:
    “Nobody EVER paid me that much before”

    We laughed and continued; I took the job. Commission.

    I find the Law of Supply and Demand at work in getting paid appropriately in writing fields. Regrettably, it is as if an invisible field of illegal immigrants surround the planet. There are too many writer’s writing thoughts on everything and more. Then, they link and write what others say. The vast, vast majority of words put out daily are not worth the expenditure of the brain cell required to read them, let alone cold hard cash for them.

    Write quality. You will rise to the top like oil over vinegar in a bottle of dressing. Quality never goes out of style; and, in writing, it is rather rare too.

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