What Magazine Editors Value From Freelance Writers

What Magazine Editors Value From Freelance Writers

Ask a​ bunch of​ aspiring magazine writers what editors are looking for​ when they read article queries and​ I'll bet most of​ them answer, "good article ideas."

Well, sort of. What editors most want to​ find in​ queries are good article ideas from writers who have an​ appealing edge over other writers. Contrary to​ what most beginning freelancers think, that edge need not be writing talent. a​ good many other qualities, some of​ which don't show up in​ a​ query, make a​ writer valuable to​ an​ editor.

Ever hopeful yet skeptical, editors read queries for​ evidence that a​ writer not only has a​ relevant article idea but also one or​ more of​ the​ following qualities:

1. Research ability. Writers who can turn up little-known, highly interesting truths, track down hard-to-find statistics and​ answer thorny factual questions can easily rack up magazine assignments as​ long as​ they also understand what makes a​ topic relevant to​ a​ certain publication's readers. Build your queries around such material and​ you'll soon have lots of​ editors as​ regular clients - especially if​ your submissions sail through the​ fact-checking process.

2. First-hand knowledge. Pilot and​ flight instructor Mal Gormley found himself in​ demand as​ a​ writer for​ Business & Commercial Aviation, Aviation Week and​ other aviation magazines, which had all gotten burned by freelancers who were decent writers and​ researchers but who just didn't understand flying. Hobbies, languages you speak, where you live or​ have lived and​ family circumstances such as​ being a​ parent of​ twins can each sometimes add to​ your appeal and​ win you assignments and​ repeat business from editors if​ you play your cards shrewdly in​ proposing and​ writing articles.

3. Access. Did you used to​ be a​ wardrobe assistant in​ Hollywood or​ an​ executive coach for​ Fortune 100 CEOs? if​ you can validly claim unusual access to​ hard-to-reach groups of​ people, you may find it​ easier to​ land assignments. Debra Wallace, who has interviewed such film stars as​ Dustin Hoffman, Glenn Close and​ Lauren Bacall, says that the​ celebrity writing business is​ "tough and​ not for​ the​ faint of​ heart." She advises novices to​ prove their ability to​ get access first at​ smaller, local magazines before approaching national publications.

4. Expertise. Professional degree credentials are not quite as​ valued by editors as​ many well-educated people expect. Unfortunately, many experts cannot explain what they know in​ ways that capture the​ attention of​ magazine readers. But those who can write in​ a​ popular style have a​ great opportunity to​ endear themselves to​ editors.

5. Controversy. if​ you're one of​ those people who have a​ knack for​ making people sit up and​ argue for​ or​ against what you're saying, some editors consider that a​ worthy strong point. What generally accepted views can you passionately – and​ credibly – dispute? Just don't launch an​ attack that's going to​ inspire death threats or​ make you untouchable when you want to​ write on other issues.

6. Dependability. Editors can't know how dependable you are from a​ query, of​ course, but having had a​ weekly column or​ having written regularly for​ one publication strongly implies that you adhere to​ journalistic standards and​ meet deadlines. Because an​ editor has to​ get an​ issue finished on time no matter what, this quality counts heavily. "When I told editors that I'd written for​ Crain's Chicago Business every week for​ fifteen years, it​ impressed the​ hell out of​ them," says Joanne Cleaver. "‘Wow – fifteen years': their tone of​ voice changed." Once you demonstrate dependability to​ an​ editor, you're in​ the​ running for​ repeat assignments.

7. Quickness. With their unforgiving publication schedule, editors also value writers who can bang out a​ readable article in​ next to​ no time. if​ you've ever had a​ writing job with daily deadlines, mention that as​ one of​ your qualifications. it​ might get you an​ opportunity to​ come to​ the​ rescue when another freelancer fails to​ deliver what was promised and​ an​ editor is​ looking at​ a​ hole in​ the​ issue about to​ close.

8. Catchy phrasing. Think about those phrases that suddenly enter the​ language, seemingly from nowhere, such as​ "mommy track," "chick lit" or​ "alpha male." Show the​ ability to​ coin such concepts in​ your query, and​ an​ editor might think "Cover story!"

Make one of​ these eight qualities your calling card, and​ you'll find numerous magazine doors opening for​ you as​ a​ freelancer.

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