Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Freelance writing advice-- free!

Hello all!

Recently public services librarian Karen Preslock and your faithful library blogger were approached by Middle Grades Education professor Dr. Julie Schultz to offer her students advice about submitting articles to education journals. Karen and I prepared a list of some education-oriented magazines that accept freelance submissions, and we put together a guide for them. (If you aren't in Dr. Schultz's class, and you would like a copy, see us in the library, and we will make one for you).

As part of the packet we put together, I jotted down some helpful tips for the budding freelance writer, some things I have picked up over the years from my experience as both a writer and an editor. These tips are tailored to the students in Dr. Schultz's class, but I think there's some good general advice here, so I wanted to share them. Freelance writing can be a good way of supplementing one's income, and if one is good, persistent and enterprising, freelance writing can even be a career path! (Who needs job security? Starving builds character! I kid, I kid. If you love to write, find someone who'll pay you to do it! Of course you could always become a humble blogger...)

Without further ado, here are my tips for the freelance writer:

Tips for the Freelance Writer

Read the submission guidelines. If they are not available online, you can generally request them by email. Some editors want query letters only, and some want finished articles. Be careful about sending the same submission to more than one place. Some editors are touchy about this and will not accept “simultaneous submissions.” They want to be able to say yes or no before another magazine gets a crack at it. Others do not mind. This policy is usually spelled out in the guidelines. Most magazines will only accept electronic submissions these days, and they may be particular about the format. A few (Instructor, for example) still prefer a hard copy.

Be careful with your grammar. I think this would be especially important when writing for an audience of teachers. They would probably enjoy pointing out a mistake! Speaking as a former editor, I know grammatical and spelling errors can be fixed, but the article would have to be pretty compelling to be worth the trouble. Copyeditors are on a deadline, and an article that is too messy might be passed over for one with fewer glaring errors.

READ THE MAGAZINE if at all possible. Editors would beg this of you. Research the publication to see what sort of articles they like and accept. Will your article fit well with the tone and flow of the magazine? On the other hand, is it too similar? Did they just print an essay from a prospective teacher about her tutoring experience in the last issue? Don’t waste your time and effort sending your personal essay to a publication that only accepts heavy research dissertations. Find an appropriate home for your “baby,” and you’re more likely to get happily published.

Oh, and one more thing: make sure you get the editor’s name right. It’s worth a call or an email just to check. ;)

Good luck! I hope to read your articles in one of the nearly 35,000 journals to which we have access here in the library! (And if you become an editor or publisher someday, keep me in mind for your freelance writing needs).

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