Many writers have told me they have aspiration of freelancing, but they’re leary of jumping into those waters. It’s bad enough when a writer sends a submission to a publisher and has to wait weeks for a decision, but when it’s freelance work it goes something like this:
- Query first
- Wait for reply and hopefully score an ‘on spec’ gig
- Receive reply to send article on spec
- Write article if not finished
- Polish article
- Send article
- Wait several more weeks for a final decision
When a writer first starts out in the freelance field, whether for non-fiction or fiction, the magazine’s decision process normally takes twice as long as it does in the e-book industry. And this also happens to established and semi-established freelancers when they query a new publication they’ve never worked with before—although having a nice sales resume often speeds up the query process. The one I queried this morning is a new magazine I’ve never queried before so now I wait, wait, and wait some more.
How does one become established with a freelance publication? Keep querying until you score a sale.
The upside to freelance writing is that once you prove yourself as a writer, you can usually contact the editor you’ve worked with directly instead of having to wade through the communication channels. In other words, a writer no longer uses the general submissions address or the assistant editor’s contact only to wait as he reads the query, passes it to another editor, and so on. Once you make a sale with a publication, the writer often has an open invitation of sorts for future queries or articles that bypass all those in the chain of command. However, once you nail that first sale with a magazine, be sure to ask the editor you’ve dealt with if it’s permissible to send him or her future queries or articles before sending him something else. NOTE: Although the query-and-wait process is often the norm, there are exceptions!
I used to write for Gent Magazine. Once I got my foot in the door at Gent, I dealt with my editor one-on-one. Even when my editor left, he turned me over to his replacement, and we worked together the same way. Then, when Gent was temporarily located in England, the replacement editor contacted me and made sure I had all their new information so I could continue to write for them.
You’d think after all the years I’ve been in this business I’d have more patience, lol. But patience is a huge part of writing no matter the genre or category. If you pen fiction and hope to get into the pages of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine or some other print publication, it’s pretty much the same process. Lead stories, the first story that appears in the magazine’s layout, are even better because scoring a lead story *usually* means it’s the editors’ pick out of that issue. Often a lead story will get both the author’s feet in the door, lol.
Regardless, print magazines and several pro-rate e-zines are normally more difficult to break into than say an e-book publisher or a small-circulation mag. Don’t jump in thinking a cool idea is going to land you a sale. Short stories, essays, and articles must be polished to the hilt with perfect grammar and punctuation. The idea might be awesome or the plot unique, but if the execution is sloppy or your grammar and punctuation is a mess, the writer will received a firm rejection.
Freelance writing can be quite lucrative, but bear in mind, it’s also feast or famine. I’ve made hundreds of dollars within three or four months, and then went a year or more with small or no sales. However, if you’re determined, one small sale will lead to another, then to better paying publications, and eventually into professional sales that will have you beaming in pride as you gaze at your online bank account or laugh all the way to the bank to cash that paper check.
Study hard, learn all you can, and be as professional as possible. At the end of the long road is a nice paycheck.
(Check out the easy contest on my alias site. Go to www.MollyDiamond.com and click on the Contest tab)