The most common question people ask me when I tell them I’m a writer is: how? How do you get your stories into Nat Geo or Broadsheet or Practical Sheep, Goats and Alpacas Magazine? How do you manage to get someone to give you dollars for all your blah blahing? How can I do the same? Well, there’s plenty of spare cash splashing around for freelance writers so I’m more than happy to share some industry secrets…
WRITE, DON’T READ. Look, writing is time consuming. There’s the drinking, the hangovers, the self-loathing. Busy is an understatement. So, if you want to be a freelance writer, you won’t have time to actually read the publications you’re pitching to. Your best bet is just take a guess at what sort of content they’re looking for by their title. For example, I’m pretty sure Frankie is a magazine dedicated solely to covering the career of Malcom in the Middle’s Frankie Muniz. But in your pitch to the editor, make sure you pretend you read the publication religiously. Say something about you even taking it into the toilet with you. If you get caught out, and it turns out they just published a story you were pitching in the last edition, play it cool. Say you know that, obviously, but it was so shit you thought it needed a revisit by a better writer. They’ll appreciate your honesty and probably double your commission.
CLARITY IS FOR BORING WRITERS. When it comes to the actual story pitch, you want to make sure you’re not too succinct. Nothing bores editors more than a writer getting to the point. They have a heap of free time and are just looking for ways to fill it. Make sure you give a rambling backstory that’s completely irrelevant to your pitch like that a friend of a friend of yours once saw Frankie Muniz in a strip club in Vegas flaring behind the bar at least he’s pretty sure it was him but he was on acid at the time so it could have been an androgynous looking lantern.
HEDGE YOUR BETS. Don’t pitch to just one publication. What if they don’t want it? What if they do want it but you kind of want to make heaps of money from not much work? Send the exact same pitch to every publication in that genre you can think of. To save yourself time, don’t address it to each editor individually. Send it as a group email with an intro of ‘Dear all,’. This is sure to incite a bidding war over your ‘Frankie Muniz is actually a lantern’ story and you’ll probably be able to retire on the money. Happens all the time.
FOLLOW UP PUBLICLY Editors respond really well to public shaming. If you don’t get a reply to your pitch in exactly 12 minutes, take to Twitter. Create a passive aggressive pole asking your followers if you think editors are born wankers or the power trip turns them into assholes. Make sure to tag the relevant publications. For the entire hour after that, tweet a countdown directly at the editors every minute letting them know how long they have to reply to your pitch or suffer the consequences. Make it clear the consequences are missing out on your life-changing journalism. Ask Frankie Muniz to retweet you.
ALWAYS SURPRISE THEM When you do get commissioned for your story (let’s face it, it’s inevitable) don’t actually write about Frankie Muniz. After all, don’t you think he’s been done to death in that magazine? Instead, offer up an opinion piece about the dire state of long form journalism. Include a bunch of hashtags. Link to your social media accounts, advising people they can follow you for the REAL news. Send your invoice with the first draft and tell the editor you expect prompt payment. After all, like every freelance writer, you’re in this for the money.