Sunday, January 09, 2005


(by Oliver)

From Daniel L.:
1. Why do people need content exactly? Simply off the fact that
freelancers' turnover rate is high, or is the demand for material
2. You mention ASKING to write for magazines. Working in sales, I know
the concept of asking and pitching to a point. Who exactly would I
contact at a magazine? The editor? Also, what would I be asking of
this particular person?
3. I currently write on my xanga blog for fun. How efficient you think
blogging is? There is definitely craze in it, and I see the potential
for growth in this. Any blogging sites/software you recommend? Xanga
is fun, but not exactly something I can use to show as my portfolio.
4. Any websites you would recommend that I look up if I'm serious
about freelance writing? Any other avenues I might look up other than
the traditional magazine route?


1) Both. It depends on the publication of course. Some have a set staff and don't use a big freelancing pool (for example, I've heard that Rolling Stone is getting to be like that). Other publications use almost an entirely freelance pool for their content, especially many internet-based media.

Believe me, it's rare that you'l be in a situation where you can't find anyplace to pitch a specific assignment. Of course, bow well you're paid is enitrely another story...

2) Again, it depends on the publication. The bigger the pub, the more editorial layers you'll have to navigate. In general, as a beginning writer, you'll want to find an associate or assistant editor who's tagged to the section you'd want to write for. For example, if you're interested in music reviews, bigger mags with have a reviews editor to talk to. If you're interested in writing for the "front of the book" (usually small featurettes, news + notes, etc.) they'll be a separate editor for that. Mastheads can be informative but often times, they won't break things down as cleanly as you'd like them to but if you contact the wrong editor, they're usually pretty good about forwarding you to whoever would be more suitable.

As for what you'd ask, I think it'd help to have a specific kind of assignment in mind, if not a specific story. At the most general, you could say, "I'm interested in writing reviews for your publication." But you can also approach a publication and say, "there's this new album by [name here] coming out that I think would be worth reviewing and I'd like to handle it." There's benefits and liabilities to both approaches but usually, a responsible editor will tell you if you're being too general or too specific with your pitch.

3) As far as blogging software goes, I think's system is the best overall in terms of ease of use and design flexability. I know a lot of folks who like Movable Type/ and it looks very professional. It's also worth paying a little extra and buying your own domain name and some web hosting space if you're really serious about creating a presence for yourself online and using that to bolster an entry into print.

As for how efficient blogging is - this is a conversation piece for a longer dialogue. Personally, I don't think blogging encourages very good writing; I know my blogging writing is usually a lot lazier - and thus, less polished - than my print writing but on the other hand, blogging taps into my emotional core at a closer range, so in a sense, it's more candid about how I think/feel about something and that's not a bad thing for your writing to convey.

However, whether or not blogging is an asset to a new writer, trying to break into print, I'm not really sure. Personally, if someone approached me and blogging was their sole example of writing history, I'd be a little skeptical just because, as I just noted, I don't think blogging always engenders very good writing, especially in terms of training people to think about word count, economical writing, etc. That said, there are some blog-only writers I've seen out there who I think can make the transition to print easily. It just depends on what you do with your blog.

4) Alas, the irony is that most of the WWW sites I read are blogs these days. Pitchfork has one of the better reputations for the internet equivalent to a mainstream music mag but really, I don't read very many internet-based publications. Old man as I man, I'm pretty much a print guy still.

Good luck and if you have more questions, hit me.


P.S. As always, I encourage all my colleagues to chime in if they have better/different advice.