Yesterday I wrote an article called How To Increase Your Freelance Writing Rates. Scott Rose wrote me a thoughtful email which follows:
That was a good article, but it seemed to be looking at the question rather exclusively from the point-of-view of less experienced writers.
I believe that for more experienced writers, a problem has arisen due to the ease with which editors of high-paying publications can obtain material by placing help-wanted announcements on the internet.
As an example of what I mean; MediaBistro ran a “How to Pitch” article for www.delish.com.
That article says this:
“All sections are open to freelancers, and pitches should be service-oriented, fun and entertaining. “If it’s a good pitch from a credible writer, I’m more than happy to take a good look at it,” says Shepard.”
“If you have inside scoop or access to up-and-coming or established celebrity chefs, you can pitch the “Food Celebs and Shows” section.”
For your reference, I’m copying the text of that entire article below my signature in this e-mail. (I took this out of this post – aw)
Based on the statements in that MediaBistro “How to Pitch” article, I composed the attached profile of Chef Jim Botsacos of the restaurant Molyvos. I wrote this sample, adhering completely to the format, slant, style and tone of a particular section of delish.com’s Food Celebs and Shows area.
Now, I was simply querying, they did not owe me any commitment of any sort. However, as you can see, the work I sent is of a completely professional level, yet I never heard from editor Elizabeth Shepherd or anybody else there. After there was no e-mail response from them, I sent a snail mail envelope with a SASE asking to know the status of my material.
That went unanswered. There are multiple problems with this sort of behavior. The most serious is a certain appearance that the editors could be placing help-wanted announcements and “How to Pitch” articles as much to draw free attention to their publications as to offer anybody work. I could understand if somebody crayoned something utterly useless on the back of a napkin and sent it in, that the editors would not feel they needed to respond at all, but the arrogance to receive professional queries and leave them totally unanswered is abusive. It is not holding up the publisher/editor’s end of the bargain in making such public announcements.
Obviously, a large part of the freelance writing profession involves dealing with “No”s and moving on from them. But that’s part of my complaint, actually. If an editor does not respond at all to a professional query, the writer is left weeks and even months on end, unsure of whether trying to sell the idea elsewhere is indicated. The work one has done towards an eventual payday for the material is stuck in limbo, to the advantage of the editors and the disadvantage of the writer.
A form e-mail saying “Thank you for your query but this is not right for us” would be adequate.
Why do the Elizabeth Shepherds of this world believe they can post help-wanted announcements all over the internet and then not answer professionals that respond to them?
I think that editors should be made to understand, even by people like you with freelance job board newsletters, that the freelance community will hold them to a certain minimum standard of decency as regards their treatment of freelancers. They are gaining economic advantages from being able to place free ads for professional services, but then not acting with consistent professionalism towards the freelancers that contact them. This impacts our ability to score high-paying freelance jobs, in a way that those same editors would understand as outrageously arrogant were it done to them.
Many kind thanks for your consideration,
Scott brings up some interesting points. [respond]
Write to Scott Rose at firstname.lastname@example.org The first two chapters of his satirical mystery Death in Hawaii may be read at: http://www.freebookexcerpts.com/2008/02/03/death-in-hawaii-by-scott-rose/
Image from http://www.sxc.hu