|SUNOASIS 2005 PUBLISHING and WRITING BLOG
"There is so much to be said in favor of modern journalism.
By giving us the opinions of the uneducated it keeps us in
touch with the ignorance of the community."
-- Oscar Wilde
T A B L E O F C O N T E N T S
- [Editor Notes; Getting Assignments]
- [Resource Notes]
- [Markets and Leads: Science Publications]
- [C/Oasis- new stories]
- [New Forms of Publishing]
- [The Free Media ]
Welcome back! Some changes have been made to Sunoasis. The
premium and regular issues have been merged. Each issue
will be dominated by one theme but will have plenty of
resources to pick and choose from. Every issue will have
up-to-date market information.
charging for subscriptions but will use the Amazon
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* * * * * * * *
E D I T O R N O T E S
The wise man says, "We are here to learn." Fine. One of
the better lessons I learned when I started freelance
writing was, "be prepared." I was asked to chair a
session of a large trade show and convention by the
editor of the magazine I was writing for. I got the
bright idea to query the editor of Popular Science
because new technology would be on display at the
trade show. Would he be interested?
I sent the query and got prepared for the convention.
The query slipped my mind. And a day before I
left to go, the editor from Popular Science called me. I
didn't have a list on my desk, I was caught off-guard.
I stammered through a few minutes trying to convince him
that I could get something interesting for his magazine.
"What sort of new technology is going to be featured?"
"Well, um, they'll probably have the new O-rings for
big turbines. Energy efficiency you know?"
Nothing was produced from that exchange and the whole thing
nagged at me days on end.
Since that time I have always kept a list on my desk
of any questions or answers that may come at me by way
of the telephone.
I'm reminded of these things every time a young person or,
even, a middle-aged person writes me and asks, "I just want
to make some money writing....how do I get assignments?"
Ultimately your success in getting an assignment comes down
to your relation to the editor, clips, timing, and luck.
A professional writer should look at her writing and write
down three or four key words that mark that writing. Out of
those key words come valuable hints for searching possible
markets. For instance, in looking over my own writing I
come up with these keywords, "writing resource" "solar
power" "literary" "political opinion" "media employment." I
now have some context to further search for writing markets.
There are five basic ways to get an assignment:
- Answering ads
- Getting an assignment directly from an editor.
- Online auctions
What would a writer do without the query? It is a simple,
effective way to put an idea in front of an editor and convince
him that you are the person for the job. And before you start
to write a query consult the vast amount of material that
exists for writing one. I have some links in the resource box below
so make sure you look at those.
There are all kinds of reasons why to send a query rather
than a finished piece of writing. For one thing, an editor
wants to "work with a writer." What if the editor wants
something changed or done differently? The query makes that
a more flexible option.
A finished piece can also communicate something bad to the
editor. "Hmm, this piece is being shopped around. It's been
rejected somewhere and now coming to me." Not a good
Look at it from the editor's point of view. She's inundated
with paper on her desk or e-mails on her screen. She develops
this strong instinct to eliminate as much as she can. And
so she looks at the queries very quickly. Does something
jump out and grab her? Does something connect to a subject
that is suddenly hot in her coverage area? Is the query
Anything less than that she will probably eliminate. And
so a perfectly good idea by a good writer could go down
Don't be the amateur who begs for attention. Ball your idea
up into a fist and hit the editor's mind with it.
The query is a kind of controlled mayhem. You are trying
to dazzle the editor in a very short space so take some
poetic skills with you when you begin one.
Be prepared: The editor could call you at home and discuss
your proposal. Know the article you plan to write in all
Remember that editors are hungry for new and interesting
content. Hungry? More like ravenous. A writer needs to
believe that the story he is proposing is that new and
scintillating content. Time will tell but the psychological
game involved is important.
* * * * * * * *
Let's focus on one of several factors that go into making
a good query: the slant.
I imagine the slant to be a line that intersects between
an idea and a series of possibilities that puts the idea
into motion. The idea of writing about the war in Iraq
is one thing. Why? What? It must be met with another line;
Iraqi soldiers who have split loyalties, for instance. Or,
the impact on the price of oil. Every idea must meet
with this intersecting line. Any idea I put down on a
piece of paper has several lines through it, indicating
a structure for the idea that will exclude something but
include other things. These intersecting lines can land
in fascinating places.
If you draw this on a piece of paper you will notice that
two intersecting lines create four co-ordinates; space
that can be filled with more ideas.
Are electronic queries any different? Not really. What may
be different is whether the publication is digital or print.
The digital publication is going to want a faster-paced
writing, with bulleted lists, chunked paragraphs and the
other de rigeour of online writing.
Make sure you look at the ways editors accept queries.
Training in journalism is very helpful. What is
newsworthy? What is the story behind the story? Why is that
person not talking to the press? Is that a hint of bribery I
smell over there?
We say it again and again, "editors want fresh ideas! Get them
and support the idea with research and excellent writing and
you will have a freelance writing career."
As writer Lisa Cool puts it, "...a good pitch letter sells
an editor on you- not just this one article."
The query tells the editor that you've looked at his
magazine, that you know your topic, you are familiar with
the territory and you will approach it like a pro.
It's important to understand that editors judge manuscripts
using different criteria. These can be summarized as:
Content, the readability of the piece, and its possible
impacts. Keep these in mind as you read back issues of
a magazine and formulate ideas to submit.
I do recommend looking at the article I wrote last year on
Writing is a lonely, singular activity. But publishing is a
contact sport. Editors and writers network. Editors, especially,
worry that the person they are dealing with is unreliable and
feel good if someone they trust has recommended the new writer.
This happens a lot in trade publications and in business writing.
Editors like to believe they are on top of what is going on
in the publishing industry and will come across all the talented,
savvy writers out there ready to provide wonderful copy.
Make yourself available. It's no different from
networking when you are looking for a normal job. Let people
know what you can do.
One of the best ways to get an assignment is to know a writer
who has been published and have him or her put a good word in
for you with the editor. Believe it or not this works. In fact,
I've heard editors say they prefer this because they trust
writers who do good work for them and know they won't jeopardize
Internet forums, mailing lists, and message boards are
places where editors will troll for talent. Remember to be
prepared and to be resourceful on the Net. You never know
who is watching.
Make sure no one lies on your behalf and tells an editor you can
do something you really can't.
It makes sense to go on message boards and schmooze a bit. Certainly
take in local writing conferences and anywhere editors may
Get into local writer's groups and make sure they are listed in
Chamber of Commerce directories.
Get yourself known by reference librarians because business will
often call them and ask for local writers.
I like to tell the tale of my first freelance writing assignment.
I noticed a small ad in the local newspaper. It had a phone
number, I called it, and for one year wrote articles for a large
book project. The book was a national bestseller, the people were eccentric,
the money was good. That small, obscure ad opened doors and windows
Even though this is a popular way to find writing jobs our
experience is that the pickings are slim. Read the ad
carefully and make sure it sounds right to you, that it
spells out what you will do and has an actual address
rather than a P.O. Box.
Usually, companies or individuals who submit ads are not
experienced with writers. They have not developed a vigorous
network to pluck out writers when the need arises.
My advice to writers is to always go after an assignment with
vigor but ask questions and be skeptical of who you are dealing
with. Get everything in writing. Go online and check out the
reputation of the publication or organization you are dealing
The most questionable ads want ten or fifteen examples of your
writing. I can remember one incident in the late 90's when
an "editor" simply took a bunch of submitted material and
sold it to the market under her name. Another thing to
understand is that some of the businesses looking for freelance
writers have little experience in hiring them. So, be prepared
to make them understand all the work that goes into a project.
What's shocking to me is how people believe that the internet
job notices will bring them the best freelance opportunities.
I've been running a job board for some years now and while I
have posted freelance jobs it represents only a fraction of the
Certainly, if you run into an ad that looks appealing to you
check it out and so on. But, the best way to get assignments
is to cold call on editors through email or regular mail and
offer up a letter and query. Get into the network by demonstrating
your talent and reliability.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Getting called for assignments<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
Ah, this is the moment when you know you've done some good
in the world. This is the moment when you have crossed the
threshold and made a mark. You will eventually get phone
calls from editors and offered assignments if you have
followed these simple rules:
- Completed assignments on time.
- Wrote what the editor wanted you to write.
- Worked with the editor, not against her.
- Did original work with interesting slants and resourceful
facts to back everything up.
The editor of a trade publication is more likely to call a
writer for an assignment.
By the time you get to this point you need to have developed
criteria of whether you take the assignment or not.
Experienced writers turn down assignments if they are going
to spend time writing for less than they know they can
make if they hustle the assignment themselves.
Editors like to call on the phone when they are ready to
assign an article to a writer. In this conversation with
the editor be prepared to discuss the angle of attack you
are going to take, the length, the tone of the piece, and
so on. These are all items you should list out and place on
your desk for easy reference. Be prepared.
When the editor is calling you for assignments it means that
the magazine will probably, not always, pick up legitimate
expenses, and guarantees some form of payment even if it's
a "kill fee."
A deadline is then set. Depending on the experience of the
editor she will either have an absolute deadline when all
the pieces of the magazine need to be collected, or will
set a deadline with a few weeks wiggle room. The editor
who does this is smart and realizes things can happen in
the making of an article, especially if it demands
Once you agree to the terms she will usually send you a
letter of agreement or, even, a formal contract and appended
to these items is an outline of what you talked about over
the phone. Make sure you stay within the parameters of the
Keep the editor informed if there is a problem with the piece.
Don't just disappear and let the deadline pass hoping she won't
notice. She will notice. And she will put the word out that you
These are competitors to the ad marketplace. The problem is
that there will always be writers willing to work for less
than yourself. And, on the other end, you have people who
don't know anything about writing and can't judge the quality
of this writer or that writer and simply hire someone who
will work for less.
Bid to the level of your expertise. There is no reason
to take a job below the price you can get elsewhere.
There seems to be two common complaints about online auctions
like guru.com or elance.com. One is that it's difficult developing
relationships with clients since the jobs are usually short in
duration. The jobs, too, are usually put on there by people who
have budget problems and figure writers will bid down on projects
to get them. Nonetheless, there are contract jobs available and
people do use them quite a bit.
* * * * * * * *
The bottom-line is to work every angle you can. By doing so
you will eliminate some techniques that don't work for you
and focus on the ones that do.
I've heard of writers developing a list of articles or links
to articles they've written. In fact, I've had these sent to
me as an editor of C/Oasis. If you have articles that can be
re-printed develop a list and send it to editors with a cover
letter and order form. It works primarily in the trade magazines.
The key in this racket is to justify long periods of
research with many articles that can be resold to multiple
* * * * * * * *
How many books "on writing" actually deliver the goods?
I have found precious few. I'm reading one now that, as
the old-timers would say, "has a lot to recommend it."
The Journalist's Craft, A Guide to Writing Better Stories
is edited by Dennis Jackson and John Sweeney.
In it a variety of journalists tell the stories of how they
write and why they write. "...there is music in
The book is a celebration of story-telling. And isn't everything
reduced to a story? Of course it is. We tell each other stories!
It's never been different. Our modern stories have more facts
and figures stuck in them but they are still stories.
For those slaving over a query letter consult the "Ten Pre-
Proposal Checks" by Amanda Bennett.
Also check out the latest issue of Poets and Writers. It
features an article by a character named Johnny Temple.
He's a rock musician and the founder of the independent
press, Akashic Books. He urges writers to take up their
own cause and promote themselves because there is total
glut in the marketplace.
It is both the best of times and worst of times for the writing
tribe. Read this article with your eyes wide-open.
"...writers should embrace the hard work that is now required
to promote their books." So saith Mr. Temple. And I think
he's onto something.
The best place to get to as a writer? Afraid of nothing but curious
of everything. The magic begins at that moment.
R E S O U R C E S
Writing a Bulletproof Article Query by Laura Backes
21 Rules for Writing Stellar Query Letters by Paul Lima
Carolyn Dekat has an extensive article on and ins and outs of
preparing non-fiction article writing. Recommended.
Sample query for a book.
Advice in preparing a query to agents.
Sample and good advice about the query letter.
Check out the Sunoasis Research page. It's been upgraded
and designed for writers and journalists.
Read Nick Usborne's review of Bob Bly's course, "Selling
Yourself as a Copywriter - How to Earn $100,000 a Year".
For Freelancers Only:
A sportswriter makes a case for freelance writing. He includes
all the usual stuff: multiply the distribution channel for
each article, one assignment should result in more than one
story, keep on top of relations with editors, etc etc.
This is a very odd site by a writer who posts his letters to
editors and agents but in the process has developed a decent
The Wows and Woes of a Freelancer
Do you want to be a freelance proofreader?
A code of fair practice for freelancers.
C r a f t :
Online Etymology Dictionary
The Craft of Writing
The reasons for rejections
O r g a n i z a t i o n s :
American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors
The Associated Press
International Newspaper Marketing Association
National Press Photographers Association
The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press
National Association of Women Writers
Society of American Business Editors and Writers
P u b l i s h i n g :
Read about the 2005 National Magazine Award finalists.
The story of a young publisher in San Diego.
Advice on Self-publishing.
M A R K E T S A N D L E A D S
SCIENCE MAGAZINES: Make sure you locate the
editor of a magazine, contact her and request a sample copy
and writer guidelines. If you think you have a story for
her, send an excellent query. Search back issues and try to
understand the type of articles the editor looks for.
We provide the guidelines or mail addresses and phone
number of the publications when available.
Pays $700-$1500 for feature article
Pays $1500 per feature article
Pays $1 per word
Pays $500-$1500 per article
Pays $200-$500 for articles
Don't hesitate to tell us what you are looking for.
Here is an index of writer guidelines.
Location: West Chester, PA
QVC, Inc., a $5.5 billion company, is an e-commerce
leader and we are in search of an action/results oriented,
hands-on, self-motivated organized and seasoned Editor
for QVC s Information Services Division.
For Full Ad click here.
Assistant editor wanted for financial letter.
Location: New York, NY
Growing publishing company in need of assistant editor for
its publication New America Investor.
For full ad click here.
Location: New York City
ACD-Copy, RX Pharmaceutical, Interactive
Avenue e has an opening for an Associate Creative Director (Copywriter).
This person will have responsibilities overseeing the creative product on
major pharmaceutical interactive accounts. The ACD must have strong
oral/written communication, presentation skills, strong conceptualization skills,
experience managing multiple projects, interfacing with clients and in
developing creative solutions.
For full ad click here.
Location: Washington D.C.
Advancement Project, a national racial justice organization, seeks a senior level
writer/editor to join our communications team in the Washington, D.C. office. We
are seeking an experienced writer/editor to produce a broad spectrum of written
For full ad click here.
Job Links for new leads!
If you have any suggestions about markets you want
guidelines for, just drop a line
A T C/ O A S I S
Fare-Dodging in Angola by Brendan Sainsbury
Picture the scene.
Benguela, Angola on a stiflingly hot Saturday morning in October.
It's 10 o'clock and Josera and I are tramping through the dusty,
sun-bleached streets with a detectable sense of purpose.
Second Encounter By Xujun Eberlein
The shadow of the building has shifted from west to east.
White Space By Gary Lehmann
Most pages of poetry consist of 99% white space and only 1% print,
and yet, critics for centuries have focused 100% of their
attention on the smallest aspect of poetry on a page.
It’s time to discuss white space.
Hey, we even have a new literary newsletter and you can get it free
if you click here!
>>>>>>>N e w f o r m s o f p u b l i s h i n g<<<<<<
The Internet surpassed radio as a source for political news
last year during the presidential election campaign, says a
new survey. Television remained the dominant medium for most
Americans with broadband chose the Internet over newspapers
during the last presidential election as their primary news
source, says a survey by the Pew Internet & American Life
Paul Maidment, executive editor of Forbes magazine: "People
are turning away from print and to the Web, because essentially
too much in those newspapers doesn't bear on their life at all."
Has the internet fulfilled its promise as a news source?
The Associated Press will start transmitting "more interesting"
lead paragraphs for its news stories, to help newspapers better
compete with Internet news sites, bloggers and others.
The London Times has its own take on blogging and the new world
of digital publishing.
A judge has ruled that three blogs who published leaked information
from Apple must reveal their sources. A lawsuit could quickly
shut down most blogs, which are often shoestring operations.
Blogs have "a huge influence" on the mainstream media,
according to Mark Frauenfelder, co-editor of the blog
Boingboing.net. He concedes no definitive data to back
The Internet now has even greater reach than magazines, says
a study from the American Press Institute. Web sites reach
51% of people, while magazines have a 42% reach.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> t h e f r e e p r e s s <<<<<<<<<<<<<
We wrote about legal quandaries last month. Here's a follow-
up on a story that should be a concern to writers, certainly
the media. The Supreme Court let stand, "without comment" on
a defamation suit brought by two politicians.
A call for more civil discourse in the media.
The Washington Post and 50 media giants are in a legal battle
against an ex-UN official who claims he was wronged by the Post's
Web site. The case could test libel and defamation laws.
Journalism is reverting to partisan coverage, writes Kurt
Andersen. Bloggers are "a second-tier journalistic species,"
but "will be absorbed and then transmuted by larger media
Young people are never far away from "instant visual stimulation"
-- television, video games, DVDs. Our "distracted teens" no
longer have the "spare time to reflect, to think long-range
C O M M U N I T Y
Applications are being accepted for the 2005 Kurt Schork Awards in
International Journalism. Two prizes worth US$5,000 each will
be awarded to a freelance journalist covering foreign news and
a reporter in a developing nation or country in transition.
See the Tips Page for more information.
APRIL 21-24, 2005 ~ Travel Classics will conduct its first
international writers’ conference, at the Park Hotel Kenmare in
County Kerry, Ireland, April 21-24, featuring keynote speaker
Mark Orwoll, executive editor/International, American Express
Publishing and senior consulting editor, Travel + Leisure.
Registration is now open for this conference, which will be
limited to 35 writers on a space available basis. Details.
APRIL 16-17, 2005 ~ BETTER BYLINES, BIGGER BUCKS: SECRETS TO
SUCCESSFUL FREELANCE WRITING attracts hundreds of freelance
writers every year. Writers will hear inside information from
editors, agents and publishers, find inspiration, and gain
income-boosting ideas. Details.
APRIL 23-24, 2005 ~ The 10th annual Los Angeles Times Festival of
Books celebrates the written word through panel discussions,
poetry readings, cooking demonstrations, book signing and music.
The Festival affords book lovers the chance to meet best-selling
authors, publishers and other literary figures. Details.
APRIL 29-30, 2005 THE NEW YORK ROUNDTABLE WRITERS CONFERENCE,
Small Press Center (West 44th Street / NYC), All day.
Top editors, savvy agents, publicists, bestselling authors, and
publishers from top houses offer advice and tips on how to get
published in the competitive market of 2005. Details.
APRIL 30, 2005 ~ QUEENS BOOK FAIR will be held at the Jamaica
Farmers Market Harvest Room located at 90-40 160th Street,
Jamaica, New York. Details.
Shaw Guide for Writing Conferences in March.
A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S
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Thanks to Lynda Lester from the Digital Information Group
of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder,
Colorado for her generous contribution to
Sunoasis! Thanks Lynda!
F Y I
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Sunoasis--You're amazing! A mere five hours after I sent in
the text for my classified ad I got a call for a writing
project, and within two days, the project was mine. Thanks
so much for your invaluable services!
Debbie Lerman, freelance writer
E T C/ E T C/ E T C
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