What I Learned Last Night…

Australians are one of the largest consumers of magazines in the world.

Last night I had the great good fortune of sitting before a panel of freelance writers who were visiting the QWC. Better still, they let me ask questions!

Those on the panel were, Fiona Crawford, Chris Herden and Amanda Horswill, and thanks to the generous way they responded to questions, I have learned a lot.  Me being me, I now feel the need the need to impart knowledge, so here it is:

  • You are a solution – The editor of a very popular magazine last night said, “Pitch to me.  PLEASE pitch to me.  You are not an annoyance to us.  You are a solution to our problem.  You are filling a gap that would otherwise be blank space.  PLEASE pitch.”  Being a freelance writer for a magazine then, is vastly different from being a writer of books, for a publisher.  Writing for a publisher, you learn to ‘submit’.  You do not call, you do not question their decision and you never presume you’re important.  The process of having a book published, often feels a lot like subjugation (in my humble opinion, of course).  Apparently, when freelancing, your words are valuable.
  • How valuable? – The average price per word last night, was thirty cents.  That’s thirty cents per published word, not thirty cents per submitted word.  Keep count.  Of course this changes, many magazines pay per article.  Some pay more, others less, but find out and invoice accordingly.
  • Get an ABN – An ABN means you’re a business.  It enables the people who buy your work, to treat you like any other subcontractor.  That’s good for them.  An ABN also means that any expenses you incur in relation to writing articles, become business expenses and thereby, tax deductible.  That’s good for you.
  • Deadlines are trumps – When freelancing, you’re not creating a work of art, you’re producing a piece of work.  That work will be shaped and edited to fit the style and needs of the magazine for which you will write.  No matter how pretty you may be, there is no such thing as fashionably late.
  • Build a bridge – While your words may be valuable, once you’ve sold them, they’re no longer yours.  They will be cut, smushed, mashed and changed until they’re precisely what the magazine needs.  Don’t be prissy, count your words, multiply them by the number of cents you got paid for each one…and be happy.
  • Don’t give the game away – It’s a cold, hard world sometimes and not everyone plays fair.  For that reason, when you pitch, don’t send the whole article.  Send a headline, an outline and a sample paragraph.  Unlike so many book  publishers, editors will buy based upon a sample.


That’s it folks.  These may seem obvious points but they were a revelation to me.  The idea that I am not ‘just a writer’, but a solution, made me want to run home and write.  That my words need not be perfect but rather perfectly timed?  What an emancipating concept.  I really liked this idea of being a freelancer, even before I attended the presentation.  Now I’ve learned some things, I like it even more, and I hope you do too.


~ by bloowillbooks on November 11, 2011.

8 Responses to “What I Learned Last Night…”

  1. I find the panels’ response of “pitch me” interesting. I have looked into magazine submissions for a short romance story. At least for the magazines I looked into, the submission information was lacking and not encouraging. Knowing that some magazine editors are looking for material, I will research further! Thank you, great post!

    • You’re welcome! Yes, I too, had become a bit disheartened by the lack of info about pitching (I like that word so much better!) to mags. I think they probably don’t put a lot of information out because journalists are bolshy. They’re used to putting their foot in the door and demanding to be seen. We, on the other hand, are largely unseen. The publishing system has taught us that it’s bad to be bolshy and therefore we’re shy of pitching. I’m working up my nerve though, and we should keep each other informed of mutual progress 🙂

  2. Writers who know their craft will always be a solution in the world of publishing, journalism, theatre, film and television. My only advice to you would be NEVER accept 30 cents per word for anyhing. That is just ludicrous. Period. Nice to meet you on Twitter, Rebecca.

    • Nice to meet you too Sidney. Sorry if the piddling monetary value was upsetting, but if you think about it, a ten thousand dollar advance on a sixty thousand word book, is about sixteen cents a word. In the money stakes, I think the freelancers know what they’re about. Like I said, sometimes it’s a cold, hard world. Doesn’t mean you can’t turn it into a winter wonderland 🙂

  3. Wow, these answers were really insightful. I’m not a freelance writer (I’m currently copyediting, though), but I’m thinking about doing so in the future, so this post was really helpful.


  4. Have to say I was shocked by the $ (sorry, c / word total). Am sure I went to something years ago which suggested it was more than that. Although… perhaps that was my imagination! Not that 30c a word is to be scoffed at; or being published in any way!

    I was surprised how open Amanda, in particular, was to submissions. I like the idea of freelancing – as opposed to the writing of fiction / non fiction, short stories etc… but off the top of my head I couldn’t even think of anything I’d submit. Maybe I’m not a freelancer after all. Maybe I’m just an amateur blogger….

    And perhaps that’s okay.


    • Meh…like I said, a novel turns out to be worth around 16cents a word if you don’t count royalties (which you shouldn’t before they arrive). As to the ideas, I’ve got TONNES of them (you know…just in case you ever want to borrow any for a blog or anything). But you’re right, the world needs all different types. If we were all the same, that’d be incredibly boring.

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