Freelance Media Group

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Tips and hints

Tips for prospective writers for The Oldie from commissioning editor Jeremy Lewis

• Do study the magazine first so that you see the sort of subject and length – freelance possibilities include Modern life/Olden life/Still with us/I once met…/Old-uns diary/Pearls of Wisdom. Sometimes unusual travel tips or horror stories/things not to do.

• Don’t make multiple submissions and be prepared to wait for a reply – the staff is small.

• You only get one go so only send something you are sure is right for the magazine.

• Don’t be over-jocular or facetious in your covering letter. Keep things brief – just one story or episode in a feature and don’t make things too abstract. Describe what a person was actually like when you met them.

Tips on travel writing from Pat Richardson – How to get a commission

• Think where you have been or want to visit.

• Identify the media outlet you want to use, the type of reader, the editor you need to approach (for instance, on the Telegraph there are 20 different people commissioning specific areas or subjects and you need to find the right one).

• Commissioning editors are looking for a specific idea/hook/angle.
* The idea needs a title – a working title will do but a well crafted one will work wonders.
* The hook tells the editor why your idea is strong and why she should take it seriously.
* The angle tells her the way you are going to handle the information (eg the best xxx, comparisons of xxx and xxx/top 10 xxx).

• Put a maximum of three-four feature ideas in your proposal. If it is the first time you have approached a particular editor you could put in a few lines to show how you write. The example should make some points important in your feature.

• In your letter say where you have been published.

• What works is a combination of originality and a way with words. Write something readers don’t know about a destination they do know. Acquire originality by challenging yourself to find the angles they won’t have thought of (disappointing moments/must sees).

• If you don’t hear back wait a maximum of two-three weeks and then send the whole thing again “I’m not sure you got my earlier email, copy below for your attention”.

Where to pitch: Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph – supplements as well as the main paper. The Independent, Guardian, Observer, Times, Mail and Mail on Sunday mostly run travel features at weekends.

Publishing: Jessica Leake, Commissioning editor for Woman’s fiction at Simon & Schuster, said that e-books make up 30% of the fiction market and that the print market is declining by 5.3% year on year, but writers should not be disheartened as there have been some stunning successes in the transfer from e-book to print. She recommended the Winchester Writers’ Conference as a good place for authors to meet publishers and agents.

Beverley Birch, Commissioning Editor for Children’s Books at Hachette Livre (Hodder) said there is great interest in supporting new writers in this market, across genres from Science Fiction and Fantasy to Historical and gentle romance and across age groups. Books for nine-11 year-olds should be from 20,000 to 40,000 words, and for 12+ anything from 50 to 90,000 words. Always try to write the story to its natural length, with no padding.

Magazines: Lucy Smith, Editor of Woman’s Own Monthly Lifestyle series commissions from freelances for special issues featuring diet, recipes, lifestyle, health and beauty. She recommends studying the magazines closely before submitting ideas.