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Writing for mags like The New Yorker, GQ, Esquire, etc.

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by WaylonJennings, Oct 22, 2008.

  1. rmanfredi

    rmanfredi Active Member

    OK, I need some advice...

    I've offered a chance to write a 3,000 word article for a national sprint car racing magazine (there are three main pubs in the space, and this No. 3 out of them). It's the exact field I want to get more involved in and my first feature-length magazine article after years of newspaper/online writing.

    However, the editor is telling me that he can only pay me $125-150 for the article after he "lobbies the publisher" for extra pay. Which means that I'm getting - at most - five cents per word.

    So do I come back with a counter offer? Ten cents per word still is less than I would expect, but it at least is tolerable. If they can't go higher, do I walk away?

    Any help is appreciated.
     
  2. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    Only you can answer that. Will these 3,000 words come fairly easy for you, or is this going require some hard labor? If it's the latter, you'll quickly find that $150 is peanuts. You certainly can come back with a counteroffer, but be prepared for them to walk away. A lot of these publications can't just make more money appear. But be strong about it; even though it's a field you want to get into, it has to be worth your while.

    All that said...yeah, five cents a word is pretty awful.
     
  3. Cappaman

    Cappaman New Member

    I've been following this website for a couple weeks now, but I didn't stumble onto this thread until yesterday. This thread has some of the best advice I've received as young writer. Instead of watching the Jets game last night I read through every page, trying to soak up every piece of information. And it was well worth it -- not just because the game was a blowout. The post has inspired me to work harder and it also inspired me to finally register as a member of the site.

    Now, I'm a senior at division one school in Massachusetts, where I played soccer for the past four years. However, our season ended a few months ago and I'm about to embark on my first soccer-less semester. More importantly, now that soccer is done, it's time for me to focus on moving out into the "real world." I've written for some fairly well-known, albeit now-defunct, soccer websites and this past summer I had an internship writing for the leading insurance news trade publication in the country. I'm planning on going to grad school to get my MFA, but I'm going to take a year or two of before starting up again.

    I feel like I have some pretty good clips and solid resume so far, but I'm lacking any real direction. I need some sort of plan and I'm looking for help with that. Ideally I would love to one day write for a big-time magazine and write a few books. However, I know I should probably get a job working at a local newspaper or something like that and try to work my way up.

    So if anyone could give me any advice on where to start, where to try to get started to at least make a little bit of money, that would be great. Also, I know I should be writing every day, but since I'm not working for anyone I don't really know what I should be writing about. If anyone could also give me some advice on what I should be writing about in my free time, I'd really appreciate it.

    If this sounded too vague, convoluted, naive, whatever, let me know and I'll try to clear it up. Thanks in advance for any advice and I look forward to being a member of this community
     
  4. In Exile

    In Exile Member

    Cappaman, one of the greatest challenges a young writer will ever face is continuing to write without the forced deadline of a school assignment or a job. It is a test that will determine whether you are meant for this or something else. Right now, writing for money is probably the last thing you should be thinking about. You should be thinking about stories and embarking on reading that school has not supplied. Look at the next few months as an assignment in itself - report, for yourself, on the paths over writers have taken. Trace those paths through reading. Read what the writer you like have read. When you find yourself interested in any kind of topic, write it, when you think of an idea, write it, when you think of a phrase, write it, hear some dialogue, write it. Carry a notebook with you at all times. Get into the habit - write anything, notes, sketches, descriptions, etc. You need to write until you don't think about writing when you are writing. Study how stories are framed. Try everything, all genres. Read everything. It all adds up, and you will never be more prepared to sink in neck deep in words than right now. If you put that off you will find it very difficult to return.

    It was six years after college before I published a word. The only reason I did or could was that in the interim I kept reading and writing, steeped myself in it, and kept that - not just "a job" - the priority. It wasn't practical, but nothing about this is.
     
  5. BrianMcDowell

    BrianMcDowell Member

    This is, in fact, the greatest Sports Journalists thread ever.
    Thanks to the inspiration that this has provided me, I've been steadily sending stuff off and pitching a couple of weeks ago, and have already gotten some nibbles from some regional and some in-flight mags.
    Thanks so much for your help, fellow writers....

    Brian McDowell
    Proudly soon-to-be-published
     
  6. That's great news, Brian. Congrats!
     
  7. bigpern23

    bigpern23 Well-Known Member

    I only just came across this thread and haven't read completely through it yet, so forgive me if this has been asked already ....

    I started a thread on this subject, but this one seems to be a good place to look for an answer.

    I recently agreed to do some freelance editing for a magazine writer. He's doing a series for a national medical journal and wants me to clean it up and make sure it's readable for a layman as well as a medical professional.

    Unfortunately, I haven't the faintest idea of how much I should earn for the assignment. I'm looking at editing four 2,000-word articles for the guy and getting paid by the article. When we talked about payment, he said I should take a look at the manuscript (so I know how much work will be involved) and "whatever you think is fair is fine by me," he said.

    I don't have any idea how much is fair. Anybody? Bueller?
     
  8. NickMordo

    NickMordo Active Member

    This post currently summarizes my entire outlook on life. Damn near brought a tear to my eye because of its truth, and also because I yearn to be great and hope I have what it takes.
     
  9. noahl

    noahl New Member

    It's interesting hearing newspaper guys bemoan the bias in magazines against daily people. As a long-time magazine writer who broke news all the time, I could also tell you about the bias at newspapers against magazine writers, who they assume pee their pants on tight deadlines. Not true in most cases, and I know a lot of daily guys who routinely pee their pants, copy-wise.

    To answer your question, guys like Ryan Lizza are usually some combination of blindingly bright and well-connected. For the rest of us, you have to take the long route of proving your talent. Magazines are more meritocratic than newspapers: you CAN prove to an editor at GQ that you belong. And it's never too late. But here's what you have to do: pitch amazing story ideas AND back them up with lock-down proof that you will deliver on your promise of quality. If you've only done gamers and notes and the occasional rushed feature, you don't have the clips yet, because the clips need to show that you can do the requisite (exhaustive) reporting, that you can handle your information deftly and not misconstrue it and get someone sued or fired, and that you can pull off the sophistication of voice and idea that these magazines like to think they're known for.

    If you don't have the clips now, you won't get them from GQ. Start lower, at local or regional magazines, or pitch deeper pieces to websites that publish a lot of stuff. A good editor at GQ or Esquire will be able to see if you have the intellect after he's read one story; but you need a sustained body of work to show that you can do it again and again, starting with the freelance assignment he gives you. It's a long process unless you're super-talented and lucky; but it can happen to anyone who's got the talent and the perseverance. I mean, as long as there are magazines, there will be jobs, and as long as not all jobs go to well-connected Harvard friends of the publisher, there might be a spot for you. Fortunately, the magazine business doesn't suffer hacks the way newspapers do.
     
  10. SixToe

    SixToe Active Member

    Making my old laptop's plastic keyboard rattle and hum on my latest assignment currently is akin to jogging in quicksand.

    I'm not getting anywhere and it's only a 1,500-word piece. Some words are on the page yet the going is slow. I just can't wrap my head around what I believe the end result should be. It's not a full-blown writer's block with absolutely nothing coming, but more of a sputtering effort with parts dancing around like elves being chased in the woods by rabid wolves.

    I have tried letting it all flow at once and tried breaking it into blocks. Both have helped, in degrees.

    How do you spark your motivation or get things rolling? Whiskey and music? Locking the attic door and sweating it out? Sentence and paragraph at a time while re-reading interview notes?

    I'd love to hear some stories and suggestions.
     
  11. biggy0125

    biggy0125 Member

    God bless this thread. Can't explain to you all how much this has helped me as I begin transitioning into more magazine work. Wish I would have been around when JMac and Jones were posting regularly, because that's some of the most practical advice I've ever received. Certainly more useful then the vast majority of the generic rhetoric and bullshit you hear from most.

    I've got a long way to go -- I'm still waiting for my voice to crack -- but I feel like the needle is finally pointing in the right direction after reading this thread in its entirety. This should be required reading for people trying to make a go of this business, and not just because of JMac and Jones, but for everybody's input.
     
  12. swingline

    swingline Well-Known Member

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