Any professional writers out there?

I’m in need of a little help. I have recently begun building a freelance writing business. Several months ago, I was hired to be a regular contributing writer for a start-up Christian Lifestyle magazine which is available in 30 states in Walmart, Borders and other national outlets. I’m not making money doing it, but I figured it’s a real magazine with good production values, run by people who, business wise, know what they’re doing and that it would serve as a good launching point to begin marketing myself to other publications.

At any rate, I got a copy of the magazine with my first column in it. And those of you who have some experience probably know what I discovered. It was edited badly. I know everything you write gets edited, sometimes in ways you don’t like, but this was really, really bad. Grammatical errors. Run-on sentences. Repeating ideas. Just bad. There were parts where they left my writing alone, but the parts they messed with were awful. I’m hoping that my next contribution, a feature article for this same magazine isn’t butchered like this. But obviously, there’s a problem in their editorial department. (There were also a couple of errors which anyone could see originated with them like a capitalized word in the middle of the sentence and inappropriate bracket placement. I do know that they have been struggling to keep up their production schedule as they are still fairly early in their start-up phase.)

So, my question is if there’s any way for me to still use this work as an example of published work to demonstrate experience without looking like I don’t understand rules of subject-verb agreement? Can I send a copy of the title with my by-line and a copy of my original submission instead of the whole thing from the magazine? I don’t want to come across as a peevish writer who gets upset over editorial decisions.

I’m sure I’m not the first person to experience this, so any advise you can offer would be greatly appreciated!

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3 thoughts on “Any professional writers out there?

  1. I am not a professional writer. Still, I had a thought about what you posted. In order to preserve the integrity of your work you may want to try to re-negotiate with the magazine so that you have final say on whether or not something you write is published. For example: they may edit what you write but you get a final proof so if you do not agree with the edits you remove your permission for them to publish your piece. Just a thought. Good luck.

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  2. My dear Rebecca,

    No.

    By sending example of your published work you contemplate you succeed only in the equivalent of offering to a modeling agency portfolio pictures of yourself dressed like Bozo the Clown with teeth blacked out. Perhaps you consider that gamble pragmatically worthwhile, perhaps not.

    However, any adulteration of your published work, presented as your published work, would be on its face unethical and easily discovered to be such. Such a move would seem counterproductive to cultivating the Christian publication market.

    You wish to believe, Yes! I am published!; to help yourself perpetuate this wonderful feeling by trying to find a way to accommodate to yourself this publication’s unfortunate treatment of you while also trying to salvage it to your benefit. But you cannot, nor is it your duty to, carry their failings.

    Your better bet is to consider this as simply a learning experience up the lane to the main highway of publication and, at least from the standpoint of solid publication useful to you as you require, not yet a solidly good sale to not yet a solidly good prospect.

    It is so very difficult to plow under the client that rewards one immediately and psychologically but that does not meet the qualifications one truly requires in order to succeed, but it is a discipline you must acquire.

    Steel yourself to finding the necessarily better outfits to become, Yes! I am published!, in, and then use their proper and professional editorial treatment of you as you require.

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  3. Hi, Rebecca! It took me awhile to mosey over here after you issued an invitation to all on crunchycon. Anyway, I have turned up, and since I’m a professional writer, I thought I would offer a comment. I don’t usually write non-fiction these days, so I’m not much of a pro in that field. However, there is a saying for all professional writers: “Money flows TO the writer.” What that means is that you don’t ever pay them to publish you. It’s supposed to be the other way around. And you also don’t ever–except under very special circumstances–work for free. They must pay you something for your contribution, be it ever so little, or they are simply exploiting you.

    I understand your hope that this is a way to get your name out there and perhaps get into a wider market. But I think you’ve already seen some of the pitfalls. As far as I know from my experience, a real professional publication will always send the writer proof sheets to look at before publication. You then have an opportunity to correct any errors. The editor should speak to you before any significant changes in your article, to get your okay, and ideally would let you read them ahead of time–though today’s rushed schedules sometimes make that impossible. What they’ve done to you, however, sounds very unprofessional. As does the idea that you should be grateful for being used without pay and without respect for your work! That’s just wrong!

    What I’m most concerned about is the state of your rights at present. Did you get a contract from these people specifying which rights you were turning over to them? You need to protect your right to reprint and reuse this work–especially since you weren’t paid for the first publication. This is the number one, most important thing to be sure about.

    Seriously, to build a career you must get published in venues where you will be PAID. Anything is better than giving your work away. Check out some real, professional Christian magazines or homeschooling magazines that pay for their content. Try book reviews in your areas of expertise, or talk to a local newspaper about feature articles. I wish I could be more helpful, but as I said, this isn’t really my field. A friend of mine who specializes in non-fiction belongs to ASJA, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and she swears by the organization. I notice they have a book out, “The ASJA (American Society of Journalists and Freelancers) Guide to Freelance Writing,” which you might want to google. My friend has made a living by primarily writing travel pieces (maybe not so good for you right now, but there’s always the possibility of writing about places to go and things to do with kids) and writing for trade publications for different industries.

    Best of luck with your work!

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