Monday, January 24, 2011

Stringers - writing tip

Question from my e-mail: I haven't sold much this year and don't have much income to report for my taxes. Is there some way I can help myself with more sales, even if they are small ones. Mostly, last this year, I sold to a regional magazine and the pay is putrid, but they are very nice to me.

Answer: Because of the economy, small magazines and local newspapers are using more "outside" pieces and cutting down on staff reporters who need benefits like health insurance. So regionals is a good way to go and don't forget newspapers, too.

They are always looking for "stringers" to cover time-consuming assignments. These often pay little in terms of $ per hour, but can be very rewarding in terms of experience and fun. Say the local historical society is taking a day-long cruise on a replica 17th century sailing vessel. They want a reporter to come, but the editor knows it will take all day (and cost many hours of salary), and he'll only get one story for his bucks. A stringer can go and spend six or eight hours for a flat fee, usually a low flat fee, while the staffer runs here and there covering three or four other things.

If the stringer can take or "come by" some photos of the vessel as well, the editor will have a nice looking color feature at a reasonable price, the historical society will be proud and gratified, and the stringer will work long and hard for little, but will have "income" to report.

The stringer will also get to spend the day on a 17th century sailing vessel, will meet contacts and may find ideas for other articles. One of our authors got $25 for her feature on the Dove, met a real photographer who had some lovely slides of skipjacks as well as the Dove under construction, and under sail. That gave her a chance to earn many times her original fee for a feature on the vessel in a national boating magazine.

All using the same source material. You, too, can become a "double-dipper" by recycling some of the features you've already researched. If you do something often enough, you will become the local expert and any time they need a piece on a subject in your repertoire, your name will come up, too.

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