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    Getting Examples and Scoring Samples

    As a working freelancer, youíll quickly find that a lot of your initial effort and work will go into finding and obtaining a freelance job. From message boards to frantic e-mails back and forth between you and a potential editor, it can be a lot of work finding work!

    But what happens when, by the time you actually sit down to start the job, youíre already exhausted from getting it? Donít worry, now you get to do what you love: write! And whether itís writing ad copy for Viagra or erotic stories for a Valentineís Day Web site, you can make it as entertaining as possible because, by now, youíre a pro.

    Hereís how to stay one:

    SUPER SAMPLES

    When a new job starts, there are always expectations between an editor and a freelancer. You assume that the editor knows what heís doing, the editor assumes that you know what youíre doing. After all, you queried, rallied, applied for, and got the job, you must be good, right? Well, the truth is, good isnít always good enough.

    Every project has a certain tone or outcome that the client, publisher, or editor is looking for. Middle grade historical non-fiction is as different from a Goosebumps book as night and day. Certain clients detest certain words, and embrace others. But how are you supposed to know which is which?

    Often, an editor has been working on a project for months, possibly years, by the time the two of you get together. How are you supposed to catch up the day you sign on the dotted line? By osmosis?

    Therefore, if an editor is not forthcoming with samples from the project youíve been hired for, ask for them yourself. And ask until you get them, or something resembling them. Often, an editor has no samples. A project is in development and hasnít been approved yet, the project is in test or start-up mode, or the product hasnít come back from the printer yet. Still, even if the samples you receive are text-only, which is all I was able to send my poor freelancers, theyíre better than nothing.


    EXEMPLARY EXAMPLES

    Samples are fine, but often they donít answer all of your questions. For instance, editors often work on new projects with only old samples from old projects to send you. Perhaps, an editor has just wrapped up work on a similar project that has to do with cows, when youíre writing about zebras. In this case, the editor will probably send you a piece on cows, with a cute little sticky note saying something extra-helpful like, "Replace cows with zebras, natch!"

    Hey, it may not be perfect, but at least you asked. Always ask! Editors are busy people, as are freelance writers. Asking questions just short circuits a lot of assumptions that would otherwise go unsaid. If you donít know the word count, ask. If you donít know what an ellipse is, ask. If you donít know what third person possessive is, ask.

    Sometimes editors sound brusque, clipped or short. Thatís often because while theyíre talking to or e-mailing you, they often have six other people on hold. They want you to do the best job you can do, trust me. Itís less work for them and a better project all around. Often, asking questions is the only way to achieve perfection.


    CRAFTY COMPARISONS

    When a project is in development stage, or even undergoing a face lift, as is the case with many Web sites or new publishing ventures such as anthologies or Ďzines, editors are often just as in the dark as their freelancers are about what theyíre looking for.

    For instance, often a publisher will agree to a book thatís still in production, or to a series based on a great pitch by a book packager or team of writers. Naturally, all they have to go on is a great idea and a few killer pamphlets from Kinkoís! As time marches on and the work begins to actually appear on an editorís desk, however, it sometimes looks very different from what was proposed.

    Occasionally, itís even better. So letís say an editor hired you in the beginning stages of the project, when the material was going left, but now wants you to change to go right? In this case, neither samples or examples are going to help you. You need a comparison to go on, since nothing actually exists yet!

    When I find myself in this situation, I love to pretend Iím some big Hollywood exec pitching a producer on a new film: "Itís Freaks & Geeks meets The Exorcist," or "Itís Charlieís Angels meets Home Alone!" If youíre editor doesnít have aspirations of being the Weinstein brothers, however, do the comparing yourself by asking questions about other books, articles, or styles you imagine she might respond to.

    Bottom line? If there are no samples or examples to peruse, itís up to YOU to find a comparison that makes the editorís eyes twinkle. Otherwise, youíll find yourself in Rewrite Land at the end of the project! Remember, there ARE no dumb questions. Especially after youíve signed a contract!

    Copyright © Rusty Fischer

    Rusty Fischer is the author of Freedome to Freelance, available at http://www.writers-exchange.com/epublishing/rusty.htm.

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ



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