Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The "Real Me"

Of all the things to add into a letter of introduction, the unedited "real me" version of an article is one of those things that I've flip flopped about.

The idea came to me from my writing hero, Julie, who has carved herself a successful writing career. Like me, she mostly writes for trades, and she suggested adding that unedited, but published, article in order to give the editor a glimpse of what to expect when you send off your article. Providing published samples is all well and good, especially when the potential editor can see you are a frequent writer for a pub. But let's be honest -- that published piece has been edited and isn't 100% your voice. I got a couple of assignments in large part because I added that unedited piece.

Then I took a marketing class because I feel marketing myself is one of my greatest weaknesses. For one of the first lessons, I was asked to send along a copy of my LOI template to be workshopped. The first thing I was told: lose the unedited article. It wasted an editor's time. They want to see credentials, publication lists, articles of various lenghts and types. So, I cut the article from my LOI and focused more on my credentials. I continued to get assignments, probably because I was highlighting those credentials.

So I go off to the conference, and sat at a roundtable discussion of freelance issues. It included editors as well as writers, and we got to ask -- what do you want to see in the LOI we send you? And every editor at the table said, "An unedited version of your writing." Why? Because they'd like to see how clean the copy is.

No brainer here -- the unedited version is back in. And here's an interesting statistic. I expected to get some sort of response from the editors I met in Kansas City, and I did -- all of it encouraging, if not with an assignment on the spot. But the couple of marketing letters I've sent since the conference? The one that not only really brags up my credentials, but also highlights "the real me"? 100% positive response. One editor even noted how much she appreciated that unedited article. Do I think that's what swung her in favor of wanting to work with me? Absolutely.

Lesson learned: never be afraid to show the editor the "real you."


WriterLin said...

I've been writing (and selling) for a long time, and it never occured to me that editors would actually appreciate reading real-me articles! Great insight!

In fact, I've always been more inclined to submit articles that I shaped to suit a particular editor's style. (Or so I assumed from reading aarticles he or she had published.)

And presenting the real-me sure does mirror my mind set.

Patti said...

i have been struggling with this for awhile and you hit on a nerve.