Category Archives: Freelancing

Tips for freelancers — from ideas to rewrites and beyond

Meryl Davids Landau

Meryl Davids Landau

Freelance writers, even those with years of experience, can run into challenges working with the editors who commission their pieces. At the “How to be your own copy editor (and advocate),” panel at Health Journalism 2022 in Austin, editors and successful freelancers  shared tips in a session that evolved into a broader conversation between the panel and the audience.

Freelance writer Meryl Davids Landau began the session by offering a few tips based on her own experiences as both a novelist and a writer of nonfiction health and science articles.  She said writing fiction made her non-fiction writing better, and suggested  that writers try to make the anecdotes in their stories read more like fiction. “Put yourself in the readers’ shoes and ask if they are enjoying reading the article,” she said.

Landau also suggested that writers get ideas by attending scientific conferences, or simply by thinking of story that they are best situated to write, perhaps due to personal connections or contacts.

The three editors on the panel — Rob Waters of MindSite News, Carmel Wroth of National Public Radio (NPR) Shots Blog and Matthew B.H. Ong of The Cancer Letter — all emphasized how important it is for writers to stay in contact with their editors. “The most important thing about the relationship between an editor and a writer is that it is a relationship. As an editor, I want to connect with my writers,” Waters said.  It never hurts to overcommunicate, Wroth added, provided the writer keeps in mind that editors are themselves suffering from information overload. It’s particularly  important for writers to reach out when a story veers away from the original concept — and  Waters and Wroth both said that  a writer communicating that should also propose a solution.

A writer who has far too much information to put into a single article can always pitch a series to their editor. “They will probably say no,” Waters said, but at that point, the writer is free to pitch the other article to another publication (unless the contract with the original publication says otherwise).

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How to ghostwrite or co-author a book with experts

Wendy Lyons Sunshine is an award-winning writer, editor and collaborator based in Sarasota, Florida, whose byline is in scores of publications including Scientific American and Psychology Today.

Sunshine’s first book, “The Connected Child: Bring Hope and Healing to Your Adoptive Family” (McGraw-Hill), is an award-winner that she co-wrote with two child development experts that has since been translated into multiple languages.

Her most recent book, “Raising the Challenging Child: How to Minimize Meltdowns, Reduce Conflict, and Increase Cooperation (Revell),” is a five-star rated collaboration with leaders of a social services agency.

In this new “How I did It,” Sunshine shares her journey into book authorship and offers tips to journalists interested in collaborating with an expert on a book project. (The following Q&A has been edited for clarity and brevity.)

How did you come up with the idea for your first book, “The Connected Child: Bring Hope and Healing to Your Adoptive Family?”

I began freelancing for some local publications, and that’s how I met the first set of authors, Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross. I was assigned to cover the amazing work they were doing in the community, helping turn around really difficult cases with some adopted children who are struggling. By the end of the process, they felt I really understood them, and so they asked me if I would help them write a book to capture their message to share with more people than they could reach directly.

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Preparing for PitchFest and tips for making the most of Health Journalism 2022

AHCJ Health Journalism 2022 is around the corner, with many opportunities aimed specifically at freelance journalists. Register by March 28 to take advantage of the early bird rate.

Editors meet with independent journalists at PitchFest at Health Journalism 2016. (Photo by Pia Christensen)

One of the most exciting opportunities is PitchFest, which is scheduled for the afternoon of Friday, April 29. Sixteen editors from top publications are coming to the conference to hear your story ideas. They include editors from AARP, WebMD, National Geographic, Everyday Health, Kaiser Health News and NPR. More details about each editor can be found on the Friday event schedule page on the AHCJ website.

You must sign up in advance for each ten-minute appointment with an editor. The online sign-up period opens on Monday, April 4, 10 a.m. CST, allowing for a maximum of three appointments. I would suggest blocking out that time on your calendar now and planning to sign up that morning. Some editors are extremely popular and appointments with them go fast. The link to sign up will appear on the PitchFest page on the AHCJ website that morning.

There is no guarantee that you will get an assignment on the spot at PitchFest, but it does happen. You increase your chances of getting an assignment on the day or through follow-up emails by coming to each appointment with a well-researched pitch.

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Ready for PitchFest? More freelance market guides to help you prepare

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels.

Before you leave for Health Journalism 2022 in Austin at the end of April, be sure to review the Freelance Center’s market guides so you’re prepared to quickly pitch your story ideas at PitchFest.

Since last blogging about the guides, I have added four new ones and one revised guide. Here’s a roundup of the latest additions.

Gastroenterology & Endoscopy News (revised)

This monthly magazine is sent free to every gastroenterologist in the United States and publishes feature stories and meeting coverage. It pays 75 cents per word for a two-source minimum story. New Managing Editor Sarah Tilyou suggests freelancers pitch a feature story because she assigns most meeting coverage. Make sure the pitch has a nut graph.

MindSite News (new)

This digital new outlet, established in September, covers mental health and pays between $1 and $1.50 per word depending on the degree of reporting. Feature stories run from 1,200 to 1,800 words and investigative pieces can be as long as 2,300 words. Founding Editor Rob Waters is looking for stories that expose problems in the mental health system and solutions-focused stories.

Monitor on Psychology (new)

This magazine from the American Psychological Association is published eight times a year and pays writers $1 per word for articles 1,500 to 2,400 words in length. Managing Editor Susan Straight says pitches need to list the experts to be interviewed — at least three — and the scientific journals to be referenced in support of the story’s key points. Ideally the pitch would contain a nut graph.

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Stay in the know: Upcoming awards and fellowships

The Freelance Center will soon be adding a new information tab about non-AHCJ awards, grants and fellowships. (AHCJ fellowship information can be found here.)

I’ll be gathering information from as many relevant sources as I can find. Please email me at freelance@healthjournalism.org with any that I might have missed. This list will grow as application deadlines approach.

I also hope to add articles from experienced journalists with advice on how to apply and win grants and fellowships. In the meantime, here are some opportunities with approaching deadlines.

Awards

Sunshine Award

This award from the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) “recognizes people and groups making important contributions in the area of open government.” Winners are selected from nominees; self-nomination is allowed. The deadline for nominations is April 15. Winners will be honored at the President’s Installation Banquet during SPJ’s Convention & National Journalism Conference. There is no set number of winners. Last year’s recipients were The City, Documenting COVID-19 project and ProPublica.

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