Archive for the 'Publisher Insights' Category

An Interview with Amy Wang, Assistant Bureau Chief at The Oregonian

amy-wang.gifIn the Spotlight: Agent & Editor Insights for Getting Published
By Lori Russell

The Oregonian, a daily newspaper with more than 300,000 subscribers in northwest Oregon and southwest Washington, purchases hundreds of freelance articles every year. Assistant bureau chief, Amy Wang, edits a weekly news magazine for the Metro Southwest bureau that focuses on community-level coverage of three Portland-area suburbs. In this month’s column, she shares what freelance writers need to know about pitching and writing for a daily newspaper.

What kinds of articles and/or subjects does The Oregonian look for from freelancers?
As a general-audience publication, we are interested in all sorts of articles and subjects. The sections that use freelancers the most are A&E (arts and entertainment), Books, Travel, FoodDAY, Homes & Gardens, Commentary (opinion) and Living (daily features). As a regional newspaper, we prefer articles and subjects with strong ties to Oregon and Washington. Our five suburban weeklies are even more narrowly focused.

What should writers keep in mind when considering story ideas to pitch to a daily newspaper like The Oregonian?
Unlike magazines, which often work several months ahead, newspaper editors typically work no more than two or three weeks ahead. Many sections that use freelancers go to press a day or two before the actual publication date. Deadlines are tighter and the turnaround from the query to publication can be very short, sometimes just a couple of days.

Before querying, make sure no similar stories have been published recently. If you are serious about freelancing for newspapers, buy a subscription to the Nexis online database, which archives hundreds of English-language newspapers.

Newspaper editors are unlikely to purchase a piece just because the topic is interesting. We’ll ask, what’s the news peg–that is, why publish this piece now instead of two months ago or six weeks in the future? A successful query will explain that your piece about a hair salon just for children is relevant now because it is about to open a branch in our area, or that we should buy your interview with Sarah McLachlan because she is about to perform in Portland.

What are the top two or three things you look for in a query letter?

In addition to what I described above, I also expect some familiarity with my section, which is available online. The articles I publish typically run about 500 words, so a much longer article is not going to get the go-ahead. Plus, more than one typo or grammatical mistake is an instant turnoff for me.

What would be a usual response time for an editor to respond to a query letter?
I generally respond to queries within a day or two; other editors may take up to a week. If a writer hasn’t received a response after a week, I would recommend calling the editor.

Once a writer has had an article published in The Oregonian, are there long-term freelance opportunities available?
If the writer had trouble making deadline or did not respond satisfactorily to an editor’s questions/concerns, or the piece required a good deal of revision or was much longer or shorter than agreed upon, the editor would probably not be inclined to purchase another article, let alone discuss long-term opportunities. If all went well, the editor would be more open to discussion. For instance, a freelancer might pitch the idea of a monthly feature and the editor might agree to plan for that feature while reserving the right not to purchase any one installment.

What current or future trends in the newspaper industry should freelancers be aware of?
Probably the biggest trend right now that affects freelancers directly is toward moving content online. Freelancers should be aware that when they sell a piece, the first-time rights that a newspaper purchases typically include publication on the paper’s Web site.

Do you have any other advice for freelancers wanting to break into
the daily newspaper market?

The better you understand newspapers’ procedures and priorities, the better off you’ll be. We don’t have fact-checkers, so we need freelancers to take accuracy seriously and not rely on us to save them from errors. I would much rather work with an unknown average writer who’s obsessive about accuracy than with a well-known talent who’s sloppy with facts. Also, after I finish a story, I send it to the copy desk, where it is read by at least two more editors who may make further revisions. Finally, newspaper editors are eternally grateful to freelancers who know and abide by the Associated Press Stylebook.

The best way to contact an editor at The Oregonian is by e-mail. For a complete listing of the paper’s staff, go to Writers can also e-mail a query to: and include in the subject line, “Freelance query for (name of section).” An editor checks that e-mail account regularly and will forward the query.

Lori RusselLori Russell is an award-winning writer who has had the pleasure to work with several great editors in her 17 years as a freelancer. She is a contributing editor to Columbia Gorge Magazine and has been a regular contributor to Ruralite for more than a decade. Her articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the country and her short fiction and poetry has been published in several journals and anthologies. Lori recently completed her first novel, Light on Windy River.

Come see Christina at the fifth annual BEA/Writer’s Digest Books Writers Conference

The fifth annual BEA/Writer’s Digest Books Writers Conference will be held on Wednesday, May 30 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York.

The all-day event, which takes place prior to the BookExpo America trade show, offers information sessions and workshops on the business and craft of writing.  The keynote speaker is best-selling author Jodi Picoult.  Breakout sessions on writing novels, screenwriting, humor, young adult, poetry, short story and magazine writing, featuring Don Maass, Christina Katz, John Warner, Sharlene Martin and more!  Will Schwalbe, senior v-p and editor in chief of Hyperion and Judy Hottensen, v-p and publisher of Miramax Books will also be speaking.  Plus, the editors of Writer’s Digest Book, Writer’s Digest magazine and Writer’s Market!

You’ll also have the opportunity to pitch your book idea and get instant feedback from the largest collection of agents of any conference in our famous PITCH SLAM SESSION!

The registration fee is $199, which includes a 6 month subscription to

For more information, visit  Registration is at

An Interview with Tracey Ryder of Edible Communities Magazines

Tracey Ryder, Publisher, Edible CommunitiesAgent & Editor Insights

By Cindy Hudson

Tracey Ryder didn’t intend to start a national phenomenon when she created Edible Ojai magazine with business partner Carol Topalian. She just wanted to produce a magazine about something she cared about: locally grown foods and the farmers who produce them. But shortly after their publication debuted, the women were swamped with calls from people around the country wanting to print a similar publication in their own areas. To meet the demand, they created Edible Communities to license other magazines with a similar format in communities nationwide. That was in 2004. Three years and five million readers later, the company will welcome its 25th Edible magazine into the fold, and there’s still a long list of communities in the queue.

I recently talked with Tracey about the commonalities and differences among these publications as well as the various opportunities for freelance writers.

Is there a common goal for Edible magazines?

Yes. We are striving to connect consumers with people in their communities who grow and produce local foods. We want to have a consistent brand in place, but we also let the local publishers have as much creative freedom as possible so the magazines don’t feel homogenized or like “cookie-cutter” publications.

Are most freelance contributors local to each magazine’s publishing area?

Most of the time editors work with local freelancers who know local stories. But there are opportunities for all different levels of writers. Beginning writers can get bylines and very seasoned, experienced natural food writers who happen to live in the community also contribute. In Santa Fe for example, Deborah Madison, a well-known food writer, is a contributor. And college students who are trying to get their feet wet as food writers are also featured. It’s a nice collection of different perspectives.

If a writer has an idea for a story that would work for more than one community, whom should she approach?

Writers can approach us at the headquarters level, and we always encourage them to contact the local editors as well. A lot of times we get story ideas that are specific to a region, for instance California or the Northeast, where we have clusters of magazines. So we forward those to the local publishers who decide as a group if they want to run the article(s) as regional piece(s). We’re usually able to pay a slightly higher fee to a writer who’s going to run something in multiple publications.

Are there opportunities for stories to run nationally?

We have one national column now called Edible Nation that’s in all the Edibles. People like Barbara Kingsolver, Michael Pollan and Michael Ableman have contributed to that so far, and we’re very open to ideas for that column. Our Web site is also going through a major renovation, and it’s going to change a lot. There will be much more content that we’re creating specifically for the Web to keep that fresh and different from our printed publications. It will be a separate channel that we’ll probably begin using writers for in April or May.

What should writers know before pitching an Edible magazine on a story idea?

Obviously, they need to be knowledgeable about local foods. We say our publications are narrow and deep. Our subject matter is quite narrow, because we focus on regional, local food items that are fresh and in season. And it’s deep because we want to know everything we can about those items. We also love the human-interest side of all our editorials. Let’s say the story is about a winemaker or a cheese maker or a farmer. We really want to know who that person is or who their family is or what their motivation is for doing what they’re doing.

What do you like to see in a query?

Creative thinking is well rewarded. As much as we’ve done in this field, we definitely don’t know it all. And because we want to be narrow and deep and really get to know the communities we’re in, there’s so much information we can never find out ourselves. Writers who dig up ideas are our lifelines to what’s happening, and we really want to hear from them.

What’s the best way to query you?

E-mail works best because we’re so spread out. I traveled about 150,000 miles last year, and I wasn’t in any one place for more than seven days.

Contact Tracey at Links to Web sites for all 25 Edible publications can be found at


Cindy Hudson writes for national trade magazines, regional magazines, online publications and daily newspapers. Her Web site,, and its companion blog,, publishes reading lists, book reviews, author interviews and other book club resources. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Portland, Oregon, where she writes weekly for The Oregonian. Visit her online at

Should I self-publish a book?


Ask Wendy: Your Publishing Questions Answered

By Wendy Burt

Q: I’m thinking about self-publishing a book. What do I need to know?

A: If you have a completed book, first let me say congratulations. Many writers never get to the point of completing a lengthy manuscript. Pat yourself on the back!

When considering self-publishing, here are a few things to consider:

Beware of vanity publishers. There are a lot of vanity publishers out there looking to make a buck off of naïve but productive writers. Most (but not all) will tell you how great your book is (some without even reading it!), send you a letter saying your work has been “chosen,” and then charge you ghastly sums of money to provide you with copies. In most cases, you’d be better off just going to a local printer.

Choose a realistic print quantity. Most printers will give you a price break at a certain print run––say, 1,000. It may not sound like much, but take this test: Make a list now of 1,000 people you could give the book to. Tough, huh? You might be lucky to come up with 50. (And we’re talking about GIVING the book away, not selling it. That’s even MORE difficult!)

Decide if you expect to pitch your book to a larger publisher someday. Some publishers are turned off by the thought of books that have been self-published. Unless you can show a huge following and prove amazing sales numbers (not just “the friends I gave it to said they really liked it!”), the general consensus among agents/publishers is that if you had to self-publish the book, it may not have been good enough to get picked up by a publisher. (This feeling is magnified if you tell the publisher that no one picked it up when you submitted the book proposal, so you self-published it!) Very few authors have succeeded in self-publishing and then getting their book picked up by a big publisher. Those who are successful in self-publishing don’t necessarily want to find another publisher, because they are usually making more money per book by selling it themselves.

Know what to expect. If you expect to make money self-publishing, you’ll need a major platform. If you teach classes and can use the book as curriculum, or already have a Web site or speaking circuit where you can sell the books, go for it. Otherwise, just writing a book and expecting strangers to buy it will set you up for disappointment–and an attic full of books.

If you really want to see your book in print, a great, reputable place to start is Click on “Publish & Sell” and read about your options for print-on-demand (POD) books. The site also offers great tips on marketing.

Articles, books, greeting cards, oh my! Wendy Burt is a successful full-time freelance writer and editor who has more than doubled her income since leaving her job as a newspaper editor just three years ago. With two women’s humor books for McGraw-Hill and more than 1,000 published pieces, Wendy’s typical day might including writing ad copy, greeting cards, health articles, personal profiles or her marketing column for Her Business magazine. Her work has appeared in such varied publications as Family Circle, The Writer,,, Home Cooking Magazine and American Fitness. Wendy teaches “Breaking Into Freelance Writing” and still finds ample time to spend with her beautiful baby, Gracie. Visit to see books by Wendy and her award-winning dad. More info at

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