A mini newsletter
A summary of the year + some writing advice + answering payment queries
|Joanna Lobo||Nov 3, 2020|
This is not a newsletter but an announcement for the month. I usually send out two newsletters, every fortnight, and on a Monday. November has five Mondays. I have changed the schedule slightly so I can stick to my standard two per month. You will receive the next chapter on Monday.
A small note about the payment system: Substack’s Beta stage in India is a disaster. Payments aren’t going through with some cards and renewals aren’t happening properly. You may receive an email about successful sign-up, but the payment doesn’t reflect on Stripe. I am checking everything on my own (so much for ease of doing work!), and emailing people whenever I get this error, so check your inbox/spam for emails from email@example.com.
If you have signed up for a monthly subscription, understand that payments happen automatically. I was told that emails would be sent out about this, but that’s not happening. You will only receive an email if there’s an error with your card/payment. Hence, if you want to stop/pause a subscription, you have to unsubscribe yourself.
Email me if you have any queries, or want to discuss comped rates or a different payment method.
New subscribers, please pay at the beginning of the month so that you are guaranteed two newsletters (especially in months like this one)
I didn’t want this to be a newsletter about payments only, so here are some notes I hope you find useful.
I began It’s All Write in October last year. It’s been a good run, despite the month-long break I took in between. I’ve picked some interesting points from earlier newsletters, paid and free versions. To those who have subscribed from the beginning, this will seem like a recap but for the rest, here’s a review of some important things.
Over 23 editions of IAW, I have interviewed editors (of The Soup, LuxeBook, Ozy, Conde Nast Traveller India, Mongabay India, 101 Reporters, Re:Set, 30Stades and more) and addressed different aspects of the freelancing life. Some highlights.
The most important newsletters for beginners are Chapters 17 & 18 , which focus on the pitching process: what is a pitch, what should it contain, mistakes to avoid, how to follow up, and when to discuss payments and more. (These are paid newsletters, so email me if you want them).
I have only interviewed/ featured three writers so far: Kamal Thiagarajan who spoke about how to find ideas for stories, Neeti Mehra who spoke about the discipline of writing, and food writer and editor, Vidya Balachander.
Vidya’s top three pitching tips:
The more you pitch, the easier the process is likely to be. Pitching often strengthens your confidence in your voice and in your story, and makes the rejections sting less.
Try to read the publications you want to pitch, to get a thorough sense of their tone of voice. This isn't always possible in a fast-paced and competitive environment, but it is definitely a good practice to have in your toolkit.
This is one I am still trying to learn, but it is to not equate rejections with the validity of your story or pitch. Often, acceptance and rejection is a function of many factors including a publication's editorial calendar, budget, the topicality of the story and its relevance to readers. However, if one is persistent enough, there is bound to be a publication that wants your story — it's just about finding it.
I want to include one more tip: Never settle for a fee without at least asking if there is space in their budget for a little more! (Usually, this works. Sometimes it doesn’t. But at least you tried!)
In Chapter 3, I touched upon the need for having an online portfolio - either a website or using a third party site like Contently and Porterfolio. I prefer Contently as it allows me to upload work samples (online links and PDFs) within minutes, along with the skills used, subjects and formats for each story. It’s a clean interface and I can sort through my stories according to publication, topic, skill and format. It also links to my social media pages.
The other option is to buy a domain name and create a website. A typical site would have an ‘about me’ section or short bio introducing yourself and your work, a list of all your stories (either in one place or divided according to subject/ publication); some testimonials from editors, clients, co-workers; and a separate blog section. If creating a website, keep your best work on the home page and ensure it is more of ‘You’-oriented content rather than ‘Me’-oriented content. Show how you can help users.
In Chapter 8, I shared some tough love on all things money. Namely, I repeated my freelancing mantra (one of them): do not write for free. This edition also features a delightful story on waiting for payments, from Shruti Sunderraman, a freelance writer, and the executive editor of Current Conservation.
My favourite bit of advice from that newsletter was:
Have a monthly income goal. Consider it your salary: Writer and freelance journalist, Kamala Thiagarajan says: “Have a monthly goal. Then work towards reaching it. This would mean reaching out to publications that can help you achieve those goals. For instance, if your monthly income goal is 40k, you need four 10k assignments, or two 20k assignments. Pitch accordingly. You don’t have to receive all the money that month, but you do need to land that value in assignments.” I kept a monthly income goal this year and managed to achieve it five times already. It’s a good reminder on the amount of work I need to do and how to pitch smartly.
(Job links, grants, links to good reads, and other news you can use)
Learn a language: Anantika Mehra conducts introductory language classes in Mandarin. More details, here. I attended Akshita Nagpal’s introduction to Urdu class - spread across eight weeks and talks about the script and joining rules and how to read simple words. I found it informative and engaging.
Resource: If you want a second pairs of eyes to look over your writing, here’s a good, FREE resource. The Internet Writing Workshop is a set of mailing lists (groups) that communicate via email. Writers can submit and critique written works, a forum to discuss and get help on all aspects of writing, and a public service educational organization, staffed by volunteers and free of charge. The Workshop is open to all styles and genres of writing.
Resource: Julia Phillips curates a calendar of annual deadlines for writer funding opportunities, which include fellowships, grants, and residencies.
#FF: Project Anti-Caste Love, an Instagram account featuring stories, narratives, and conversations on caste, love and relationships in South Asia. It has beautiful, hand-written love letter from inter-caste couples.
Subscribe: Author Damyanti Biswas curates two gazettes: The Reading Gazette contains curated book recommendations, reading strategies, book event news etc and The Writing Gazette contains Writing Craft resources (fiction/ non-fiction), #WritingLife resources and alerts on workshops and events/ launches. Subscribe here.
Volunteer: Dalit Camera, which document perspectives on/voices of Dalits, Adivasis, Bahujans and Minorities (DABM), is looking for volunteers and reporters. If interested, write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Once again, do note that monthly subscriptions happen automatically after the second month. If you are a new subscriber, double check if your money has been cut after you receive the welcome email. Hmu for any payment-related queries, comps etc.
I will send out free and paid version of the newsletter, Chapter 24, next week.
Until next time, adiós.