>What makes bad clips?

>We were talking last week about clips—samples of your published work–and how to send them. Clips are essential to getting assignments. No wise editor will take on a new writer without seeing a sample of her work. If you have never published anything, they may ask you to send a manuscript or to write a piece for them without guaranteeing that they’ll publish it.

But let’s say you have published something and you’re choosing clips to send out. You want to pick the best clips, the ones that you’re especially proud of. Ideally they will also have some connection to the story you’re pitching.

Unfortunately, some clips are not so good, and it’s not all your fault. For example:
• No byline or a misspelled byline. It happens. I have had editors leave out my name or mangle it so badly even my mother wouldn’t recognize it. That lessens the value of your clip. To help prevent this, always type your name in your manuscript as you want it to appear. These digitized days, stories get sent through the process only slightly altered. No one retypes them, and the editor may not notice the byline isn’t there. Protect yourself and make sure your byline is right under the title/headline of your story.
• Bad editing. Most editors are good, but sometimes they ruin your clip with editing that turns good writing into bad or fact into fiction. Ask to see a copy of the edited version before it goes to print. Your wish may not be granted, but always ask. It only takes a minute for them to e-mail you a copy, and you can save a lot of grief.
• Stupid headlines, stupid art, stupid pull quotes or sidebars. We have only minimal control over these editorial decisions, but you can help by making suggestions. Give your story a strong headline, supply or suggest good art, possible quotes and effective sidebars.
• Big dumb ads next to your story. You can’t do anything about the ads that show up with your words, but when you assemble your clips, you can cut out the ads and scan the story without them.

A couple more points:

Old clips are not as good as new clips. Send the best and most recent work you have. But if everything you have is old, send it and don’t say anything about the date it was published.

Everyone tells you to study the publication before you submit anything. The main reason is so that what you send will be appropriate. But another good reason is to make sure you want your work to appear there. Don’t wait until you’re published to discover you’re embarrassed to have your work in that publication. Would you be proud to show off that clip?

As always, your questions and comments are welcome.

Have you purchased your copy of Freelancing for Newspapers yet?

One Comment on “>What makes bad clips?”

  1. >I just found your site and have been reading the old posts. [No wonder you went on hiatus–Hang in there!] I agree about mangled clips. One of my best pieces was framed and organized by words from the old "Taps" ["Day is done…"]. The magazine left out the first quote which made the others in the piece not make any sense at all. Since the opening of the structure was gone I have never been able to use that clip although the writing was probably my best! Arrrgggh

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