Monday, November 06, 2006

The World is Your Oyster

I'm based in Moscow, Russia, but I really want to start writing for American markets (via the Internet, without relocating), I really hope I can do it with 10 years of experience of writing for Russian newspapers and magazines and with a degree in English linguistics. I hope I can break in by writing articles about some Russia-related issues, I have a few ideas and good access to all the necessary local information sources. If you can advise anything to me I'll be really grateful!

The good news is that given how most freelancers and editors work, it really doesn't make much of a difference where you live these days. You can certainly have a flourishing freelance career from Moscow. I have a writer friend who lives in Germany and works steadily; ditto several writers I know in London and Amsterdam.

I think the key here, and you've already started to focus on this, is that you're able to offer something that US-based writers can't: namely, insidery access and first-person scoop. I, for example, wouldn't have the slightest idea about, say, an issue that's currently afflicting Russian women, but you certainly would. And if you do, I suggest that you explore it and pitch a magazine like Marie Claire, which loves to focus on global women's issues. Similarly, you're in just the right position to pitch yourself as a travel expert...newspapers (and increasingly magazines) have no interest in paying freelancers to fly halfway across the world to write about a city or cultural phenomenon, and with you, they don't have to. So I'd definitely explore that route - coming up with a few queires about specific, unique destinations in your area and firing them off to American-based papers or magazines that either focus on travel or have travel features. Sure, you might not want to solely be thought of as a travel-writer, but by generating clips and getting in with some of these editors, you'll get your foot in the door which will open up future possibilities.

Along those same lines as travel - what about food or music? Who knows? Maybe Cooking Light would be interested in a front-of-book piece on the latest healthful trend in Russian food and how Americans are lapping it up. (I'm making this up, but you get the gist.) I think you could have a lot of success by really pinpointing WHY you stand out (i.e, your geography) rather than trying to compete with US-based writers. Use your unique situation to your advantage, and I'm guessing that you'll land quite a few assignments.

Any overseas writers want to weigh in? Or anyone have any other tips?

4 comments:

Olga said...

Thank you so much, Allison! It's very kind of you to answer my question.

To expand on it, should I always begin my query with some info about my location (before the hook and the pitch) so that the editor gets the information instantly?

Many thanks again,
Best wishes,
Olga

Olga said...

Oh, Allison, I forgot to ask you, is it a big disadvantage with American editors that English is not my native language?

I want to thank you again for taking the time to give such a great answer to my question.

Allison Winn Scotch said...

Hey Olga,

My pleasure! That's why I'm here. Hmmm, I don't know how much it matters if you begin with the hook/pitch or your credits, but maybe, in this case, I might open with your credits/location, if only to grab their interest. But if you have a really outstanding hook, then I'd go with that. (Gee, could that have been a more ambiguous answer?) :)

I had no idea that English wasn't your first language. As long as you're fluent in it, and feel comfortable writing in it, then it shouldn't be a problem. If you're still tweaking your English, however, I might hold off on pitching some of the larger markets, like Marie Claire, b/c they'll place just as much importance on strong writing as they would location/reporting access. Does that make sense? (Not that smaller markets don't value good writing!! I'm just saying that you might come under less scrutiny for a newspaper travel piece than for an edit-by-committee magazine piece.)

Good luck!

Olga said...

Thank you for your answers once again!

LOL Just love your ambiguous answer :) I guess I'll have to make my choice depending on the situation ;)

Thank you very much, a professional writer telling me she hasn't noticed that it's not my native language is just awesome! Maybe the editors won't notice either, eh? ;)

I do feel comfortable writing articles in English, because I learned it at an early age while living in the USA for a couple of years. Then brushed up my skills at the Linguistic University in Moscow.

Anyway I hope to target large markets, because it would be cool to have some nice clips right at the start ;)

Just can't thank you enough for your advice.

If you ever need any info/sources/help just let me know.