Amelia, Lauren, and special guest Miranda Sanchez discuss freelance writing in the anime industry.
0:02:31 Getting started
0:08:40 Pitching pitfalls
0:17:42 How to pitch
0:27:19 Early vs intermediate freelancing
0:31:28 Imposter syndrome
0:36:21 Approaching a publication
0:39:23 What publications are looking for
0:53:31 Alternative ways to monetize
0:59:42 Final thoughts
1:05:28 It’s not about you!
Recorded Saturday 30th September 2017
Music: Open Those Bright Eyes by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
AMELIA: Hi, everyone, and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. My name’s Amelia, I’m the editor-in-chief of Anime Feminist, and I’m joined today by Lauren Orsini and Miranda Sanchez. If you would like to introduce yourselves…
LAUREN: Sure! Hi, I’m Lauren Orsini. Sometimes you’ll find me in the background of Anime Feminist working on tech updates and things like that. I also write for my own blog, Otaku Journalist, as well as my blog for Forbes, and I do reviews for Anime News Network.
MIRANDA: Hi, I’m Miranda Sanchez. I am an editor at IGN. I pretty much run our anime content. Although I have not produced too much lately, I’m usually the one responsible to make sure at least reviews get picked or picked up, and then sometimes produce anime things.
AMELIA: [laughs] Miranda’s drastically underplaying herself here, but it’s all right because we’re gonna dig into this in a minute. [laughs] So, what we’re looking at today is how to become an anime writer and what you can expect from it. Most people who write in anime fandom are straight cisgender white men. This is just the way it is.
AMELIA: Doesn’t have to be. It absolutely doesn’t have to be. So, the three of us, obviously, not men. And we’ve all come into anime writing from a different perspective. These days, Lauren is a freelance writer, alongside the web development work that she does and that we make much use of in Anime Feminist. Thank you as always for your work there, Lauren.
LAUREN: [recovering from laughter] No problem.
AMELIA: But Lauren has built up a name for herself as a freelance writer across different organizations. Miranda, of course, works at IGN, where she actually commissions writing and works with writers. And, of course, at Anime Feminist I am in charge of an organization that does commission and pay writers. But I also freelance-write myself. So, we have varying perspectives, and it is so important for there to be diverse voices within any kind of writing, let’s be honest.
Anime writing is our sphere, so we are hopefully going to give you some insights that, if you are not a cisgender heterosexual white man listening to this and you’ve always wanted to become an anime writer, hopefully will give you the kind of knowledge and confidence that you need to feel like you can go ahead and try that. And if you’re a cishet white guy who also wants to do that, you’re very welcome to make use of these tips, too.
So, for starters, I’d just to look at how each of us became an anime writer. From my perspective, I started very recently, only a year and a half ago, I think. I started actually being involved in an anime fandom again.
AMELIA: And I just pitched to magazines and websites, and I got positive responses back, and I wrote for them, and then from that I got a couple of regular gigs writing for monthly magazines. I’d write for Neo magazine in the U.K. and Otaku USA in the U.S. I’ve also written for magazines Geeky Monkey in the U.K. and Bingebox, neither of which is around anymore, unfortunately. Print media, on the way out. I don’t recommend that as [laughs] your target for a living wage.
MIRANDA: Yeah, unfortunately.
AMELIA: Exactly. But there are plenty of online outlets as well. So, I’ve written for The Mary Sue, as we know, and I would be quite happy to write for other outlets if I hadn’t ended up directing my attentions towards Anime Feminist rather than my own writing career.
Whereas Lauren, you are very much a freelance writer. Your speed of writing is incredible. I have been in Google Docs where I’ve watched you write, and you are so fast.
LAUREN: You flatter me. [laughs]
AMELIA: No, no, no, it’s so true. And you also write for a number of different outlets, and you have recurring work. So, if you could just talk a bit about how you became involved in that …
LAUREN: Sure! The very first time I ever wrote about anime for a publication was for my student newspaper in college. I went to one of my very first anime conventions, Katsucon, which is held in northern Virginia or was at the time. Now it’s in Maryland. I went there, I interviewed people, and then I put it in the student paper. I also did a preview for it for the local paper that I was interning for.
From there, I was an intern at Kotaku, which was mostly video game stuff, not anime stuff. But it was still pretty niche. And then I was writing for free for Japanator, concurrently with my own blog, Otaku Journalist, which is eight years old this fall—
MIRANDA: Ooh, congratulations.
LAUREN: Thank you. Yeah, so that was eight years ago that I was just breaking in, and I was weighing the pros and cons of writing for free. And I was thinking, “I don’t wanna write for free about stuff I don’t care that much about, but I will write for free about anime if it gives me clips that are anime-related.”
And eventually, that really paid off when I wanted to write for Anime News Network and they wanted to see clips of previous anime writings I’d done. And now I’ve been a reviewer and features writer at Anime News Network for three years now as, you know, the one girl at Anime News Network, as they call us. This happens all the time.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Wow.
LAUREN: Commenters will angrily say, “Ah, Rebecca, your last review on this was just so wrong.” And Rebecca will be like, “I didn’t write that; Lauren wrote that.” And I’ll be like, “No, I didn’t write it; Lindsay wrote it.”
You know, the one girl at Anime News Network. She’s this one interchangeable girl, her opinions are not very good, but she is surprisingly prolific, about as prolific as, say, five or six women writers.
AMELIA: That’s amazing. You’re so talented.
LAUREN: Mm-hm. We hear a lot about her.
AMELIA: Wow. Miranda, has that been your experience, too? I’m guessing within video games writing, which I know you do some of as well, there’s not a whole lot of women in your position?
MIRANDA: Yeah, fortunately at IGN we do have a lot more women on staff than most game places. That wasn’t the way it was when I started. When I started, it was me, Naomi Kyle, Meghan Sullivan, and I believe that was it for the editorial video, with the exception of some video editors that would sometimes appear on shows. But since then, we’ve definitely picked up a lot more women on staff. But we definitely had that problem of “Oh, this isn’t Naomi. Who is this woman?” [sighs indignantly] It’s just like, “I’ve worked here for years!”
MIRANDA: So, it’s just definitely a thing that happens, as well. But yes, I am primarily a games writer, but anime is also my thing, like, “Oh, yeah, if you need anime, it’s Miranda. Just go over there.” I’m like, “Yeah, hey. What do you need?” [laughs]
AMELIA: And, just to be clear, this is a salaried position, right?
AMELIA: You are an employee of IGN.
AMELIA: You’re in a slightly different position from a freelancer. So, how did you get into that position where you write for a living now?
MIRANDA: I actually got there through freelancing. Surprise! [laughs]
AMELIA: Not surprised. [laughs]
MIRANDA: Yeah, right? That’s actually the key to getting a full-time job, is freelancing. I mean, that’s what I’ve come to see as a trend from working at IGN for a few years. I started freelancing in college, but prior to that I had been writing my own blog since early high school, late middle school. I’ve always, always, always been writing and kind of working on my own clips, for games particularly, and it wasn’t until a little before I started my job full-time at IGN that I actually started doing anime writing.
Before that, I had talked about anime a bunch on podcasts and had ideas about what I wanted to talk about with anime, but I had mostly just been focusing on games writing. So that when I got at IGN, I said, “Hey, you need someone to write about anime because your anime coverage isn’t very good, and it’s really important.” And they’re like, “Yeah, you can do that.” And so, I’ve just been trying to slowly build this whole anime coverage plan that unfortunately kind of dips when I get too busy. But we’re getting back into that right now.
But to get into freelancing, what I did was, like I said, I worked on my own blog, my own samples. I went through the journalism course in my college and high school—every journalism thing I could do, I did—and essentially just submitted clips when IGN was asking for news freelancers, and then I got in.
AMELIA: That’s great. And I wanna be clear with people that just because Lauren and Miranda were writing for years, doesn’t mean that’s the only way in.
AMELIA: I was completely unknown a year and a half ago, and I managed to get work pretty much as soon as I pitched. That’s one thing I really wanna get across in this podcast, is just how accessible this is. I don’t think you realize until you start it and you realize how hungry editors are for your work. They absolutely want freelancers to approach them and say, “I’m reliable, I can write with decent spelling and grammar, I’m interested in your subject, and I’m willing to write stuff for you at a good quality in short periods of time. That is the dream, right?
MIRANDA: That just makes me wanna cry.
MIRANDA: I’m just like “Oh! Reliable, with good grammar and spelling.” [laughs almost tearfully]
AMELIA: [laughs] Seriously, good grammar, right?
MIRANDA: Yes, it’s so important. The problem is, a lot of times when I receive pitches, there are just so many grammatical errors in the pitch, and I’m like, “This is already a big old warning sign for me,” because, obviously, I only have so much time to edit, and I’m happy to work with people who are just trying to break in, but I also can’t spend two hours working with the first edit.
LAUREN: Miranda, that reminds me, though, of how I got my internship at Kotaku.
LAUREN: Basically, instead of sending them a pitch, I just sent them a fully written article. I had been at Anime Boston, and I got the chance to interview Nobuo Uematsu—
LAUREN: —the composer of a lot of Final Fantasy games. And I just wrote something on it, and I was thinking of it putting it up on my blog. And then I thought, “You know, I really want this internship at Kotaku.” So, I wrote to Kotaku and I’m like, “I wrote this whole article on Nobuo Uematsu. If I get the internship, I’d love to just give this to you.” And I’m pretty sure that’s how I got it, just having something pre-written.
AMELIA: I’m not surprised.
LAUREN: It’s less work for them. I guess you have to think about editors as people who have limited hours in the day and just wanna get stuff up on their site.
AMELIA: I would absolutely agree with that. I would say, though, you want to know your publication.
AMELIA: So, for Anime Feminist, for example, we work quite differently with writers, as Lauren knows firsthand—I know you’ve edited a few things—and we absolutely welcome people who have never written anything.
It’s important to us to be a platform for marginalized perspectives, so if you’re from a marginalized community, there’s a chance that you’ve just been put off blogging about anime because it can be hostile at times and you can see things that make you worry that you’ll draw negative attention to yourself and so on. And we want to be a platform where people feel like they can really take those first steps as a writer—again, if you are already writing to a decent standard and you have an interesting perspective and you have something to say that we think our readers will want to hear. You still have to hit a certain baseline, but when you’re on board, you’re on board and we will work with you.
However, we do not tend to accept completed pieces, and we say quite clearly in our contributor guidelines that we expect to work with you from the outline stage. And we lay it all out, and my biggest red flag for contributors is actually when people get in touch with me and say, “Hey, how do I pitch? What do I do?” [laughs] We’ve got these whole guidelines on our site. If you visit our site and you’ll look at the stuff there, you will know what you need to do because we’ve told you in detail.
It’s actually way too long an article. I’ve been meaning to go back and revise it and make it a bit clearer and easier. But I’ll tell you something: the people who approach me and say, “Hey, how do I pitch?” All men.
AMELIA: It is all men. And the voices that I actually want to prop up and support and give a platform, is usually not men. So, it’s a case of “Okay, you already were a lower priority for me.”
LAUREN: There’s definitely some self-selection in this.
AMELIA: [laughs] There are studies about how women will not apply for something unless they’re 100% sure that their skills are there.
That is exactly the message I wanna get across. It’s not like I blacklist these people; I send them along to Dee, and I just say, “All the information’s on our site,” or if it’s an email, then I’ll forward the email to Dee and she can deal with it, and she deals with it extremely professionally, and it’s not my call anymore. So, you know, people who do this, they’re not getting a black mark against themselves or anything, but it makes a worse first impression on me.
MIRANDA: Oh, yeah.
AMELIA: And I think just knowing your publication and seeing “What have they already said to contributors?”—go and see that, do exactly what they ask you to do. And different outlets will have different standards and different requirements.
MIRANDA: That’s certainly such a frustrating thing. Sometimes we’ll receive pitches or samples of things as part of a pitch or part of a thing we ask where it’s like, “Hey, can you write a news story just to see how you would do with us, just as a first test?” And it’s always so frustrating to see different style things that IGN would never do. And that kind of indicates to me you’ve never really read anything on our site. You know, we don’t italicize a certain thing, or we don’t editorialize our news, or we don’t do this certain thing.
And it’s just really frustrating to see that from freelancers. It just feels like they’re wasting our time in a way, if you’re not having enough respect to look at the site and see what basic requirements we have for our writers.
LAUREN: Yeah! As a freelancer, I’ve definitely seen this weeding-out happen. Like I just applied for a gig and it said, “When you email us with your pitches, make the title of the email ‘Princess Banana Hammock.’”
So, I’m like, “Okay, that’s weird,” but I did that, and they were like, “You won’t believe how many people didn’t read that and didn’t put that as their title.” And that was how they narrowed down who they wanted to work with: people who would read the instructions.
AMELIA: I’m not terribly surprised, because we have people who pitch Anime Feminist on things that we’ve already covered, for example.
MIRANDA: Oh, yeah.
AMELIA: So, you didn’t take two seconds to do a search? Our site is not the most search-friendly. I get it. But Google has a very sophisticated search function which you can use to search within individual sites, and to not take the time to do that, it can be a bit frustrating.
And again, it’s just about making a good first impression. You want there to be no strikes against you, and you want to have the confidence that the people reading your email are gonna be wanting to give you work. And we’ve already said editors are hungry for good freelancers. You don’t want them to think that you’re not a good freelancer when you get in touch.
LAUREN: I’ve definitely made that mistake, too. I was at a disability conference here in D.C., and I ended up talking to a bunch of sex workers who exclusively work with the disabled. And I thought, “That’s very unusual. That seems like a very unusual, unique story.” And I pitched it to Vice, ‘cause I thought Vice would cover it, and they were like, “Yeah, we’ve already written two articles about sex workers who work exclusively with the disabled.” [laughs]
LAUREN: I shoulda just checked. Of course Vice has two different articles on that already!
AMELIA: And you know, I say this. I’ve also made this mistake. There was one time I pitched a magazine with an article on something that they’d covered the previous month. So, [laughs] it can be a bit more difficult with print media, because I didn’t have a copy of the magazine at hand, but it wouldn’t have taken up that much time.
Basically, I was just being really impulsive. I was like, “I wanna get in touch with them as soon as possible! It’s fine. It’ll be okay.” And, again, they were so desperate for people to write for them that they overlooked that little faux pas, but not everyone will. And I think it’s worth keeping in mind.
LAUREN: And even if you think that your pitch is fairly unique—
AMELIA: Check, if at all possible, and also to see if it’s been covered by any major organization. Even with Anime Feminist, if there’s a feminist-relevant topic that’s been covered on Crunchyroll or it’s been covered on ANN recently, unless your take is a different perspective, we probably won’t look to feature it. People tend to pitch us multiple things, and if we don’t like that one, we can pick something else. But give yourself as many options as possible.
Okay, we’ve accidentally gone through something that I intended to go through later, but I think that’s really important: what the red flags are when you receive pitches. It’s pretty straightforward: have decent spelling, decent grammar, pitch on stuff that you’re confident hasn’t been done recently at least, or on an online publication maybe within the last five years or so—that’s probably a bit much, three years, four years. Also, make sure that it’s within the expected tone and style of the publication; you’re covering stuff that they might have covered anyway with a different freelancer.
AMELIA: So, now, let’s look at the actual process for any advice that we have on pitching, how to do this, ‘cause pitching is how you tend to get work. And you can be a complete unknown and have a good pitch and get work. Again, it’s really accessible; it’s so accessible. So, how would you both recommend that people go about pitches?
MIRANDA: I want a short pitch. [laughs] Just to go straight into it. That’s how I got a lot of my work, was just like a very direct, short pitch that’s not floaty or excessive. Just get to the point. A lot of times, just knowing how much email I get and knowing how much email our reviews editor gets, we don’t have time to read four paragraphs about why you should write for IGN.
MIRANDA: It’s a lot. [laughs] So, if you could just write a few sentences saying what you wanna do, what you’re interested in, samples. And then, that’s it. [laughs] Might say it’d be too simple, but that’s it.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Yeah! Lauren, is that what you do, or …? [laughs]
LAUREN: Yeah, short pitches, but also very persistent pitches, I found a lot of luck with. I try to think of the editors. It could be just Miranda who I’m pitching to, just a human person who has as much email in their inbox as I do.
There was this one place I really wanted to write for. So, I sent them three pitches one week and I didn’t hear back. Then, I sent them three pitches the following week and didn’t hear back. This happened like six times. And then I finally got a response, and they’re like, “Yeah, love that pitch! Want you to write for us.” And that ended up being my piece about Homestuck for CNN, back when CNN covered more geek stuff.
So, that was one of my better bylines ever, because that was the only time I’ve been published in CNN. But it wasn’t that they hated me—basically, the reason they weren’t responding is because they didn’t see anything that would work for their publication and, honestly, they don’t have a lot of time.
So, if an editor doesn’t write back to you because they’re not using it, don’t get your feelings hurt by that. They’re people. They’re just trying to skim through for the things that will actually help them, and they will publish that. If they are going to use your piece, you will hear from them. If you get turned down, that’s actually pretty rare. Miranda, have you turned people down, or do you just archive it? [laughs]
MIRANDA: [laughs nervously] Um, no. [laughs] I definitely try to read every email I get, but I try to reply when I can. For the most part, I think I usually do, so long as it’s not busy season, but I know for a fact that our features editor does not reply when he does not like a pitch, simply because he doesn’t have time, because he receives so many pitches.
LAUREN: Wow, it sounds like he must like personally hate each of those people.
MIRANDA: No, he’s just very busy.
MIRANDA: And it’s just a thing to consider, too. It’s never personal.
LAUREN: No. This is all a business transaction.
AMELIA: And what you said earlier, Lauren, about how it’s not a good fit and as a result you might just not reply to something because it’s not a good fit, I have done that on AniFem before. And it makes such a good impression to me when people follow up with something new. That just says, “Okay, they wanna be a part of the publication, and they constantly have new ideas. This is great for me.”
And we’re now at a point with AniFem where we do have repeating writers. For a while, we were having a new contributor every week, and it was always new people. Now we’re starting to go back and we have kind of a bank of reliable writers, and if there’s something that I want written on something that’s in their wheelhouse, I will go to them. So, having people who follow up in such a way that it’s actually helpful because they’re—
LAUREN: Yeah, they just brush it off and try again.
AMELIA: Exactly. Whereas there are—I just need to ask people across the board, “Do not tweet at an editor to ask when they’re responding to your pitch.”
LAUREN: Yes! I’ve seen newbie freelancers do this. They’ll either be subtweeting, “Never got a response about my pitch” or—
LAUREN: And things like that. That’s just how the business works, and I think a lot of people don’t realize that.
AMELIA: It is so difficult, because I’ve got a real dig-my-heels-in attitude, so as soon as somebody publicly tries to shame me for not [laughs] responding to a pitch—
MIRANDA: [crosstalk] Ugh.
LAUREN: [crosstalk] Oh, and then that does make you respond, right? You’re like, “Oh, wow!”—
AMELIA: It does make me respond.
LAUREN: —“So sorry. Now I will cater to your every need.” That’s a good way to make an editor happy.
AMELIA: And again, this is a pattern that I’ve noticed: it does tend to be men. You already had a strike against you, man.
MIRANDA: It’s just such a bad look generally to any other person who might accept your work, ever. I don’t know. I like looking at freelancers’ Twitters. I like to see what they’re talking about and seeing what kind of perspectives they have and opinions. And if I see someone being disrespectful to another editor, I don’t wanna work with you.
AMELIA: Yeah. But even trying to communicate directly, just tweeting at me and saying, “Hey, are you getting back to me about my pitch?” We have it in our contributor guidelines that if you don’t receive a response after a certain amount of time, you’re free to send it elsewhere. We don’t have an obligation to reply to you, and I know that sounds awful, but we just don’t.
Now, as it happens, Dee’s in charge at the moment, and she replies and she is amazing, and so on and so forth. But she doesn’t have an obligation to, and if she ever gets so busy that she has to prioritize, that will be one thing that I advise her to cut, is responding to people whose pitches are just unsuitable or who they themselves are unsuitable.
We have had people pitch us, and we’ve gone to check them out and their blogs have had sexist content on it. Well, of course we’re not going to give our platform to somebody who uses their own platform for those purposes. So, we’re never going to accept your pitch, and the more you hound us about it, the less likely we are to be nice about it.
So, there’s all sorts of good reasons to not do this in public. Use email. I’ve had some people have some success with me on Twitter DM, but usually because we’ve already got a relationship, so they can get in touch with me by DM and say, “Hey, I’m just checking up on this,” and that’s not a problem at all, because I already know them. But if you don’t know the editor that you’re talking to, then be really careful how you approach them on their personal lines of communication, I think, in general.
LAUREN: Mm-hm. That’s just polite.
AMELIA: It’s just polite. And it’s been a real source of frustration for me, because usually if I’m not responding to emails in a timely fashion, it’s because stuff’s going on, and I’m already feeling guilty and I’m already feeling angry with myself for not keeping on top of everything. And adding fuel to that flame, it just makes me feel worse. It’s just such a negative impact, overall; and no, it doesn’t make me more likely to go and tend to your pitch immediately.
Now, there are some people—I should be really clear—there are some people who’ve had legitimate complaints for me not responding to things in a timely fashion when we’ve already started communications, and those people, in general, have been so understanding and so accommodating that it’s made me want to help them even more. And I have offered to pay them double, and I’ve said to them, “Look, I really want you to work for us, so please pitch for me immediately and we will fast-track it.”
That is how I have treated the people who’ve been understanding towards me as an editor who doesn’t always answer email. And—
LAUREN: So, really, the risks of being awful to an editor are very high, and the rewards of being very nice to an editor really pay off.
AMELIA: I think so, and even… Obviously Miranda doesn’t have control over the budget the way I do, so there may not be the financial reward, but presumably, Miranda, if you have a freelancer who’s been particularly easy to work with, that will make you want to work with them more.
MIRANDA: Oh, yes. Very much. We certainly have a few freelancers as my go-to, where I know this person’s reliable, I know they’re easy to work with, they can work with tight deadlines, I can get in contact with them easily. If you’re just available and positive and receptive, then I wanna work with you. Surprise!
LAUREN: This is actually how I get most of my work. Because if I spent all my time pitching brand-new editors and brand-new publications, I would go nuts. That takes a lot of time, time that I could be spending writing and making money.
So, most of the work that I do as a freelancer is for a couple different recurring clients. And the way I got those is just by being available, week after week for years, and so they always… Actually, I have a client who has a guarantee. They give me three articles a week that I can write for them. It’s very nice to have steady income, where I’m not constantly pitching.
AMELIA: Yeah. And that’s absolutely happened to me, too. For Neo, I started pitching features. I pitched features for a few months and they got accepted, and then the editor just said to me, “How would you like to review something next time?” And I was like, “Yeah, that’ll be absolutely fine.”
And so, I did reviews for a few months, and the deadlines were always really tight, and I had to work very hard to meet them. Sometimes it was like 48 hours. “Can you review this series you’ve never seen?” “Okay!”
MIRANDA: Oh, that’s… a lot. [laughs]
AMELIA: That has happened a few times, and I’m like, “Okay, I can do all-nighters. This is not a problem.” [laughs]
LAUREN: I think, though, with this we’re talking about the progression from a newbie freelance career to an intermediate or advanced freelance career. You start out pitching, trying to be polite, meeting people for the first time; every single time you pitch, it’s like your first interview. And then after a while, what most freelancers end up as is: one, they get a salaried job or maybe even get promoted to editor like Miranda; or they just become very recurring, so they’re not pitching constantly.
AMELIA: Yeah, ‘cause pitching is incredibly time-consuming. It’s absolutely your way in, but when I was full-time freelance writing, half my time was spent pitching, and I didn’t make enough to live on, even spending half my days pitching. I think that’s something people underestimate, is that there’s a lot of time you’re going to be working to sell yourself in the early days where you cannot generate revenue from that. You can’t make any money from that; you’re just pitching.
AMELIA: So, the actual time you have to work in a day and do stuff that does bring money in is limited by that. So, the sooner you can get that stage out of the way, the better.
LAUREN: Yeah, and the end goal isn’t, as some people think, to make $70 on this one feature and then maybe next week pitch another $70 feature. It’s more to get recurring work, to be on staff. Yeah, I’ve definitely gone from freelance to salaried before.
Now, my freelance is really only sustainable because I have all these recurring clients. And it’s taken years of just being there whenever they call, even though I’ve had multiple positions over the years, just building up a rapport over a really long time of being reliable and having like zero grammar problems.
LAUREN: And just generally being nice. They don’t care if I have bad opinions about anime, really. They’re just like, “Okay, is it on time?”
MIRANDA: Yeah, we certainly have those people at IGN who I can just think of off the top of my head who are reliable in that, over the course of a few years, that we’ve just continued to use more and more and more. And we use those certain people all the time because we know they will be reliable and that we can count on them for quality work. So, if you can get yourself there, good spot.
AMELIA: And you don’t have to be a paid writer to prove your reliability. So, something Lauren mentioned is running the Otaku Journalist blog for eight years. And you’ve updated that every week almost without fail, I believe, for those years.
LAUREN: Yeah, well, for the last—
AMELIA: [crosstalk] And you’ve had a regular schedule.
LAUREN: Yeah, for the last three years, I’ve updated twice a week, and then before that I updated it three times a week.
LAUREN: Then there’s been like two or three hiatuses in the eight-year history.
MIRANDA: [crosstalk] Wow.
LAUREN: So, people can go to that and be like, “Oh, it looks like Lauren knows how to keep a schedule,” even though the stakes are very low. Who’s gonna be mad if I don’t update Otaku Journalist? Really, just me. But even when the stakes are low, it shows that I know how to stick to a plan, how to research and post in a timely manner.
AMELIA: Yeah. And how to generate ideas, as well. I think that that’s something that shows. And you don’t need anything for this, right? You just need a WordPress blog.
AMELIA: Just get on there. Just start writing, figure out your own voice, figure out your perspective. And that’s something that I think we should maybe talk about a little bit, because for people from marginalized communities, you already have this unique perspective. It is so underrepresented.
There are a sea of blogs out there, anime blogs by cishet white guys. Absolutely tons. And you know some of them are gonna be more to your tastes than others, and some of them will click with you more than others. But you, just by who you are, instantly have a different perspective to that sea of blogs.
AMELIA: And so, I think—I scheduled to talk about this a little bit later—but imposter syndrome I think is worth addressing. I took five months to pitch my first article because I suffered from imposter syndrome so badly. And it was actually how I met Lauren.
AMELIA: [laughs] I got in touch and I said, “I need to get over imposter syndrome. Have you ever written on it?” And she was like, “Yes, absolutely I have.” And we became friends from there.
LAUREN: Oh, no, I’ve been freelance writing for years! I still have imposter syndrome, so you tell me how you find out how to get over it, let me know, too.
AMELIA: And you won’t. And that’s the thing that I think people need to realize, is you won’t get over imposter syndrome, but you can build up a little bit of confidence that you are marketable and that you have things that people want to hear. And a blog is a great way to do that.
So, don’t feel like you need to hold back from this or anything, and if you’re worried about the potential attention of a blog or anything like that, come and post through Anime Feminist. We will support and protect you as best we can. And then if you get a taste for it and if you like the response you get, maybe you can start your own blog off the back of that. We’d been more than happy to support you in that, too.
LAUREN: We publish people anonymously or pseudo-anonymously, as well.
AMELIA: Absolutely can. And so, I think we need to talk a little bit here about creating your own content through blogs, podcasts, YouTube, whatever, in such a way as you’re comfortable with, just as a way to give you that footprint, and that helps your foot in the door. You don’t need it. You can just approach editors as a nobody like I did and pitch, and with a good pitch you will get results—
MIRANDA: Sorry. To touch on that a little bit, at least for IGN, we do prefer people have samples.
MIRANDA: It is a little hard for us to just accept people who haven’t written before, just because it is a lot of teaching and, unfortunately, we just don’t have time for. Even though we are a bigger outlet, we don’t have as much staff as I think people think we have, and so a lot of our assigning editors or people who are in charge of freelancers like myself end up being incredibly busy.
And we do want some people who are just a little bit more proven. Even having a blog, you don’t necessarily have to be published by another publication. Just having something to show that you can write and that you can prove that you have the ability to write in complete sentences with good grammar and good spelling, is what we’re looking for, really.
AMELIA: I should say, actually, I say I came in as a complete nobody. I used samples from my blog at the time to demonstrate that.
MIRANDA: Yeah, just to narrow on that point a little bit, yes, you don’t have to have been published at some huge place, but also make sure you have something to show that you can write.
AMELIA: Absolutely. Again, it’s not a requirement for Anime Feminist. I think we’re quite unusual in that.
MIRANDA: [crosstalk] Yeah.
LAUREN: [crosstalk] Yes.
AMELIA: Every other publication I’ve pitched to has required experience. The reason is because we want to widen accessibility and opportunities for people from marginalized communities. That’s pretty unusual.
So, you can do whatever you can to build up your footprint through a blog, through your personal network, all of that.
LAUREN: And, Miranda, you don’t care if someone got paid for that clip.
MIRANDA: [crosstalk] No.
LAUREN: You just care if it has good grammar, spelling, shows that they know the topic?
MIRANDA: Yes. We wanna know that you can write, essentially, and write about an idea. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but we wanna know that we can work with you on creating something that will work for our site.
I have had in the past where I work with freelancers that just needed so much time. And it’s unfortunately just something that I can’t do. I can’t train you how to be a writer. But if you are just still learning or if you have a really solid foundation but still [need] help with some of your ideas, I’m really happy to help with that. And the idea of being an editor is making sure that I can help you clarify ideas and make your piece better. But I can’t help you start from scratch, essentially.
AMELIA: One thing that I’ve done before—because I’ve got freelance work outside anime as well, and I don’t have a blog for that, and I have no footprint whatsoever; I have no community—and what I ended up doing was actually writing samples specifically for that outlet and attaching them as my proof that I could write. Is that something that would work for you?
MIRANDA: That is wonderful. That’s great, yeah. [laughs]
MIRANDA: What you write doesn’t have to have been published. It’s just, like I said, something to show that you can write, so that we know we don’t have to just take your word for it because we can’t necessarily always do that.
AMELIA: Although your emails are a good indication, so don’t screw up the spelling in your emails, please. We have pitches like that where the spelling and grammar in the email is bad, and it’s like [inhales sharply], we wanna work with you, but like you say, you need to know that people have a baseline competence writing in English.
MIRANDA: Yeah. I actually really suggest that you use Google Chrome to install Grammarly.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Yeah! Yes!
MIRANDA: [crosstalk] That will help you a lot.
LAUREN: Oh, absolutely. I can’t believe how much that’s helped me.
AMELIA: Yeah, exactly the same.
MIRANDA: Me, too.
MIRANDA: You only have so much time to look over your own work.
AMELIA: In terms of the practicalities, just while we’re on that topic—so when somebody approaches a publication, how would you recommend they choose publication? Lauren, you do this for a living. How did you approach the publications that you did, to become a writer?
LAUREN: Hm, well, these days just about everyone that I write for now, I found through a private, invite-only Facebook group called Binders Full of Women Writers. I’m sure they started it after Mitt Romney said that dumb thing about binders full of women. And people will just post things, usually editors, will post something like, “I need people to pitch on this.” And I started pitching for different things.
And then once I get my foot in the door at any place, like I have a good experience writing one thing for them, I will keep pitching to that same place. It is so much better to pitch a place I’m already familiar with, that knows I did a good job last time, we worked fairly well together last time, than it is to convince a stranger, “Hey, you don’t know me, but let’s see if this works out.”
AMELIA: Yeah, there are certain people who, as soon as their name hits the AniFem inbox, I’m like, “Great, another article from them,” because I just know that they do good work.
MIRANDA: Yeah, I think that’s how we prefer it. We just would like to work with people that we know can, again, [unintelligible due to crosstalk]
LAUREN: [crosstalk] Yeah, it’s crazy ‘cause freelance is such an erratic, unpredictable job to choose for yourself, so a lot of it is creating your own stability by creating repetition in who you work for, creating repeated good performance in what you create, writing a lot about the same topic. Like I told you, I was willing to write for free for Japanator so I could show that I had written about this one topic before.
Now, let’s say I really wanted to break into music journalism; it’s my lifelong dream to interview musicians. Then, what I would do is I would start pitching music blogs for free. I would write for free, just so I have something, and then I would move on to, maybe, Pitchfork from there or Rolling Stone or whatever and be like, “Hey, this is what I’ve written. Here’s my interview with a local guitarist who plays at the Starbucks.”
Repeatedly writing about the same topic and how when you are trying to break into a new topic, you have this drive, but maybe nobody knows how good you are, how skilled you are, and that’s when I would recommend writing for free. That is the only time I would recommend working for free as a writer.
AMELIA: Value yourself, value your time, value your skills, and value your experience. Don’t let imposter syndrome win.
MIRANDA: [crosstalk] Yes, yes, yes.
LAUREN: [crosstalk] Like now, I’ve written about anime so much, of course I wouldn’t write about anime for free—unless it was for a very good cause.
AMELIA: Anime Feminist!
AMELIA: Once you’ve chosen your publication—I say, “your publication.” You do not just pitch to one publication. Pitch to many publications. If you wanna be a writer and you wanna make money out of that, throw the net wide. But approach each of them with a tailored pitch. So, how would you choose the topic to pitch to different publications or which topics to pitch on?
LAUREN: I’m guessing this is another question for me since I’m the one who has to do pitching.
AMELIA: Well, I mean, for Miranda as well, what comes across well to you when you read a pitch, in terms of the actual content of the pitch itself?
MIRANDA: I want something that’s relevant. That’s my big thing. A lot of times we see pitches for older topics, and with how our site runs we don’t really read the really old things unless it’s relevant for some reason in the news. So, that’s maybe a thing I would be less likely to respond to or just softly turn down if I have time, like, “Nah, that’s not really what we want or do.”
LAUREN: Hey, let’s walk through this, Miranda. I’ll pitch you, and you tell me why it is or isn’t relevant.
LAUREN: I wanna pitch you about Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3.
LAUREN: A very old game—
LAUREN: What console is that even on?
MIRANDA: Oh, man. Well, I know it was on PC back in the day.
LAUREN: And my reasoning, Miranda, is I really like the game.
MIRANDA: Ah, thank you.
LAUREN: [crosstalk] So, are you gonna approve this?
MIRANDA: No, thank you. [laughs]
LAUREN: Why not? Why not?
MIRANDA: It’s old. That’s the thing. What’s the punchline? Why does this matter, right now?
LAUREN: Okay, here’s another. Here’s a trickier one. I wanna write about P.T., that scary Kojima game.
LAUREN: And it’s October. But it came out last year, maybe two years ago. So, this is a trickier one.
MIRANDA: From there, I would be like, “Why P.T., if it’s old and people don’t have access to it anymore because you can’t download it unless you have a PS4 that already has P.T.?” Actually, at that point, I just wouldn’t even respond ‘cause it’s old. [laughs] Still, probably.
LAUREN: Yeah, but then I would then be like, “It’s almost Halloween!”
MIRANDA: There’s new horror games.
LAUREN: [crosstalk] I don’t know. Would you not even try to work with me on that? Like, “What if you made a list of ten best scary games, Lauren?”
LAUREN: [hums doubtfully]
MIRANDA: The idea here is also you wanna pitch an idea, not just saying you wanna write about something, too.
LAUREN: Yeah, that’s a good point.
MIRANDA: Unless it is, of course, a relevant thing. You can’t just say, “I wanna write about this thing.” Like, “That’s cool. Go write about it. I don’t know.”
LAUREN: Maybe I wanna write about Pokémon, and the twist is it’s Pokémon’s … 20th birthday. I have no idea how old Pokémon is.
AMELIA: [laughs] It’s a bit older than 20 years.
LAUREN: So, it’s like, “It’s old, but ooh, it’s timely again. We’ve suddenly found another hook.”
MIRANDA: Yeah! Yeah, so if you wanted to write about Pokémon Ultra Sun or Ultra Moon and you have a good opinion piece on, maybe, why it’s interesting that we have a follow-up the year after with some sort of updated story and you have an opinion on it, that’s awesome, ‘cause it’s just about to come out in November. Or October.
LAUREN: [crosstalk] Yeah, and it’s like, “Twenty years later, Pokémon’s still relevant to millennials because it lets us actually exchange money for goods and services [laughter] and take care of pets that we can’t fit into our tiny apartments.”
AMELIA: And what I think we need to make people aware of here is you’ve got to look at how websites make their money and how publications make their money. So, what Miranda’s talking about is “Why would somebody click?” Whereas our model is slightly different. We cater to our patrons, and we know the kind of content that our patrons want to see.
For example, anything, anything, that is about queer women and that is about anime featuring queer women or that queer women have become attached to, that does so well. So, for us, as long as it’s on that topic, it kinda doesn’t matter when it came out. But for Miranda that’s hugely important because—
MIRANDA: It just goes back to knowing the publication you’re pitching to, right? Because we have very different things we can approve. So, when it comes to me writing a piece, if I wanna write about an old anime that I like and I think I can think up a good headline for it, then I’m gonna do it because I get paid to work there and I can do what I want, kind of, if it’s on my own time. [laughs]
MIRANDA: [laughs] So, there’s the kicker there. It’s like, “I saw this thing happen.” “Yeah, but I can take those risks because I’m not paying someone extra to do this.” But when I’m paying somebody for a piece, then I need to note or at least hope that it will do well, ‘cause I’m taking a bet on it and saying, “Hey, I’m using our company’s budget to approve this thing.”
Whereas if I’m writing it, I can a little bit more risks because I’m not paying someone extra to do it. I’m doing it in addition to my other work. Definitely know who you’re pitching to.
AMELIA: Yeah, and understanding that your writing is commercial. Your writing is something that you are selling. We have this whole rhetoric around writers as artists, and there is absolutely a place for that, but if you’re freelancing, that’s probably not the place.
So, you need to understand that your writing is a product and you’re pitching it to a company, and they want to be able to sell it and make money from it. So, understanding that commercial basis and approaching publications with that in mind, I think, is really important, and it’s something that not everyone does.
Even with AniFem, like I say, our patrons, they have different criteria. Because we are only funded through Patreon, we have different criteria for the kinds of pieces that we will pick up on. But we still have a case of people approaching us and saying, “I want to write about this because this is important to me.”
An easy example—and this has happened a few times; this isn’t anyone in particular—but we’ll get men emailing us and saying, “I want to talk about my experiences as a man in anime fandom.” It’s like, “Okay, I understand why you want to talk about this, but that’s not gonna work with our patrons.” And I think that it wouldn’t take a lot of work to figure out that that’s more on the self-indulgent side. I’m sorry, guys, if that comes across as rude, but that is how it seems.
LAUREN: Amelia, I know for a fact that you will fast-forward things if they are timely, too.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] We absolutely will.
LAUREN: [crosstalk] Timeliness definitely makes a difference in whether people are interested in it.
AMELIA: If you write something on a currently airing anime or on a simulpubbed manga or on something that’s hit headlines recently for whatever reason with ANN or Crunchyroll, yes, we will absolutely wanna ride that wave and get some more attention, because even though I say “We write for our patrons,” we also want more patrons and we want more people to pay us money. We wanna increase our audience. So, yeah, if there’s a social media wave we can ride, a wave of attention, we will absolutely wanna do that.
MIRANDA: Ooh, I also have a good request for potential pitchers. If you can write a solid headline and include that in your pitch, that’d be awesome.
AMELIA: I hate writing headlines.
LAUREN: [crosstalk] I love writing headlines, but once people know you’re good at writing headlines, you become The Headline Girl.
LAUREN: Just saying.
MIRANDA: That’s the hardest part, and it’s so important.
AMELIA: It’s really hard, and I kind of assumed that I could send stuff off and I wouldn’t have to write headlines, and then the editor would send it back and say, “Great! Just add a headline!” [laughs] And I’m like [groans].
But for print media, it doesn’t matter quite as much, so I’ve been able to get away with it a little bit. And The Mary Sue changed my titles pretty much every time, so that really didn’t matter. So, don’t put too much importance on it. Just be aware that it’s something you need to try.
LAUREN: Yeah, for one—Mm-hm.
MIRANDA: Oh, sorry. For us, it’s super important. If you don’t have a good headline, they probably won’t approve your pitch.
AMELIA: [gasps] [crosstalk] Okay, that’s interesting.
MIRANDA: [crosstalk] Even internally, they’re like, “Okay, but what’s your headline?” That’s just how focused our—searches and just how our audience reacts to things. And that’s just really, really important for us. So if you can come up with a good headline in your pitch—it’s not necessarily a requirement, but if you can do that, then that makes you way more appealing.
AMELIA: That’s really interesting. I had no idea.
MIRANDA: Yeah, it’s incredibly important.
LAUREN: It took me a long time to be allowed to write my own headlines for Forbes. I didn’t have approval, and that’s why you would see a lot of my pieces with headlines that didn’t quite reflect what the piece was about but were very sensational, like “Trump Supporters Masturbate to Anime” or something. And that was not really what the piece was about, but of course the title was what shared everywhere.
MIRANDA: [crosstalk] Oh, dear.
LAUREN: I don’t know. I had an editor who told me that “sensational” is a good word and we should want to write sensational news.
MIRANDA: [crosstalk] No…
LAUREN: Because that’s the same as news that’s newsworthy, news that’s—
MIRANDA: [crosstalk] Oh, no. [laughs]
LAUREN: —worth reading.
MIRANDA: [shaky] Okay! [laughs]
LAUREN: But this was my same editor who said, when I asked him, “Do you want quality or quantity?” because he had me write five to seven articles a day, and he said, “I want ‘qualanity!’ I want seven articles a day, and they better all be quality.”
AMELIA: Oh, no.
LAUREN: Yeah, so, you know…
AMELIA: Seven articles a day?
LAUREN: Yeah, I was physically ill by the end of that job. [laughs]
MIRANDA: Wow. [laughs]
AMELIA: That’s unsustainable.
LAUREN: Yeah, it burns you out. You have to think about the place you’re pitching. Is that somewhere you want to write, as well? Sometimes people ask for recommendations from me, and I’m like, “Yes, but do you want to work here? Are you aware of what it’s like to be a writer here? Are you aware what they pay and what your output has to be every time you’re on the clock? Do you want that? If you want that, I will recommend you.”
AMELIA: Let’s talk about that a little bit. Let’s talk about money, ‘cause I think people don’t know what to expect on that score. We obviously don’t need to share specifics. I can for Anime Feminist, but I know that, Miranda, you may not be in a position to share that kind of thing. But we can talk ballpark figures.
For Anime Feminist, we pay $50 a feature, and we’ve been paying $20 for reviews. Not externally. That is team-only; that’s premiere reviews only. We often get people pitching us reviews. I’m like, “We don’t really do reviews outside premieres”—yet, because we can’t afford to pay everyone for everything—so we’d rather prioritize features.
These numbers, they’re low, but they’re within what I’ve experienced from professional publications. And we actually had a conversation in the team at the very, very beginning, when it was a bigger team, actually. And there were a number of people in there who had freelancing experience, and we batted out around numbers for a bit and said, “You know what? $50 is a fair starting rate for this publication.”
I have been paid significantly less at other publications that have been going significantly longer. And I think that’s something that people need to expect, is that the numbers will not blow you away.
LAUREN: When I get paid for anime writing, it is really just for my pride, to be like, “Okay, I am a paid writer for this publication.”
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Yes!
LAUREN: It is a pittance, but it lets me say, “No, I don’t write for free… about anything.” But for my technical writing and my writing for my long-term clients, I usually make $300 an article.
AMELIA: That’s it. And I think if you want to be a self-sustaining full-time freelance writer, you cannot do that through anime alone. Not freelancing. The money isn’t there, so you need to… Oh, Miranda, sorry. Go ahead.
MIRANDA: [crosstalk] Sorry. Yeah, whenever I was freelancing, that was definitely the part-time job to my part-time job [laughs] in school. This is the thing I would do to make a little extra money, but it’s mostly there to prove that I want to do this thing for a living.
AMELIA: Absolutely. Even now, the writing that I do now—there are publications that I’ve written for and never invoiced. The Mary Sue is one of them, so I got plenty of flack off articles for that and I never even got paid for it.
MIRANDA: Oh, geez!
AMELIA: They’re not the only ones, though. I’m just really, really bad at invoicing.
LAUREN: Yeah, you have to be really good at invoicing if you wanna be a freelancer. You are the only person who will make sure you get paid. The Mary Sue’s not gonna call you up and be like, “Hey! Just checking if you got paid.” Not because they’re mean, but because they have so much they’re dealing with.
AMELIA: Exactly. No, no, no, it’s 100% my responsibility, and I’ve fallen down on that responsibility for multiple publications. This is one reason amongst many that I’m not a freelance writer anymore, except for a few publications that contact me to write for them, not vice versa.
So, that’s fine. I’m happy to carry on that because, as you say, it’s something that I love and it’s a bit of prestige for me. It keeps my hand in the game. But even then, it’s pocket money. It’s just a little bit on the side. If you wanna make an actual living from it, you have to understand that you’ll be doing corporate writing—
AMELIA: —as your main job.
LAUREN: I was just thinking, Amelia. My anime writing that makes the most money is where I’m my own boss and I use affiliate links on Amazon.
LAUREN: For my site, Gunpla 101, I make up to $1000 a month. And I usually write like two to three articles a month or less about, like, that Gundams are cool.
And I found a different way to supplement that. It’s a different model of earning. Instead of having an editor look at my work and approve my work, I have to follow the Amazon guidelines and make sure that I’m not breaking their guidelines in the way that they want to promote and sell products on their site.
So, there’s always a boss, I guess. There’s always somebody you have to respond to. But there are more ways to make money as a freelancer than going through a publication.
AMELIA: This seems like a really good note to wrap up the podcast on, so let’s just look a little bit at alternative methods to get there.
We’ve talked about pitching. Pitching is a really conventional way to do it. But, as you’ve mentioned, Amazon affiliate links have given you a decent stream of income. AniFem works on Patreon. That’s not the way the professional publications tend to work. I think Nick Creamer, he freelances for anime only?
LAUREN: Yes! He is one of the only people just writing about anime to make a living. He has Patreon, Crunchyroll, Anime News Network…
AMELIA: And he also has—I think what he does is he gets people to pay for specific projects. I think I’ve paid him for a project before, and he says, “If enough people chip in, then this is what I’ll do.” And I think he just does that through PayPal. But he’ll say, “Do you want me to do a retrospective on this series?” And people say yes, and it works.
LAUREN: What he’s done is very impressive, but you can tell that it takes him a lot of work.
AMELIA: It takes him a lot of work, and I don’t think he—sorry, Nick, to speculate—I don’t think he makes that much out of it.
LAUREN: [crosstalk] You don’t think he makes 200,000 a year?
AMELIA: I don’t think he makes 200,000 a year.
MIRANDA: [crosstalk] Wow, I wish I made 200,000 a year. [laughs]
AMELIA: I think we all do. I wish we made 200,000 a year between us. That would be pretty nice, as well. I think that he makes enough to live off, but I don’t know how many costs are subsidized behind the scenes or anything like that, like does he live in a low-rent area, anything like that. We don’t know.
LAUREN: We need to get him on the podcast. But I was wondering, Miranda, do you make your entire living writing about video games and anime?
LAUREN: Living the dream!
MIRANDA: I am very, very lucky to have gotten my job. And like I said, I got to finagle anime in there, and it’s worked out really well, and it’s actually made me pretty valuable at IGN just since they didn’t really have that before, so I’ve been—
AMELIA: I want to challenge that, Miranda. To say that you’ve been lucky, that’s completely against everything we’ve said here.
MIRANDA: That’s true. I’m not just lucky. I also worked incredibly hard since fifth grade to get this job. [laughs]
AMELIA: Absolutely. And if that’s your aim, absolutely that is something that you can do. I know that you can pitch publications like ANN and Crunchyroll, and they do take on permanent employees.
MIRANDA: [crosstalk] They do, yeah.
AMELIA: I think Frog-kun now is an employee of Anime News Network, a Japan correspondent. Started off as a blog, a very well-kept blog for many years.
MIRANDA: Quite a few of our recent hires on editorial have been from freelance. Not all, but a lot of them have gone through our freelancer pool. And of course, we’re also just looking for a good applicant. I think we actually have a few positions open right now. I know we’re looking for a Nintendo editor and some other things.
But, just to quickly note, IGN also does have a freelancer application. So, instead of just applying, we also look for people that we can rely on for, maybe, news. As opposed to necessarily pitching all the time, sometimes we’ll pitch things to our freelancers and be like, “Hey, would you be interested in writing about this?”
Going back to Lauren’s thing about having people who are accountable and regular, we really want that. If you just look up “IGN freelance application” in Google, you’ll find it; it’s a Formstack. And if you do apply for that, just ping me. If it’s specifically for anime, let me know because I think those just go to our assigning editors and I don’t receive those emails. But if you are interested specifically about freelancing about anime for IGN, just let me know.
AMELIA: And say you heard it here.
AMELIA: That would be amazing to know.
LAUREN: And make the title of the email “Princess Banana Hammock.” [laughs]
LAUREN: No, don’t.
MIRANDA: Don’t do that. But I’ll know. [laughs] Yeah, maybe don’t do that on the application, though. [laughs]
LAUREN: That was definitely one of the more bizarre “check if the freelancers are paying attention”—
MIRANDA: Yeah, that’s so good!
LAUREN: —signals I’ve ever gotten.
AMELIA: [laughs] Lauren, you do take on writers for Gunpla, right?
LAUREN: Yeah! I pay $40 an article, almost all the time, and I base that on—I do a lot of checking of the analytics and how much I can expect to earn. I accept pitches, and I also accept reviews.
Really, the most important thing for me—I will work with their writing as much as I need to, as long as they’re a good photographer, because what sells Gunpla on my site is good photos of Gunpla. I have a contributor who has two children under two. Like, “I’ll basically write this; just take the pictures.” [laughs]
AMELIA: [laughs] So, there’s plenty of people around that you can pitch to, and I think it is very important just to start pitching. Don’t be too perfectionist about it; get it to a point where it’s a solid standard and send it off, and then—
LAUREN: [crosstalk] Be perfectionist about grammar.
AMELIA: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Be perfectionist about spelling, grammar, and also make sure that it is tailored to the publication. Meet all these things that I would consider hygiene. This is basic stuff. But once you’ve met those foundational criteria, let it go.
And then, if you don’t hear back, follow up with more pitches. Wait a decent amount of time—I’d say you’d want to wait a couple of weeks at least—but then follow up with more pitches. Don’t follow up to ask repeatedly, “Are you gonna get back to my one set of pitches?” You can follow up once, maybe twice, but then let it go and just offer them something fresh.
MIRANDA: Yes, and also be conscious of the time you’re pitching, as well. Certain seasons are more busy than others, for certain. We are about to get into the super-duper busy time. So, yeah … [laughs]
AMELIA: That’s true for all of us, isn’t it, ‘cause the new anime season’s kicking off?
AMELIA: So, we’re gonna have premiere reviews for two, three weeks, and Dee, who manages the site now, she’s gonna be writing those reviews, so she’s gonna be under a fair amount of pressure to do that, and that is more time-sensitive, and your pitch can wait. If you don’t hear back, there are very good reasons why.
AMELIA: Is there anything else that you would give as advice, either of you, at this point? Any final thoughts that you want to impart, anything you want to particularly emphasize while we sign off?
MIRANDA: [crosstalk] Just be a good person.
LAUREN: Yeah! I was about to say something similar, which is “Be professional,” professional in the way that I am, where sometimes I will retweet hentai.
LAUREN: But I mean professional in a way that I do not burn bridges and I stay topical and I don’t say negative things about other people. And certainly not about my employers.
MIRANDA: That’s incredibly important.
LAUREN: Being professional when you write about anime or games is a little different, but there are just some common sense rules. Really, it boils down to what Miranda said, “Be a good person.”
MIRANDA: We’ve definitely let go of freelancers who’ve said very inappropriate things about our editors or about our publication on social media or boards even. We find those things. [laughs] Not fun.
AMELIA: Yeah. We’ve had people pitch us who have previously slated us on social media. [laughs] They’ll say these terrible things about us and then, a few months later, they’re like, “Hey, I’ve got a pitch for you.” And it’s like, “I’m so not interested.” [laughs]
I think my final thing, it would be imposter syndrome. Recognize when you’re dealing with imposter syndrome, and do the very best you can to push it to one side and just do the work. Because as soon as you push through and you start getting some success, that’ll give you the tools that you need to be able to push it aside more easily next time.
It shouldn’t have taken me five months to pitch my first article. And that was accepted pretty much immediately, by the way. It was just a matter of getting over my own insecurities. Don’t let your own insecurities stop you from doing something that is so accessible. It’s so practical.
There’s so much advice out there for pitching. We’ve just given you a lot of advice. I think we’re all available to answer any more specific questions you may have. So, don’t let yourself stop yourself.
MIRANDA: [crosstalk] One thing that I want to follow up on that is when you do get a pitch accepted and if you do receive your piece back with a ton of red marks, do not panic. That’s okay. Just for new freelancers.
I remember when I first started pitching, and I was just doing news, and then I moved on to doing reviews. And I sent a pitch, and it was accepted, and I was so excited. And then I wrote the review, and I got it back and I had a panic attack. [laughs] So, don’t worry about it. It’s gonna be okay.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Oh, no!
LAUREN: Yeah! It used to hurt my feelings so much. Like, “Wait, I have a master’s in journalism. Why is this happening?” But there’s such a learning curve every time you’re working for a new publication. They have their own style and idiosyncrasies. And I was like, “I read the AP Stylebook!” It’s not about that.
MIRANDA: [crosstalk] “I followed all the rules!” Yeah, sometimes people just like to have their writers write a specific way or they don’t like certain phrasing. For example, for our reviews, if you write “the game,” our reviews editor gets so mad. Never write “the game,” ever.
LAUREN: I work for a publication right now that does not let me use “you,” such as “You don’t want this to happen.” They just refuse. And it doesn’t mean that’s wrong. That’s not grammatically incorrect. It’s just not what this client wants.
AMELIA: I know there are some publications that I will write reviews for and they’ll be comfortable with me writing first person, and other publications will not, and they will have their own styles. I think the most editing I’ve ever done, though, has been for editorial vision, and that’s something you have no control over.
Lauren, you know this because you’ve been on the receiving end of it. We worked really hard on your Keijo!!!!!!!! post.
AMELIA: And we spent a lot of time on that.
LAUREN: Mm-hm, and it didn’t mean that I’m a bad writer.
AMELIA: No, absolutely not, but it meant that I wanted the piece to accomplish something quite specific—
LAUREN: [crosstalk] It went through several rewrites and—
AMELIA: Not because the first incarnation was a bad piece, but I kind of knew what kind of message I wanted it to send on behalf of Anime Feminist, ‘cause, again, you’re writing as a product that we’re selling.
I wanted it to fit something, but I clearly hadn’t figured out quite the right way to communicate that to you, and that took a little time. And then when we got it, it was so satisfying and it did so well, and all of that time was worth it. And every time I’ve spent a significantly—
LAUREN: [crosstalk] Yeah, it took three rounds. And what if I had been like, “Amelia, I have been writing professionally for eight years, and I’m really good, and I’m leaving.” We would’ve never had anything. You can’t let your ego get in the way, because it’s usually not about you or your particular skills. It’s about accomplishing an editorial vision, meeting the style of the publication.
AMELIA: You have no control over these things, and the only way that they can communicate it to you is by you learning the hard way.
MIRANDA: And then, whenever you get that piece back, you just do your best to learn from those edits. Always learn from your edits. Edits are a good thing.
AMELIA: They are a good thing, and the fact that they’re willing to take that time on you is a good sign.
LAUREN: [crosstalk] Absolutely.
AMELIA: [crosstalk] So, if you get that page of red marks or you get that request for a rewrite, that means that they’re willing to take the time to look at your work again, and they won’t say, “You know what, I don’t think this is gonna work out after all,” which is always an option. And it’s an option I’ve used once or twice, when I can’t see a way to shape the piece into what we’ve wanted.
But as a result, we’ve actually changed our entire process so that we get more clarity at the outline stage. Even then, it was not the writer’s fault; it wasn’t a bad sign. And we’ve since made lots of efforts to continue working with that writer. Really don’t take it personally, at all.
LAUREN: That’s what a theme of this podcast has been. Freelance writing: it’s not really about you when you don’t get a response to your pitch or you get a lot of red marks or you don’t hear anything at all. [laughs]
AMELIA: [crosstalk] I think it’s, again, because we have—
LAUREN: [crosstalk] It’s just editors are busy and tired and mad. [laughs]
AMELIA: I do think it’s because we have this rhetoric of the writer as the artist. I think that’s really easy to absorb, but it doesn’t have a place in this particular area of writing for money. Freelancing is so commercial, and it’s so impersonal, and it is so much more about marketing yourself and your work than it is about artistry.
If you get to a point where you build up enough of a footing with a publication that you can pitch them something that is more of a passion project and it is a bit more self-indulgent, you think maybe it won’t do so well commercially, but because you’ve earned your spot, you can maybe pitch it to them as “This is something I really believe in, and I think the people who do read it will love it.” You may have a bit of leeway at that point. But you have to work up to get to that point.
So, should we wrap it up?
MIRANDA: [unintelligible due to crosstalk] before I bring up another thing. [laughs]
AMELIA: We all have other things to say, but like I said we’re all on— Is Twitter the best place to contact us with questions, or would email be better? What do you …?
MIRANDA: Definitely Twitter for me.
LAUREN: Twitter for me, too. I’m @laureninspace.
AMELIA: Same for me. I’m @ActuallyAmelia.
MIRANDA: [crosstalk] I’m @HavokRose, and that’s “havok” with a K ‘cause I was a stupid 13-year-old. [chuckles]
AMELIA: I think there’s a whole generation of people who have these professional personas under their Twitter handles they picked when they were thirteen.
MIRANDA: Yeah, let’s not talk about it. [laughs]
AMELIA: So, you can tweet any of us with questions. We’ll be more than happy to help. I know my DMs are open. Maybe Lauren’s and Miranda’s are, too. But just get in touch, especially if you’re not a cishet white guy and you wanna get into this field and you just feel like it’s not accessible.
MIRANDA: [crosstalk] Yes, please!
AMELIA: [crosstalk] Please do get in touch, because I really want to impress upon you that it is absolutely open to you and you are as capable as anyone else. And if you’re a cishet white guy doing this, as well, you are more than welcome to contact me, too, but you probably need a little less support in this area, if my experience is anything to go by.
So, I will wrap it up there. Thank you so much, both of you, for participating, and to everyone for listening. You can find more of our work on www.animefeminist.com. You can find us on Twitter @AnimeFeminist. You can find us on Facebook, facebook.com/animefem, and Tumblr, animefeminist.tumblr.com.
We do have a Patreon, which we have discussed this episode in great detail. That’s patreon.com/animefeminist. All of the money that we raise is used to pay the people who work on the site, including our writers, administrators, editors, audio editors. It is all about making sure that people get paid for their work.
So, if you believe in this, too, and you like what we do and you can spare a dollar a month, it really does add up, so please go to patreon.com/animefeminist. And if you can send us $5 a month, you’ll get access to the AniFem-only Discord to be able to speak to other people in our community. So, please, patreon.com/animefeminist. Send us whatever you can afford to support our work.
Thank you so much, again, to Lauren and Miranda for joining me today, and if you have any further questions on this one, please do get in touch. We would love to hear from you.
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