Equipping Writers for Success
The Writing Life
The Writing Life
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by Moira Allen
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One solution is to develop an online portfolio -- an author Web site where you can post your "clips." Then, you can simply refer editors to that page for samples of your work. (Always give them the option, of course, of requesting clips by surface mail as well!)
An online portfolio works very much like a physical portfolio. It should be attractive, easy to peruse, and representative of your best work. If you know a little HTML, it is easy to create such a page yourself; if you don't, you'll find a number of services online that will create a low-cost author page from a set of standard templates. You can also host your page on a site like SFF.net, which offers page development assistance, or on a free site (many of which offer templates).
Most clip sites open with an attractive home page that includes the name of the author, a brief bio, perhaps a photo, and links to the clips themselves. Some authors include a more extensive bio page or even a resume or curriculum vitae. If you include more than a paragraph of biographical material, make this a separate page. The site should also include contact information.
Many authors use portfolio sites not simply to show off a range of clips, but to demonstrate their expertise in a particular area. For example, someone who writes about pets might develop a site not just to showcase his or her pet articles, but to serve as a general pet information resource on the Web. The advantage to creating a "resource" (rather than just a portfolio) is that you'll be able to encourage other sites on related topics to link to you -- and thus possibly attract the attention of editors in that subject area even before you send them a query!
Here are some things to keep in mind when posting clips:
1) Make sure that you have the right to post the material. If you've sold all rights to a piece, or all electronic rights, or exclusive electronic rights, you may not "own" the right to post the material on your own site. While selling all rights to an article doesn't preclude you from mailing a clip, posting that material on a Web site is often considered a form of "publication," which your contract may prohibit. Some publications (print or electronic) make exceptions for personal Web sites, but others don't. If you have any doubts, check with the editor or publication that originally published the piece.
2) Post only your best material. Don't ask editors to wade through a mass of unrelated articles, and don't post everything you've ever written since that first essay in your high-school newsletter. Think about the types of clips you'd select to mail to an editor; those are the clips you want on your site!
3) If possible, post the material in HTML format. Try to post an electronic version of the edited article -- i.e., the version that was actually published, rather than your original manuscript. The published article may have been significantly changed from your original submission. If you don't have an electronic file of that version, ask your editor; often, the editor will be able to send you the final, published file. (A final alternative, of course, is to retype the clip from the published version.)
4) If you must scan a clip, save it as a PDF file rather than as a JPEG. While a JPEG can be viewed online, an online image of an entire magazine page will require considerable memory (thus taking a long time to upload) and won't give as crisp an image as a PDF file. A PDF file enables the editor to see the clip just as it was published. See the sidebar for some options to help you convert a file to PDF. (Keep in mind, when scanning clips, that an article may contain copyrighted material that doesn't belong to you, such as photos, sidebars, etc. While I have not yet heard any actual cases of complaints about including "everything" on a scanned clip, this is an issue to be aware of.)
5) Link to clips that are posted on other sites. If your work has been published online, either by an e-zine or by a print publication that posts or archives material on the Web, consider linking to that publication directly rather than posting the clip on your own site. By doing so, you enable the editor to view the clip in context -- i.e., within the publication in which it actually appeared.
6) Provide full publication details for every clip. List the publication in which the clip appeared, and the date. You might also wish to include a link to the publication, if it has a Web site.
7) Include copyright information on every clip page. Each page should clearly state that the material on the page is copyrighted (in your name) and cannot be used or reprinted without your permission. Make sure that anyone interested in reprinting your materials can contact you easily.
8) Organize your clips by subject or category. Consider what types of editors you might be referring to your clip page, and organize your clips accordingly. Create a table of contents for each category, and a master table of contents that links to the various categories. If you have only a few clips in each category (or only a few categories), your master table of contents could include both the categories and the titles of the clips.
Finally, keep in mind that a clip site should be just that: a site that displays your previously published work. Don't waste your time posting unpublished articles in hopes that an editor will surf by and decide to buy them; it rarely happens. In the first place, editors receive more than enough material through ordinary channels and don't feel the need to go out hunting for more. In the second place, most editors aren't going to be interested in articles that you've written with no particular market in mind; they want to know that you've reviewed their publication and targeted their audience specifically. Articles posted "for sale" on a Web site clearly don't meet that criteria.
Originally published in The Writer.
Moira Allen is the editor of Writing-World.com, and has written nearly 400 articles, serving as a columnist and regular contributor for such publications as The Writer, Entrepreneur, Writer's Digest, and Byline. An award-winning writer, Allen is the author of eight books, including Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer, The Writer's Guide to Queries, Pitches and Proposals, and Writing to Win: The Colossal Guide to Writing Contests. In addition to Writing-World.com, Allen hosts VictorianVoices.net, a growing archive of articles from Victorian periodicals, and The Pet Loss Support Page, a resource for grieving pet owners. She lives in Maryland with her husband and the obligatory writer's cat. She can be contacted at editors "at" writing-world.com.