Archive for the ‘Writing for the Media’ category

The Newest Market

March 17, 2008

Publishers everywhere are trying to figure out how to ‘get into’ the new media market. E books, blogs, etc. are attracting new generations of readers and in some cases replacing the role books used to play in our society. The best example is probably sites like dictionary.com – who used to go to college without a dictionary? Now students just hop online; who needs the physical book

It’s like Alexandra Erin, who maintains Pagesunbound.com said, “it’s a very simple equation: if money is being lost to free content, then that’s where the money is.

Today on Booksquare there is a great article. It states that contrary to the panic-position that less people are reading, the newer generations may actually be reading more. Included in the article are some ways that publishers are seriously behind – markets that are being run by fans and fanatics, rather then being exploited by publishers.

The position she doesn’t consider is that from a publisher’s view point, as long as the sites exist they are free advertising. The moment publishers create similar sites they are suddenly paying someone to run the site and adding to their own workload, and the sites are rarely create a direct form of income. Production departments across the board are looking at these sites and trying to generate buzz about their work on them; at least the major publishers are, so they are aware that those markets exist. But I think that their lack of direct involvement in the creation of such sites shows that they don’t believe that running the sites themselves (or similar sites) would actually generate more profit.

That’s is the biggest problem with the internet from a big business viewpoint – how do you use it to make money? The web requires giving away the content that you traditionally generated revenue from.

When that dilemma is  solved, I think we will see an immediate surge of publishing companies jumping feet first into the virtual world.

Newspaper Project

March 7, 2008

I recently had the opportunity to act a project manager for the production of a 21 page newspaper. The paper, a project for my Writing for the Media Class, involved coordinating 7 classmates, who were each editor of their own section and responsible for submitting 2-3 stories for each other’s sections.

The majority of the students in our group were international students; we wanted to use this to our advantage so we choose to write a paper targeted towards the international base on Manhattanville’s campus.

My group choose me to be the project manger; I was responsible for setting deadlines for the project, which we had a little under 2 weeks to complete. As part of the group, I was also responsible for generating 3 articles of my own.

Our first group meeting we decided on sections, designated who would edit each section, and began to generate article ideas. The next meeting we came up with our title: Beyond Boarders. We discussed layout and decided on the number of columns, etc. For ideas we turned to the campus paper, The Touchstone, and looked at the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today.

Publishing the paper did not go as smoothly as we might have hoped. It took quite a bit of force feeding on my part to make everyone meet their deadlines.

In addition to being project manager, I was responsible for the layout of the paper. I created the paper in Quark Xpress. The final paper is attached below; it takes a long time to download since it is so long, but in the end it came out really well and the project got an A.

Beyond Borders

Where, oh where does it go?

February 27, 2008

GREAT! Someone has shown interest in what you wrote, and you’ve finally gotten something other then a rejection letter. (Note – I say “something other then a rejection letter” NOT an acceptance letter. There is still a lot of work left to be done before you get an “acceptance” letter.)

First you and your editor will probably send a flurry of emails back and forth; you’ll re-write and re-write your article or book piece by piece. Finally, you’ll get the actual acceptance letter – your editor will say ‘this is it’ and you will be done.

But what happens next? You sit back and you wait … and you wait … and it may seem like it’s taking forever,  but you’re piece of writing is going through a long process.

After a piece is excepted, it will go through several levels of editing. You will likely be involved in the general content editing – anything from moving around paragraphs to cutting out chapters (or adding them). Then your manuscript will go to copy-editing where someone will look at every comma or period. Next, it goes to a proof reader, who makes sure that all the copy edits have been input correctly and checks it over one last time.

While these things are going on the design department is busy. They are coming up with a ‘look’ for your piece. For books, this means a cover; for magazine articles this means a page layout. If the piece is a book, the marketing department is also considering the best way to get your project ‘out there;’ they are working on a marketing strategy. The sales team is reading a copy and getting briefed so they can start selling the book to stores.

Once design is done and everything is edited, you will likely receive a final ‘proof’ this is your chance to check it over. Big changes at this point will mean big delays, so try and keep alterations to a minimum. In a magazine environment, the page will pass through a many many hands and everyone will initial. The idea in publishing is that the more eyes that look at something, the smaller the chance of a mistake going into print.

Finally, after what may seem like forever, you piece appears in print. You, my friend, can now say you are a published author.  (Please realize this is a general overview; I didn’t get into the nitty-gritty. If you would like more details on what happens to your manuscript check out Book Production Procedures by Fred Dahl.)

I thought I’d done the hard part – I wrote it, now what?

February 26, 2008

Many writers spend hours working on a piece – be it a book or an article – but you don’t know what to do with it once it’s done. The process is a little different, of course, with books and articles, but the process is similar enough to give a general over view.

Okay – so you’ve finished your masterpiece (or you have an idea for one). Now you need to figure out how you’re going to get it into print. In the case of a article, the best way is to ‘query’ a potential magazine or newspaper that publishes things like yours. When I said ‘like yours’ you want to analyze similarity based on not only topic, but also length and type – for example if you have a 800 word piece that profiles a cusine expert, you want to make sure that the publication you’re targeting accepts 800 word profiles.

If you’re writing a book, generally you want to draft a book proposal; if you have an agent, they will help you with this. If not, it is a general idea of what your book is about and why the publisher should publish it. Like with an article, you want to make sure that the publishing companies you’re targeting are appropriate. Don’t send a fantasy novel to Columbia University Press! (They don’t do profile books either). Review the companies websites carefully.

An easy way to find appropriate venues that might publish you is to look through Writer’s Market. They list publishing companies and magazines with descriptions of what they publish, who to contact, and an idea how much they pay.

Once you send in you’re piece, be patient. If you don’t hear back right away, chances are your editor is swamped and might not have even looked at the piece yet. They can’t decide it’s amazing until after they look at it, after all.

Just a point to remember (I’m stealing this from a writing book, though from memory and I can’t re which one): Editors WANT to publish you. They want your idea to be amazing when they open it, so that they can be the one to say “look what I found.” They want to discover the next great writer – so give it to them!

Is the Inverted News Story “old news?”

February 8, 2008

Critics says the inverted pyramid news story is “old news.” TV and broadcast media deliver news much faster then newspapers. Therefore newspapers should not be as concerned with getting information to readers quickly; instead they should focus on conveying information more completely and more accurately.

In order to form an opinion you have to look at the benefits of this structure.

First, it allows the reader quick access to important information. They can then judge for themselves if it is relevant and if they want to continue reading. Without a clearly defined ‘lede’ readers would have to read the majority of the piece to discover if it affected them.

Magazines generally don’t require their pieces to be written in inverted format; but you have to consider: a reader knows the type of stories in the magazine when they pick it up. They are reading because they are already interested in that topic.

Newspapers, on the other hand, cover a wide variety of news. If a story started out with “Even in the West, the scandal would be juicy” (Newsweek, 1/28 p9) it would be much more difficult to establish if the topic was one of interest to a reader. We don’t know from that opening sentence that the story is about newscaster Hu Ziwei denouncing her husband publically for an affair at a gala for the Chinese State-run TV network’s Olympics coverage. It could just as easily be about anything scandelous, being done by anyone anywhere (outside of the “West”).

The format also allows for easy editing. Because important information is listed at the top, editors can assume that information at the bottom is ‘less important’ without having to know everything about the topic. It also allows a reader to move easily and quickly through the article.

Now, the big question is how do TV, Radio and other broadcast media influence all this?

My opinion is they haven’t. TV, Radio and other broadcast media may deliver news quicker – but TV and Radio news shows run at certain times, while a newspaper can be picked up at any point during the day. Newspapers can be referred to multiple times. They can be skimmed. TV and Radio broadcasts require the viewer or listener to watch/hear the whole program. Often, individual stories are only given short time slots, and if you miss it it’s gone. Newspapers allow readers choices. They are tangible. You can cut out a favorite or interesting story: you can’t do this with TV.

I don’t think there is anything to be gained by giving up the inverted news format, except that writers could be lazier. It would be easier for them to just organize their stories any which way. Readers would lose the ability to quickly skim the tops of articles to decide what interested them.

I think that if papers gave up  the inverted structure they would be giving up the one advantage they have over other media forms. Readers LIKE having choices. They like being able to skip things that bore them to tears. They like being able to read the story about their neighbor’s cousin’s sister now and the story about Iraq later. The strict structure of newspapers gives the readers options – it is the newspaper industries biggest strength.