Topic: The Freelance Marketplace: Connecting Writers and Editors
Thursday 6th April 2006. Conference Report from Jenny Argante for Tauranga Writers
The night before Richard, staying over, had soundly thrashed me at Scrabble. He was playing by American rules, and using chemical symbols, or he’d never have done it. I went to bed thoroughly disgruntled. Getting up predawn didn’t help, but there we both were, climbing into Natasha’s car at 5.30 a.m. and heading off for Auckland.
On April 6th we bowled along merrily until we neared the City of Sails. If the local council wants to check why Tauranga, with its rapid growth rate, should concentrate on roads, let them visit Auckland. The ugly reality of traffic congestion made us late at the Hyatt Regency, and they were introducing the first speaker, Tim Watkins from The Listener, as we crept, abashed, into the conference room.
The conference – the first of its kind in New Zealand – was the Freelance Marketplace: Connecting Writers and Editors, and that was exactly what it did. The brainchild of three remarkable ‘mothers’ – Diana Clements, Kim Griggs and Philippa Stevenson – this promises to be an annual event not to be missed on any establishing or aspiring writer’s calendar in the future.
Our first panel session was ‘What editors want from writers’, with Tim joined onstage by Joanna Wane from Next and Rebecca Macfie from ‘The Business’, New Zealand Herald. Morning tea was served Hyatt style, with silver coffee pots, home-baked biscuits and chocolate brownies. We met the Word Witches from Tauranga, and other local writers we hadn’t known about. Making connections … ah, yes!
Our next panel of experts discussed ‘How writers do it’, with input from Michael Field, Pacific specialist, Amanda Cropp, a prolific and extremely well-organised freelance, and Diana Clement, whose subject was ‘Mining a niche’. “It works to find a gap in the market”, she suggested, “and to cash in on your own expertise.” And remember – we all have different (and marketable) interests, skills and experience.
A break for lunch – I could get used to this luxury – and for a quick game of locating those you wanted to meet by name tags on bosoms (a risky pastime for the men, I reckon.) Technical input then in ‘Tools of the trade’ from Eugene Bingham, editor of the ‘Weekend Review’, New Zealand Herald, and Juha Saarinen, whose niche is online wizardry and who filled his T-shirt very nicely, thanks.
Silke Radde gave us ‘The lowdown on copyright’ with stylish precision – and the law is going through changes presently, so keep alert on that. She was followed by Philippa Stevenson, another ‘name’ in the writing game, who spoke on ‘The joys of contracts’ and how to negotiate bigger and better deals as a freelance. I have a copy of her ‘8 steps in the negotiating process’ – if you want a copy, send a request to email@example.com.
We were all lit up by then, but the real blaze started with the final panel session, ‘The great rate debate’. This was a presentation chaired by Jim Tucker of the Journalism Training Organisation, with a lively and assertive discussion led by Kim Griggs and Deborah Hill Cone. Obviously both are super-stars – or super-confident with good self-esteem – for they nailed their banners to the mast, and declared they wouldn’t get out of bed for a writing assignment at less than 45c a word. The going rate in Australia is apparently77c (their currency).
The lively debate that ensured covered all aspects of writing. Some journalist students must get 50 articles into print as part of their course requirement. They get nothing for them, and they’re probably worth little more than that, because of the hard work editors must put in to bring their stuff up to scratch. They learn on the job.
Then there are the academics and subject experts who write for tenure and professional status, forgoing fees. There are the wannabes, starting off, who eagerly grab at any chance, simply for a byline, and the right to say, “Yes, I’m a writer for the local rag.”
Then there are the rest, who doggedly stick it out, and make a name for themselves that begins to win favour with readers and editors alike. Learning not only in college, but also on the job. Working hard to get to know what freelance writing is all about. Professional. Experienced. Worth their weight in gold.
The kind of writers all intelligent freelances set out to be.
The conference was generously supported by the following sponsors:
APN Print - the principal sponsor (www.apnprint.co.nz) in association with:
The Magazine Publishers Association www.mpa.org.nz
New Zealand Journalists Training Organisation www.journalismtraining.co.nz
You can contact Diana Clement and learn about JOURNZ, the online forum for freelance writers – and sign up for a free newsletter – at firstname.lastname@example.org
My grateful thanks to Margaret Beverland, Tauranga Writers and Katikati Writers, who kindly donated the conference fee for me to attend. I was so glad you did, Margaret.