Editors pay for how you think.
It doesn’t take much thinking to punch out those 300-word SEO gems that some websites rely on to corral traffic in order to build up page views and make more from advertising revenue. If content farms only pay pennies (or less) per word, how hard can that be, right?
Whether any self-respecting professional writer should willing take on those easy, lowest common denominator jobs is a point that continues to be debated in writing circles.
But, ladies and gentlemen, there is one surefire way to separate yourself from the pack, from the SEO writers, from the would-bes and coulda beens.
Good writing is good thinking, and more and more I’m convinced that’s what editors are looking for. Not just writers who can think, but writers who can articulate their thoughts in a way that other people, i.e., readers, can understand.
What does it mean to be a writer who can think? It means:
- Finding a new approach to a worn-out subject.
- Picking a view that’s contrary to popular wisdom and coming up with supporting evidence to back up your opinion.
- Sifting through the countless blogs, RSS feeds, press releases and the other floatsam and jetsam you come across each day to piece together a trend where nobody else sees one.
- Understanding why something or someone is newsworthy and being able to make a convincing argument to an editor for why they should run a story about it in their publication – and why you should be the one to write it.
- Good, old-fashioned digging, whether through computer databases or an afternoon spent in the county courthouse reading old lawsuits or bankruptcy filings.
- Being able to deftly paraphrase a long-winded source rather than rely only on quotes to move a story along.
- Great translation skills, so you can read a paper in a medical journal, a patent or a press release on a new optics technology and explain in plain English what it means to a reader and why they should care.
It doesn’t matter if you’re writing straight news, features, blog posts or essays, editors want writers who can provide that deep analysis of why something is happening, or is the way it is, or ask the hard questions.
When anyone can read about a particular event – whether it’s this year’s mid-term elections, rioters protesting the French governments’ attempts to push retirement to 62 or what happened on last night’s episode of Man Men, it’s the original thinking you put into your research, reporting and writing that wins over readers, and editors.