I like to interview a few freelance writers and editors each year for my workshop to give me a more comprehensive view of what’s happening in the freelance universe. I’d come to know Erik through a mutual friend and his excellent Instagram account. He is an editor for ZEST Magazine out of Portland, Maine and has ample freelance writing experience. I emailed him a few questions about his roles on either side of the editor’s desk. Here are his answers.
Erik Neilson, editor ZEST Magazine, freelance writer
What advice would you give to freelance writers trying to break into a new publication?
Take as much time as you can to internalize the publication through and through. Read back copies, pay attention to what they’re doing on the web etc. This is the only way to be sure that the pitches you structure will be a good fit; otherwise, you’re throwing darts blindly and hoping something sticks.
How much success have you had pitching editors you don’t know personally?
It’s always harder at first, but once you actually get in the door with a piece, you have the opportunity to establish that personal relationship with an editor and maintain it over time. Persistence is a big part of the initial push, as is having a portfolio that will make the person do a double-take on you.
How much of your publication is written by freelancers?
ZEST is entirely freelance; we don’t employ any staff writers.
What are editor’s looking for at your publication?
Our editorial calendar is pretty far out; we’re working on September/October now. We always ask that writers keep this in mind when pitching and also look at the sub-sections that tend to be static throughout each issue. As our niche is fairly specific (Maine Food and Drink) but also open, we’ll hear any pitches that fit the format.
How much does a story pay at Zest?
For seasoned writers, $0.50/word.