Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Notes from the Motherland

Ahhh...it's great to be in the Motherland. When I walk into the bookstore and see the array of magazines on display (so bountiful and so cheap, compared to the jacked up international prices) I bemoan my expat status. How easy freelancers have it here! I think. I would be churning out dozens of queries a week, if I lived here.

It's not true, of course. My two little monsters are the primary reason I don’t write more, not my diminished access to U.S. writing markets. But nonetheless, I am scrambling to take advantage of my time in the U.S. and accomplish a slew of freelancing tasks that are easier to do over here than over there.

For the expat freelancer that may be visiting his or her home country for a spell this summer, here are a few freelance-related duties you might want to take care of while there:

1. Pay a lengthy visit to the bookstore.

I’ve always adored books and bookstores, so it’s great to have a job that virtually demands that I spend a lot of time in one. When I’m at a bookstore for professional purposes, I spend about 60% of my time hanging out at the magazine stand, searching for new markets and staying updated on old ones. I spend 30% of the time checking out the latest nonfiction books to assess which topics are hot and might be relevant to articles or queries that I have in the pipeline. I jot down any titles and/or authors that might be a good future source. The remainder of the time, I loaf around in fiction.

2. Research at the library.
Expat freelancers based in Paris are lucky to have the American Library in Paris at their disposal. But the library is based upon donations and doesn’t always have the most recent books. Neither do online libraries. So, when I return to the U.S., I always bring a list of topics that I want to research in the library while I’m there.

3. Do some interviews

Most of the sources that I interview are based in the U.S. When possible, I schedule telephone interviews while I’m in the U.S. so that I don’t have to deal with huge time zone differences. Trying to schedule a phone interview with a person in Seattle while I’m in France just sucks.


4. Check out local markets

I am fiercely jealous of freelancers based in their home country because not only they (probably) have an easier time finding new markets, they also have access to plenty of local markets. While at home, I grab up every halfway interesting-looking local paper, magazine or rag. Most of the time they publish local news, but some of them have travel departments that may be worth looking into.

5. Take an Editor to Lunch

Two of my favorite freelance writing guidebooks recommend occasionally taking editors that you work for out for lunch to improve client relations and get an opportunity to present your ideas in person. Hmmph. None of the publications I write for are based in my home city and, even if there was one here, I’m not sure whether I’d actually have the gumption to ask an editor out for lunch. It sounds like a good idea, though, if you think the editor might be amenable to that sort of thing and you have the sort of personality that could pull a lunch like that off. Me, I’m not ready for that. Maybe next summer.