Sierra Style is a group of magazines in the Sierra Foothills. Last summer, I sent a letter of introduction (hi, my husband and I are freelance writers, here's a sample, we're available for freelance assignments, etc) to Jenn's predecessor, Desiree Patterson, who is now the publisher. Desiree said she would keep us in mind, gave us our first assignment a month or so later, and now we are in nearly every issue.
Jenn took over as managing editor a few months ago and does a great job. I asked her a few questions about her job and about the query process from her perspective.
Jennifer Walker: Tell us a little about your background--education and experience before you became the editor at Style.
Jenn Talley: I graduated from the University of Florida, where I double-majored in English and Communication and minored in Advertising. Out of college in Jacksonville, Florida, I was a copy editor at an advertising agency, an amazing and fast-paced industry in which the businesses are much more like fraternities than corporations-I loved it tremendously! From there, I reluctantly moved on to working for the foundation of a large five hospital system to gain more writing opportunities. There, I wrote the foundation newsletter, along with the children's hospital newsletter and various collateral material. I moved to Sacramento from Florida in July of 2008 when my husband accepted a transfer with the Oracle Corporation. I sent an email to Style, asking if their editorial department had opportunities available, and one month after sending that initial e-mail, I was contacted regarding the managing editor position. I interviewed and accepted the position, and I have loved every day of work. My goal has always been to work in publishing and I'm so thankful that I am where I am now.
Jennifer Walker: How did you get your job? Did you have an edge over other people looking for the same job?
Jenn Talley: I simply took the initiative to send an e-mail and follow up. My former experience in the advertising industry gave me an edge because it is very deadline-driven and you are forced to balance multiple projects at once.
Jennifer Walker: Do you do any writing outside of Style?
Jenn Talley: I currently freelance write, proofread and copy edit manuscripts and will be completing my Web site soon. I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jennifer Walker: How many queries do you receive for Style every week, and how many of these pieces actually end up in the magazine?
Jenn Talley: We receive between 5 and 20 queries per week with article suggestions and new freelance writers, and we consider all of them. Many of them are already in queue to be placed in the magazine, and others are new. The number that end up in the magazine varies, as the editorial department as a whole plans each issue and decides content.
Jennifer Walker: What is your typical day like?
Jenn Talley:There really is no such thing as a typical day for me. Each day is literally different. I have several publications, projects and issues that I balance each day. I very much enjoy that aspect of my job.
Jennifer Walker: When reading queries from freelancers, what compels you to want to learn more about the piece or writer?
Jenn Talley: When freelancers show their personalities in their initial inquiries-whether in their e-mails or clips, I am compelled to get to know them better. When every freelance inquiry looks the same, it's sometimes difficult to differentiate between the average and exceptional.
Jennifer Walker: When reading submitted manuscripts, do you have any deal breakers that will always cause you to reject the piece (i.e., grammar, lack of sources, etc.)? Or do you tend to be flexible and work with the writer to improve it?
Jenn Talley: Grammar and writing style are extremely important for all writers. As a trained proofreader and copyeditor I am a stickler for grammar, but it will not be a complete deal breaker. Writing style, however, is key. If a writer's style does not match that of our publication, they may not be the best fit.
Jennifer Walker: Is there something a writer can do to make their query or submission stand out from the rest for you?
Jenn Talley: You get one shot to make a first impression, so show your personality as much as possible without being overbearing, so that whomever you are contacting gets a real sense of who you are as a person and writer.
Jennifer Walker: What other advice, from an editor's standpoint, can you offer to new freelancers?
Jenn Talley: Never submit a piece that is not your best work, details are important, and plagiarism is never okay.