Recently, I asked the writers who frequent Twitter if they had landed work using the microblogging service. Responses were mixed.
“Haven’t landed an assignment on Twitter yet, but I’ve found sources,” says Susan Johnston, a Boston-based freelancer who goes by the witty Twitter moniker @UrbanMuseWriter.
She’s right. Twitter can be excellent for finding sources and source material. But can you effectively query in 140 characters or less? “I haven’t landed a paid assignment via Twitter, but had opportunities to write pro bono,” says freelancer Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen, @quipsandtips on Twitter.
That’s telling. Pawlik-Kienlen, like yours truly, is a long-time pro who writes for food money. Her work has appeared in Reader’s Digest and WomansDay.com, among others. Johnston’s no slouch, either. Her work has been published in The Boston Globe and The Christian Science Monitor. If these writers aren’t landing paying gigs via Twitter, are there any to land?
Perhaps it’s too early to be asking. Estimates peg Twitter’s total population at 8 million, a fraction of the 200 million inhabiting Facebook and yet it’s still struggling to harpoon the Fail Whale. If users can’t rely on Twitter, publishers won’t either. Nor will editors. Querying the old fashioned way — via e-mail or snail mail — is probably still best.
And yet queries are most effective when you know something about the editor you’re querying. It’s here that Twitter can be invaluable. Have a query in mind for BusinessWeek? Take a look at what Executive Editor John A. Byrne is tweeting. For Salon.com? Check its tweetstream to see which stories rank a cut above.
Querying is selling and, as any salesperson will tell you, you’re apt to sell more when you can address a need. Editors have needs; strive to meet them. Twitter can help.
RESOURCE UPDATE: I finished a new version of The Freelance Writer’s Helper this morning. Find it here. And if you’re a writer or editor, please join Lydia Dishman and I for Editorchat on Wednesdays, 8:30-10 pm eastern on Twitter. Click here to see what we’ll be discussing on Tax Day.
© Copyright 2009, Tim Beyers.