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    Tuesday, April 01, 2008

    A Good Question

    Amongst the many and varied emails we received during our brief hiatus was this tale from an Anonymous Knight. He’s a freelancer who apparently has some experience in the business, and poses a question to editors that we think they’ll find quite tricky to answer. Take it away, Anonymous Knight:

    “I sent out personally addressed emails to carefully selected editors of a variety of periodicals, big and small. If I didn’t get a reply, I followed up with a conventional letter. In each case, I always offered a couple of ideas for articles.

    The only responses I got were from people I knew already. The majority did not bother even to reply.

    It seems that most journalists in high positions are not interested in authors they do not already know, or ideas which challenge them to think. Either that or they’re not interested in communicating with would-be contributors outside their social circle.

    When I used to write mailed letters offering articles I got an answer to every single one and many of them resulted in mutually rewarding work. Perhaps email enables us to not communicate more effectively than ever before.

    The Guardian’s George Monbiot, for instance, invites feedback from his website, but replies to emails with an automatically generated message saying that he is too busy to answer them.

    I’m busy too and I have been in the commissioning seat. And it would never occur to me not to acknowledge an email, let alone a letter, which is written to me personally. At least, “thanks, but no thanks,” which takes ten seconds to type and send; it’s just courtesy.

    My intention here is not to moan but to solicit information. I’d love to hear from any fellow journalists, especially editors, how they like to receive information and what their policy is on responding to ideas they receive.”

    Editors – you can send your answers to the usual address. After all, you’re not all a bunch of jobs-for-the-boys nepotistic tits who ignore stuff that’s from people you don’t know, or aren’t from eager readers doing your job for you for free at the right time. Are you…?


    1. Anonymous8:08 am

      GamesTM, no reply whatsoever. Retro Gamer, lovely editor, practically instant reply. Haven't tried Future yet. Oh, and Tom Bramwell was kind enough to reply as well.

      They're not all cunts! Except for GamesTM.

    2. Anonymous4:52 pm

      Actually RAM-MAN, could you remove that last comment?

    3. Anonymous8:20 pm

      GamesTM emailed me today...

    4. Anonymous8:27 pm

      Ah, what a wonderful world we live in where you HAVE to answer unsolicited emails courteously, or get called a cunt.

      A couple of possible answers to your conundrum:

      1. Games mags have little to no budget and have trouble finding work for their extremely loyal and talented pool of current writers.
      2. Your ideas are not good enough to warrant a commission.

      Personally I always reply with a short and polite email if I don't want to commission something from an unsolicited email, but not replying does not automatically imply nepotism or cuntdom.
      And, if you haven't been an editor in today's world, you won't know how frustrating it is to put a magazine together for tuppence, or how many emails you receive asking for work. Some fall through the gap.


      or maybe

    6. Been a while since I commissioned anything, but when I was at Gamer, I gave work to any writer who were genuinely brilliant who crossed by desk.

      This was about five.

      I didn't always reply to everyone, but I certainly tried.


    7. As the spelling in that previous post will show, I probably wouldn't have hired myself.


    8. Anonymous3:58 am

      Have to say, I do see a dividing line between magazines and websites. Magazines seem like closed networks - I've told, to my face, that if you don't work at the publisher in question, have worked there in the past, or are very pally with someone who works there, you'll find it quite hard to pick up freelance work on a mag.

      To be fair, I've not tried to pitch for any magazine for a good 1-2 years, since websites have proved to be a much more approchable vehicle, so I might find now that I found it easier.

    9. Some of the other comments have hinted at it but here's my two pennys.

      The vast majority of stuff that comes in is absolutely awful. Either people have been reading too much EDGE and write a lengthy review that goes above and beyond to sound flamboyant and wanky, which may be okay, except you didn't actually talk about the game or how it works and it's clear that you've spent weeks writing a review of your favourite game which you spent weeks playing. It even appears that you completed the game which isn't want we want for reviews.

      The other extreme is you get stuff written in web language. No one wants to publish your "Top 10 Oh-Shit! Moments in Games". Go to a forum or something. Cretins.

    10. Anonymous12:59 pm

      When contacting an editor blind you have to accept that if someone likes your work they'll be in touch. If they don't, they won't.

      Editors are too damn busy already dealing with their in-house staff, freelancers and the general office politics involved in running a magazine to spare the time to send replies to emails from strangers asking for work. While it takes 10 seconds to say "Thanks, but no thanks" it just takes two seconds to click the delete button.

      You also need to remember that given a choice between hiring an unknown to write an article, and someone who is tried and trusted, the unknown is rarely going to get a look in.

      I'd be interested to know what that person means by "ideas which challenge them [editors] to think". To me that sounds like code for "ideas for articles that aren't run in those magazines, but should be because my ideas are better than those editors'".

    11. I'd like to take this opportunity to offer my services to any magazine who wants me. And also, thank you.

    12. Anonymous1:00 pm

      "I can't get freelance work!" Boo-fucking-hoo.

    13. Anonymous2:22 pm

      "I can't get freelance work!" Boo-fucking-hoo.

      At last, the truth outs with a comment that typifies the attitudes of so many editors. I’m alright, Jack! And so are my buddies!

    14. I'm not sure if this freelancer has been applying to websites, but it always helps if you keep up with the medium. I get at least a few people a week asking for freelance work on GameSpot UK, and I always pay attention to people who listen to the podcast/post in the forum/respond to my Twitter feed or whatever.

    15. Anonymous7:31 pm

      So we have to make chummy with you on Twitter to get a job? If you want your cock sucking, just say so.

    16. Anonymous7:40 pm

      *Licks lips*

    17. Anonymous8:58 am

      Seriously, respond to your twitter feed? Are you that lonely? If you only recruit writers from your forums or people who stroke your cock, you're really limiting the talent pool mate.

    18. Anonymous4:23 am

      Maybe editors should be out there looking for talent, rather than waiting for it to come to them/hiring anyone who gives good textual head?

    19. Anonymous6:17 pm

      Yuppo! There's plenty of talent on this here internet, but editors seem to give the commissions to untalented boring cunts who should've moved into real journalism years ago. Or at least, tried to change the fucking shambles that is games journalism at the moment.

      Why are people happy to write for magazines like Edge and GamesTM despite the fact that they're complete bollocks? Nobody is buying them any more, and blaming the rise of internet review sites is fucking stupid. The mags are terrible. Why doesn't somebody fucking change something? Surely Future want to make some money? Why not make a decent fucking games mag then, eh?

    20. This comment has been removed by the author.

    21. Well, CV&G is making a comeback...

      I'd happily write for Edge. I'd give Games TM a go too, for that matter. But in every other creative industry, the guys at the top do a bit of searching.

      I'm lucky enough to know that the people I work with/for seem to appreciate what I do, but it seems to me that a vast number of magazine editors think that us lowly writers should be bending over backwards to get commissions with them.

      As a result, a lot of the magazines are fuelled by writers who are better at paying compliments than they are writing. I never get the sense of anyone up-and-coming. Any new blood. That all seems to be online now, because websites are willing to talk. Willing to branch out and take risks on new guys.

    22. God, there's a lot of whining in this thread.


    23. Anonymous8:15 pm

      Well Kieron, you're hardly in a position to whine, seeing as you're one of the cunts we're whining about.

    24. Anonymous8:22 pm

      For what it's worth, George Monbiot _does_ answer emails occasionally; he was doing a tour for "Heat", and I asked how he could justify flying around to do that when he's so down on flying in the book.

      (His response was that in his view it's okay to fly if he can do more good by being somewhere in person to talk about issues than the harm done by flying - which is a whole separate argument - but I _did_ get a non-boilerplate reply).