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Tips for Going Global
by Beth Fowler
When editors in other lands see your work, they
ask, "Is this foreign writer professional?" And "Does this foreigner's work fit
Read on to learn how to get a si, oui, ja and
Multiply earning power: I sold one article to
magazines in Australia, Malaysia and the United States. By offering rights to
one country at a time (i.e. First Australian Rights), you can re-sell an article
to different countries. Offering reprint rights multiplies the earning power of
one article, too. The chances of, for instance, a reader in Scotland seeing the
article reprinted in New Zealand is so remote that editors of national
publications accept second or reprint rights.
Write their way: "Study our publication before
submitting," is excellent advice for global freelancers to follow before sending
manuscripts over the border.Is it travelled or traveled, lift or elevator? Style
preferences are in submission guidelines, but basics that citizen writers know
Malaysia and Australia, two English-speaking
countries use British spellings. The Philippines and Taiwan use American
spellings in English-language publications. Find help with American and British
spellings at http://www.planetware.com/briteqiv.htm.
Manage metaphors: UN members published a
document depicting an owl to symbolize wisdom. The image flopped because in Asia
owls symbolize stupidity. Metaphors, similes, idioms, clichés, slang and jargon are gobbledygook when symbols have
unintended connotations. Avoid them.
Cite specifics: In anticipation of a trip to
England, a Bombay couple scanned a travel article. The British author
characterized London in July as "red hot." The Indians shivered for a fortnight
because London temperatures never rose above 50 F (10 C).
Global freelancers replace relative words (hot,
heavy, tiny, expensive) with specifics (32 C, five tons, one centimeter,
Write comparisons of relative scale that appeal
to readers' experience. For instance, because Indonesians play badminton more
often than basketball, a Western journalist writing for a Jakarta newspaper
described a building as "five times the length of a badminton court."
Convert consistently: I've received manuscripts
with inconsistent measurement systems. Inches inch along with centimeters (and
centimetres), Fahrenheit warms up to Celsius, and miles travel with kilometers.
Global freelancers use the system the publication uses and are consistent within
one document. On the other hand, international publications include two
measurements, as in "A 20-mile (32-km) path follows the coast."
Global writers specify which country's dollars
are quoted by inserting the country's name as in "$5 million Hong Kong," or
"HKD$5 million," or including a statement: "All prices in Hong Kong dollars."
Find currency and measurement converters a http://www.convertit.com/Go/ConvertIt.
Hold the humor: A Singaporean reading an
Australian editorial remained stone-faced at the journalist's supposedly
humorous reference to Kerry Packer's weight. Who's Kerry Packer? What's weight
got to do with anything? Trans-cultural humor requires intimate knowledge of
psychology, zeitgeist, politics, history and language. What's so funny about a
chicken crossing the road?
If an amusing anecdote is integral to developing
a theme, recruit a local from the country whose ribs you hope to tickle to
review the piece. Rewrite or delete accordingly.
Gesture judiciously: Describing gestures adds
life to personality profiles and fictional characterizations, but gestures don't
necessarily impart universal meanings. Thrusting fingers upward in a V signifies
an insult, victory, two or peace, depending on where thrusting
When gestures are important, global freelancers
include explanations that flow naturally in context. ("Making a circle with
finger and thumb, the captain indicated that the trip was successful.")
Be worldly: I once read a query promoting an
area of India as an ideal tourist destination
never mind that two so-called
religious factions were killing each other's devotees. Worldly freelancers
demonstrate global awareness and intercultural sensitivity. Being worldly means
not sending pork recipes to a publication with a Muslim audience and not using
nicknames (Yank, wetback). Lazy journalists use phrases such as "inscrutable
Chinese" and "friendly natives." Being worldly means banishing dogmas,
romanticized images, stereotypes and prejudices. Read articles about cultural
customs at http://www.executiveplanet.com.
Write the truth: Hundreds of magazine and
newspaper editors speaking about what they look for in articles concurred, "We
are unhappy with writers who get their facts wrong."
Don't assume that a "fact" in magazines,
newspapers and on TV is accurate. Inaccuracies get repeated. Calling a monstrous
hodgepodge "Frankenstein" is a common mistake. Frankenstein was the monster's
creator's name. The monster killed his creator, therefore, Frankenstein is a
person who is destroyed by his own works.
Re-verify facts with interviewed subjects, check
multiple and unbiased sources, proofread final drafts against your original
notes, and ask a nitpicking, skeptical, truthful reader to review your
manuscript. Check on-line reference resources such as http://www.refdesk.com.
Write the right editor: You live in France. You
want to pitch an idea about hand-knit sweaters to Gentleman's Quarterly. A query
addressed generically to "Dear Editor" shouts "Amateur!" So you open GQ and see
28 editors listed. Six handle fashion. One is the "European Editor." Aim for
editor-in-chief, and you risk irritating this VIP who'd delegated some of his
editorial load to capable sub-editors, and you risk snubbing the fashion editor
and the European editor.
Some individuals of the editorial team might
have left from the time the magazine you have was published, so verifying the
appropriate recipient is wise in any case. Contact the magazine and ask to whom
to address your query. If you send something to the managing editor and an
assistant editor replies, continue communications at that level.
Nancy Flannery, an Australian journalist,
author, editor and publisher, told "Southern Write" (www.sawriters.on.net) readers, "Attention to detail, visualizing
the needs of the reader as well as conforming to the publication's house style,
integrity of one's own voice, reasonable observance of spelling, grammar and
syntax rules are surely still important. If text doesn't flow and doesnt have
entertainment or information value, then it won't be read."
She ought to know. Nancy received her first
check (that's cheque Down Under) for writing when she was 12 years old
more than sixty years of writing for dollars.
© Copyright 2003, Beth Fowler
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