Dear Congressman Scott McInnis -
As a sometime freelance writer, I'm really, really impressed with the $300,000 job you got from the Hasan Family Foundation to write a "series of in-depth articles on water."
Your fee, amounting to about $2,000 per page for 150 pages written, is unheard of in freelance circles. We don't care what Westword says about your command of the English language, you're a writing sensation in our eyes.
So, Scott, I'm turning to you for advice.
How can I convince foundations or publications or anybody, for that matter, to pay me even a fraction of what you got for 150 double-spaced pages?
You must have some serious tricks up your sleeve to get paid $5.75 per word typed, meaning you got $5.75 every time you typed the word "water." Here's how I figure this: 150 pages x 350 words per page = 52,500 words; $300,000 from Hasan Foundation divided by 52,500 words = $5.75 per word.
Could you meet with me and other freelance writers and teach us some of the stuff you know about freelance writing? (To sum up my personal interest in this, I want to get $11.50 every time I type Denver Post.)
I realize you're busy being a gubernatorial candidate, but as part the freelance-writer family, you might feel close to your fellow freelancers, and be willing to meet with us, even for a few of your valuable minutes. Here's some of the stuff I'd like to know.
First, your idea to write about water. How did you come up with it? More to the point, how did you know it would command such a fee? Do you have ideas for writing topics for me?
Second, your query letter. I'm astonished that you had virtually no writing experience, yet you landed this, as you put it, "sweet" writing deal. What did your query letter look like? Did you provide specific references and samples of previous writings? Did you link to your clips or post them directly on your query letter? Did you pinpoint how many pages you'd write?
Third, title of your work. I know titles are critical to selling any piece of writing, whether a book or article, and I'm wondering if you think the title of your series, "Musings on Water," was what sold the project? If so, do you have any suggestions for how I could come up with marketable titles for my own writing? (I don't think "Musings on the Media" would sell, at least with me as the writer. Maybe you'd co-author something with me?)
Fourth, and most importantly, your fee. If you're a freelance writer, you know the competition is intense, and you know you like the work-but at the same time, you're probably not a natural when it comes to business. So, I'm dying to know how you negotiated your contract. Did you start at $600,000 and negotiate down to $300,000? Did you start at a million dollars? Or did you start at $4,000 per page and work down to $2,000 per page? Or maybe you started at $10 per word ($10 each time you typed "Musings"), and you worked down to $5.75 per word ($5.75 for each "Musings"). What was your bargaining approach?
Finally, your deadline. You seem to have avoided the major headache of being a writer: specifying a deadline and delivering the work. You've turned over 150 pages of articles to The Denver Post, and you say these were written for the foundation. But the Hasan Family Foundation only has 60 pages of your writing, which are on its website. So you managed to avoid turning over 90 pages to the folks paying you the 300K. Did you trick the Hasans, somehow, into forgetting your submission deadline-or trick them into forgetting about your project completely? Did you, shall we say, sweet-talk them? What allowed you to, essentially, never complete the project? This is a writer's dream, and your insight would be most valuable to me.
Congressman, whether you're elected or not, you have secured a spot as a rock star of the freelance writing community in Colorado. You can do a lot of good for us, and probably make some decent money as well. (I mean, I'd hire you on commission.)
Already, one of Colorado's most famous freelancers, Ed Quillen, has written that he wants to engage you as a literary agent, because you know how to "cut some sweet deals."
Please let me know at your earliest convenience when you will be able to meet with me and other writers to advise us on how we can be as successful as you at freelance writing.
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