ASJA Conference Recap

Last week, hundreds of journalists and authors gathered in New York City for the American Society of Journalists and Authors’ 41st annual conference. Ebyline sponsored Saturday afternoon’s coffee break, and director of freelance development Joanne Cleaver chatted with attendees in the expo hall.

Meanwhile, I live-tweeted as many panels as I could. Here are a few takeaways from the conference:

  • Social media is about quality, not quantity. In his popular social media panel, Sree Sreenivasan, Columbia Journalism School Dean of Student Affairs, stressed that the strength of your Twitter following is based on follower engagement and what influencers are following you, not the raw number of followers. Several agents and editors echoed similar sentiments in other panels, too. And in the Find Ideas that Sell panel, Ebyline’s Joanne Cleaver mentioned piggybacking on the social media presence of your sources. For instance, if you interview an organization that has 10,000 followers, it’s likely that the organization will tweet about your article or book and expose those followers to your work, too.
  • Editors want what they want. Some editors told attendees to pitch them over the phone, while others suggested using a certain email subject line to capture their attention. Some want short, tightly focused queries, while others expect more detailed proposals. Presenting the information in their preferred format and contact method increases the likelihood of becoming their go-to freelancer. Not sure about an editor’s preference? Ask a colleagues or check your conference notes. And if you get any feedback from an editor, pay attention! The same goes for a publication’s style and format. If a magazine doesn’t publish first-person essays, you’re better off pitching a reported piece than trying to convince an editor to buy your essay.
  • Value adds are appreciated. In the Secrets of Successful Freelancers panel, Sam Greengard encouraged article writers to do more than the minimum. The past several ASJA conferences have emphasized that the media business is evolving to the point that some writers now provide photos, audio, or video in addition to words (a phenomenon we’ve blogged about, too). Katherine Reynolds Lewis mentioned in the One Plus One Equals Cash panel that she often includes extra stats that her editors turn into charts. Those kinds of value adds won’t always earn you more money, but they’ll often help build long-term relationships.

For more highlights from ASJA 2012, check out these recaps from other attendees:

Did you attend the conference? What did you take away from it?

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About Susan Johnston

Susan Johnston is a Boston-based freelance writer whose work appears in, The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor,, Parade Magazine, and SELF, among other places. She is the author of The Urban Muse Guide to Online Writing Markets and blogs at The Urban Muse.