Get a Freelance Life: Mediabistro. Com's Insider Guide to Freelance Writing

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Get a Freelance Life: mediabistro. com's Insider Guide to Freelance Writing. Margit Feury Ragland. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2006. 320 pp. $14.00 pbk.

To be or not to be a freelance writer? That is the question Margit Feury Ragland asks in the opening to her down-to-earth book, Get a Freelance Life. The book is a practical guide to the often nebulous world of freelancing, from the challenge of working alone and overcoming rejection, to negotiating contracts and networking with the nation's best editors. But Ragland doesn't stop there in this timely and comprehensive book. She includes thoughtful suggestions for getting noticed in this increasingly electronic world, such as creating a professional Web site to present yourself and your clips, the importance of blogging, and how to search editorial calendars at national magazines to learn what's being planned in advance. The book puts into print the best tips from the acclaimed writer's Web site, mediabistro.com, which logs nearly a half million visitors per month.

One reason the book works is that Ragland is an insider who has worked both sides of the desk. She was an editor at Woman's Day, Family Circle, Walking, and Natural Health magazines before taking that leap of faith into freelance writing. Her own work has appeared in such publications as Self, Fitness, Health, Marie Claire, Parenting, and the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine.

In Get a Freelance Life, the author goes straight to the point by putting the reader through a test in the very first chapter. Among the questions she asks are whether freelance writing is the right livelihood or whether would-be writers would be better off sticking with their day jobs. Among the points she makes are that freelancing can be wildly unpredictable, especially not knowing when your next paycheck will come, or suddenly learning that the magazine you've sold a story to has just folded, or that your favorite editor has died of a heart attack. Freelancing, she writes, demands the discipline of a warrior and the faith of a saint. But on a practical level it requires a financial plan, organization, and a good deal of self promotion.

And then there's that catch-22 that new freelancers always confront: How do I get an assignment if I've never been published? The author addresses these concerns with aplomb on how to sell yourself as well as your ideas. …