Short and Sweet: Tips from Writing Guru Jane Friedman

Editor’s note:  It’s the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and everyone’s busy.  But this brief column might provide a bit of insight and distraction from concern over decimating the turkey and/or familial relations should political discussions break out

Jane Friedman has been writing so long, she says she literally cannot recall what attracted her to the profession in the first place. Over her more than two-decade career, Friedman has been the President and CEO of HarperCollins Publishers Worldwide, publisher of Writer’s Digest magazine and the co-founder of Open Road Integrated Media, which sells and markets ebooks. She has consulted with countless authors and presented at writing and journalism conferences worldwide. Her most recently released book, The Business of Being a Writer, offers advice to writers interested in establishing or solidifying their professional writing careers.

Friedman’s own writing career has flourished despite the countless changes in the writing industry. One major change, she says, is SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

“The predominance of search and how we find (information) and how we write articles” has evolved greatly the last two decades, adding that, for example, The New Yorker magazine utilizes different headlines online as it does for its print publication.

The greatest mistake freelancers make? In Friedman’s experience, book authors are often hindered by their lack of patience. Of course, that characteristic can negatively impact all types of writers: “They think they can get the biggest byline possible without going through the milestones,” such as attending conferences, networking and completing assignments successfully, says Friedman.

She suggests writers find mentors or peer groups. “You need to find a method for assessing your writing and getting constructive feedback to improve.”

What does Friedman enjoy about writing? She relishes the flexibility and “freedom to determine what I want to focus on.”

Her best advice? “Be respectful of people’s time. That has not changed,” says Friedman.

Tami Kamin Meyer is the marketing chair of the ASJA and a freelance writer and attorney in Ohio.