As someone who manages a game site, I get a lot of unsolicited writing samples sent my way. This is partly the case, I imagine, because GameShark actually pays its writing staff. We don’t pay a lot – but we do offer some compensation outside of a free game.
I’m writing this Sunday Time Waster because I have also received a surprising number of inquiries and unsolicited writing samples sent to my NHS email address. So, to celebrate the coming of spring even though it remains 28 degrees outside as I write this, I’m going to offer some friendly advice to everyone who fancies themselves a game critic.
Every manager is different but here are some Abner Guidelines on how to submit your work to an editor…
Don’t do that.
Don’t submit your work to an editor.
Sending in a blind, hope for the best writing sample is a tad presumptuous. An email inquiry is always the best way to approach this; introduce yourself, don’t come off like a stalker, and politely inquire if there are any openings. This is also a good opportunity to sell yourself. Even if you have never written for another game site, you need to make said editor at least curious to read your work.
“I love games!” isn’t going to cut it. I did receive one of those emails recently. and while I appreciate anyone’s love for games, well, my daughter loves games, too. She’s 10.
Do your homework.
I see so many people screw this up and it’s bad form. When you do eventually submit an article to an editor you need to do some research on the website.
Follow THEIR format – not yours. (And for god’s sake don’t use another website’s format.)
Does the site publish reviews in 1st person? 2nd? Every site is different. I’ve written for magazines that refused to allow writers to use the word “I” in a review. So…do your homework. It helps. Whatever you do don’t switch them around.
This is what I mean: http://classweb.gmu.edu/WAC/somguide/123person.htm
Along these same lines you have to watch tense. Switching from past to present and then moving to future is annoying and all too common. Find out how the site functions and live there.
How are the articles formatted? What’s the tone of the site? Does the site have any intro doo dads to its reviews? (Like GameShark’s What’s hot/not stuff). How long (in words) are the reviews? 700 words? 2,000?
Taking the time to show the editor that you want to write for THEIR site specifically can go a long way if there’s limited room on the freelance staff and it comes down to the person who took that extra time and the one who simply sent in a generic article.
Stay in your wheelhouse.
This is your chance to show the editor what you can do, so pick a game that you know like the back of your hand. Contrary to what some think, it doesn’t have to even be a brand new release. A good editor will look at the way you lay out your criticisms and not just that you reviewed the current ‘hot’ game. Don’t be afraid to tell the editor, “I don’t do shooters.” (Or whatever) You will make their job much easier if they know what you can and can’t do. There’s no shame in being unfamiliar/hating a particular genre.
In addition to this, you need to realize that editors read samples all the time. Why should they care about yours? When you are done writing your article, and let’s just assume it’s a sample review even though sending in other forms of game writing is a good idea too, you should feel like yours is the definitive review of that game. This doesn’t mean it needs to be 1,500 words long and cover every piece of minutia but at the end of the day the editor needs to feel like your review was not only well written but that your criticism and observations were special because frankly, if you write a generic review you will be looked upon as a generic writer.
And that’s usually a one way ticket to the “thanks for playing” folder.
Send a document and not a link.
Don’t make the editor go to another website if you have work published elsewhere.
(I learned this lesson the hard way back when I was freelancing. Sorry Jeff Green. Really man…my bad.)
It also doesn’t hurt to attach a resume. You are applying for a job—act like it.
Misspellings are instant killers.
Running ‘spell check’ isn’t enough. If you misspell a word or use weird grammar in your sample you have effectively wasted everyone’s time. Also, please, know the difference between its and it’s.
Reviews should be lean, mean, fighting machines. (There’s never a bad time for a Stripes reference.)
Do not waste words. It takes a lot of practice and a lot of experience to be able to write an effective ‘long’ review. Most people will, quite simply, tune you out if you begin to ramble.
A very effective tool that you can use is to take the game you are using as your submission piece and write the review using no more than 100 words. Not 104 words. 100 words or less.
It’s a bitch, but it’s a fantastic teaching tool which forces you to cut out the bullshit. You can always go back and use all of the pretty adjectives you can think of to describe how neat-o a game’s graphics are after you finish but you should be able to convey your thoughts and get to the meat of your criticism on any game in 100 words.
This is harder than you think. This isn’t even criticism but have you ever thought about the TV show descriptions you read when you are channel surfing? Try using 35 words to describe the movie or TV show you just watched. Tough, eh? It’s like Twitter, but useful.
The point is that if you can make your reviews razor sharp and make every sentence count for something the editor will certainly notice it, whether they agree with your opinion on a game or not should be irrelevant if the editor has a clue. If you submit an article and the editor replies with “You didn’t like Game X!?” Chances are you don’t want to work there anyway.
You can always resort to just plain bribery.
(I like a good Riesling and Gevalia Coffee.)
OK enough of that. Let’s get to the good stuff and that’s announcing the winner of the Homefront Steam code contest!
After spinning the Wheel of Contest Destiny the winner of the code is:
I’ll be sending RorinRune an email shortly which guarantees lifetime loyalty to No High Scores.
Thanks for entering and we’ll have another giveaway soon.