Mark Terry

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I Hope I Passed the Audition

October 29, 2008
I'm not sure which Beatles tune ends with one of them saying, "I hope we passed the audition." Was it "All We Need Is Love?" I think it's the one that starts with a version of "God Save The Queen."

Anyway, sometimes as writers we have to audition for a job. Typically freelance writing gigs, unless you're a newbie, are based on published clips and a resume you send along with your query.

I've done some editing jobs and recently am focused on picking up some steady editing jobs (because I'd like to build some security into my otherwise unpredictable paydays). Not always, but often, these publishers want you to jump through hoops before you even get an interview. Not only do they want your resume, published clips and a pound of flesh, they want you to perform an editing test.

I finished one a couple weeks ago that not only required that I edit a lengthy technical article, but had me fill out a lengthy series of questions about what my vision of the publication was, how I would approach it, what types of topics I would cover, then outline a "dream issue."

As my wife commented, "You might get the job simply because everyone else threw up their hands in disgust and didn't do it."

I wonder.

I'm in the middle of yet another one of these, only this time they gave me three different pieces to edit. One was a "letter to the editor," one was an editorial by the publisher, and the third, which I haven't gotten to yet, is a technical piece that needs to be cut nearly in half, among other things.

All done, I might add, gratis.

One of the creepiest situations I ever ran into was years ago when I was looking for a full-time writing job and they wanted me to come in and they would sit me down at a computer and and I would write something while they waited for me to do it. I thought if that was an example of what working for them was going to be like, with someone breathing down your neck while you worked, I didn't want to work there anyway. I'm told, actually, that Microsoft does something similar with its programmers.

Anyway, anyone who's a musician understands the concept of an audition. But I think we tend to forget that as fiction writers we're auditioning all the time. Hopefully, as you build a track record you do fewer auditions, although you may very well still have to if the editors change or you plan to change publishers.

I remember with some shock when Stephen King left Viking about ten or twelve years ago. He and his agent didn't just send out e-mails to all the other publishers saying, "Stevie's interested in a new publishing house, what's your bid?" He actually wrote "Bag of Bones" and they actually sent it out to the publishing houses.

It boggles the mind that any publisher would have turned him down--but some did, although one suspects primarily because they didn't think he was worth the money. But even then, in a way, King was auditioning. (It says something weird about the industry, actually, but I won't go into it today).

How about you? Ever audition for a job?

Cheers,
Mark Terry

12 Comments:

Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

Indeed, a million years ago, I took a test to get a job as a legal editor at Lawyers Cooperative Publishing. They send you a whole pile of cases and some open-ended questions and the basic aim is to try to identify as many issues as possible and wring as much information from the cases as you can. I wondered at the time if the first part of the winnowing process was the self-elimination of applicants who couldn't force themselves to go through the tedious process of totally exhausting the material. They sent the stuff to you but only gave a few days turn-around time. I was working full time running a county court house library and taking classes at night so I sat at the library front desk and wracked my brain. I passed and got the job, which in fact required long hours of concentration on boring details so the test was probably a good predictor of whether you could handle the job. Unfortunately it didn't test one's tolerance for ugly, corporate environments and office politics.

A google, to satisfy my curiosity because my memory couldn't reveals that Lennon made his remark after the rooftop performance of "Get Back" and it was tacked onto the studio version on the album.

http://users.aol.com/__121b_UhUpPFrorf0Wwy33cdayfocBoS6XyL87WZvfwgELDVk=

9:04 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Here's a shorter link to Wikipedia. Yours got cut off.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Get_Back

Yes, how often are we prepared for "ugly, corporate environments and office politics?"

9:22 AM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

LOL, this question doesn't count for me, right? No, seriously, when I was in the gigging scene, it was all word of mouth, and I can't remember ever auditioning. Only a couple of my church gigs required an audition, and often not even then: usually they'd heard me already from the subbing.

A lot of students want to hear me play before signing up. Strangely enough, when I'm not playing a lot, I'm a better teacher, but when I am, I relate more. Which is contrary to what I believed.

10:29 AM  
Blogger Billy said...

Yeah, "Get Back," although there are three versions floating around, only one of which has Lennon's remark. The album vs. the single vs. Anthology (and a few bootlegs).

Your post reminded me of what we used to do in grad school. Type up a bestseller or classic, submit to publisher (sometimes the same one that originally published it), and watch it get rejected.

Great King story. I didn't know the details behind Bag of Bones.

www.publexicon.com

11:50 AM  
Blogger Stephen Parrish said...

The King story is interesting. It says something about his modesty.

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