Is anonymous copywriting worth mentioning?

Submission protocol, query etiquette, and strategies that work
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jfw
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Is anonymous copywriting worth mentioning?

Post by jfw » July 10th, 2010, 5:17 pm

I'm working on a query letter and had thought I had nothing to mention for writing experience when it dawned on me that for five years in the late '70s and early '80s I may have been among the most widely read writers in North America, albeit anonymously. During that period I wrote most of the movie synopses and a great many of the syndicated and network program synopses for the largest TV listings service in the country. Our customers were most of the daily newspapers in the U.S. and Canada at the time. This was original writing, limited to describing an entire plot, objectively, in a single sentence and I made my living doing it but I had no by-line, of course. It was also a long time ago. Is it worth mentioning in a query letter?

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sarahdee
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Re: Is anonymous copywriting worth mentioning?

Post by sarahdee » July 11th, 2010, 2:04 am

With no real experience or authority on the issue I was say yes, it is worth a mention in your query. You have written for a living, you are published, so that tells the person reading your query that you must have reasonable writing talent, be used to editors and being edited, and able to write to a deadline. Perhaps just as a one-liner in the 'about me' blurb of the query?

I have a similar question though so am interested in hearing an agent's view of this.

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Quill
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Re: Is anonymous copywriting worth mentioning?

Post by Quill » July 11th, 2010, 12:11 pm

That is so cool that you did that. What a talent. Did they supply you with paragraph-long blurbs you had to boil down, or what? The art of boiling down is something I really respect.

Could you condense your experience into a single interesting sentence? If so, I would say, yeah, include it.

jfw
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Re: Is anonymous copywriting worth mentioning?

Post by jfw » July 11th, 2010, 12:49 pm

I usually based the movie synopses on my own viewing, otherwise I had to read a lot of reviews and come up with an original description based on that. Here's an example of one I actually screened:

A writer of pulp Westerns searches for his boyhood friend in the dark, corrupt world of divided post-World War II Vienna.

For network and syndicated programs, I had to boil down press releases, which are similar to the detailed novel synopsis you might send to an agent. I never watched "Hill Street Blues" and once wrote a synopsis for a future episode that spoiled a cliffhanger. One of the characters had attempted suicide and regular fans were unaware whether he had survived... until they read the Sunday supplement in their local paper, in which I described his post-suicide activities, to be aired the following Thursday, IIRC. It caused such a ruckus that the spoiler story made the AP wire. I was so happy I was anonymous when that happened. ;-)

In retrospect, it was good training for writing complex sentences, using multiple adjectives, and maintaining a rigidly objective voice, and deadlines of course. It would be ironic if I couldn't boil such a resume item down to one sentence. ;-)

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Mira
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Re: Is anonymous copywriting worth mentioning?

Post by Mira » July 12th, 2010, 8:11 pm

My humble opinion - I would absolutely mention it! Whether there is a by-line or not isn't the point - the point is published journalism. That's writing cred right there. My two cents, anyway!

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Is anonymous copywriting worth mentioning?

Post by Nathan Bransford » July 14th, 2010, 9:44 pm

I would mention it if you have room, but I personally would view it as an interesting personal detail rather than a writing cred per se. Cool job though.

jfw
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Thanks, everyone, for your advice

Post by jfw » July 17th, 2010, 10:28 am

There seems to be something of a consensus, summed up well by Nathan's post. There were also some very kind words about this sort of work so I forwarded a link to the folks who write the synopses nowadays. They do the work every day, under grim deadlines, anonymously and with, IMHO, inadequate appreciation. :-)

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