I’m an honest guy: I confessed publicly when The New York Times solicited me to write a piece about the legal profession and then rejected my submission (because it had been preempted by a DealBook special).
I confessed publicly again when I submitted a second piece — this time about the future of legal education — and was again promptly rejected.
But enough of confessions: Today, I’m here to gloat! Here’s a link to “Have We Met?” which appeared yesterday in the “Sunday Review” (formerly “The Week In Review”) section of The New York Times.
Part of me says that I should end this column right here. I should say something snooty like, “Hey, Lat! I published an essay in the Times yesterday. Isn’t that enough recreational writing for a week? I’m outta here.” But Lat would probably complain, saying that I hadn’t pulled either my weight or enough people through the “continue reading” icon. What can I tuck behind that icon that will suck you through the jump?
Aha! Three things! First, how do you get an op-ed published in the Sunday Times? Second, if you pull off that feat, how much does the Times pay you for your work? And, finally, do I have a clever story linking what I wrote in the Times to Above the Law? You’re in luck! . . .
First: How do you get an op-ed published in the Sunday Times?
Damned if I know.
A year ago, the Times noticed my column at Above the Law and asked me to write a piece about how the Great Recession affected big law firms. I wrote the piece, and the Times rejected it.
At that point, however, I had a personal relationship with one of the editors: She had asked me to write a piece; I had; she didn’t publish it. She obviously felt guilty, and she plainly would appease her guilty conscience by publishing anything else that I sent to her! I immediately submitted a second article, to strike while the iron was hot.
She promptly rejected it.
So much for the guilt theory. Months passed. I then had an idea for a third article. I considered using that idea to fill some random Monday here at Above the Law, but my idea had absolutely nothing to do with practicing law, and even I couldn’t figure out how I’d pass that puppy off on this crowd. So I packaged up my essay and shipped it off to my guilty contact at the Times.
She didn’t work there anymore.
The out-of-office message pointed me to a new person at the Times. This was not happy news: The new person was entirely guilt-free, and she’d reject my article without even a pang of conscience.
Ha! She accepted it!
So how do you get an op-ed piece published in the Sunday Times? Damned if I know. But I poked around on-line, and the woman who accepted my piece has been quoted publicly about her standards for accepting op-eds:
The secret to making it into the highly regarded and still influential New York Times Op-Ed pages is equally nebulous.
“What I’m trying to do is surprise people,” said Hall, who also mentioned that she has held pieces for as long as two years waiting for the perfect peg. Yes, two years.
“I’ve run a lot of things that I think are just important to run, because I think people should know it,” said Hall, by way of explaining her we-are-definitely-not-in-
Gawkerland anymore philosophy of editing. “If it’s not popular it’s not popular; it actually doesn’t matter that much, because my job is to try to have that mix.”
So that’s the answer to my first question: How do you get published in the Times? Beats me.
On to my second question: How much does the Times pay you for an op-ed in the “Sunday Review”? That’s on-line, too, so I’m not giving away any secrets here: $150. (If you’re thinking of going into writing for a career, don’t give up your day job.)
Finally, do I have a story linking my piece in the Times to Above the Law?
I do. Back in June, Above the Law hosted a reception in Chicago, which (incredibly) featured yours truly as the guest of honor. ATL’s Staci Zaretsky sat on a stage with me for an hour, first interviewing me and then working with me to field questions from the audience. After the interview ended, she and I both stepped down to chat with folks in the crowd. After maybe 45 minutes of mingling, I worked my way over to three men and a woman who were standing around a table. I introduced myself to each of these strangers in turn: “Hi! I’m Mark Herrmann . . . .”
When I introduced myself to the woman, she looked at me, startled. “I just . . .,” she stammered, baffled. When I heard her voice, I immediately caught on: “Oh, yes!” I shook my head, as though I couldn’t believe my silly mistake. “Of course, Staci.”
Well, Staci, now you and the world know: It wasn’t confusion, but face-blindness.
I’m afraid that I won’t do any better when I see you next.
Mark Herrmann is the Chief Counsel – Litigation and Global Chief Compliance Officer at Aon, the world’s leading provider of risk management services, insurance and reinsurance brokerage, and human capital and management consulting. He is the author of The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law and Inside Straight: Advice About Lawyering, In-House And Out, That Only The Internet Could Provide (affiliate links). You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.