The term writer’s clips is derived from the practice of collecting clippings from newspapers and magazines in which a writer's work has been published. Writer’s clips are also known as "tear sheets,” denoting pages torn directly from publications that feature a writer’s work. However, writer’s clips may also be photocopies of published works, such as copies of pages from an anthology.
Writer’s clips may also include links to articles, or entire articles that have been published online. Some freelance writers also create personal websites filled with writer’s clips, and direct editors to their sites to review previously published works. Such a website may contain links, complete articles, and a list of print publications in which the writer has been featured. Writer’s clips or the link to a writer’s website are generally sent along with a cover letter or query when a writer submits work for publication.
When a freelancer submits work, he or she should tell the editor a bit about his or her writing experience, education, and knowledge of the subject matter. This information is usually presented in a cover letter or resume. A query may also be included, which is basically an inquiry to see if the writer’s work is suitable or of interest to the publication. Along with these items, writer’s clips are also presented, so the editor can get a feel for the writer’s skill, knowledge, and writing style.
A freelance writer may only get one chance to make a good impression, so it is important to supply quality writer’s clips when submitting work for possible publication. It is best to submit writer’s clips that are relevant to the article the freelancer hopes to have published, when possible. Writer’s clips are far better than simple writing samples. In fact, some publications, both online and print, will only work with previously published writers.
While there are publications that work with new writers, the pressure to gather writer’s clips often leads beginning freelancers to work free of charge just to get some publishing credits under their belt. New writers should think twice about doing so, since paid writer’s clips not only make a better impression but also build confidence.