By Lynne Pleau
In yesterday’s post, I discussed the benefits of carrying an old-school, hardbound portfolio to conferences. In this post, I’ll talk about what that portfolio should look like and what it should contain.
The job of a writing portfolio is to present your work in its best light. That means it should be simple. Let’s start with the portfolio itself. Buy the best you can afford. Itoya has a great product for about thirty-five dollars. (But a thin, three-hole-punch binder will work.) You want it to be sturdy and black, with nothing on the front or back. Why black? It’s easier on the eye, doesn’t detract from your work, and contrasts nicely with white pages. Essentially, it looks professional without drawing attention to itself. It’s makes your writing pop.
The binder should have removable poly-glass page protectors. Being able to move pages around makes it easier to shift the order of your work. Poly-glass pages give your work that polished look, while protecting your pieces and making pages easier to turn. The inserts within the poly-glass protectors should also be black. An eight-and-a-half-by-eleven-inch portfolio actually measures ten-and-a-half-by-twelve-inches on the outside, and the insert pages are one-quarter inch taller and wider than a standard piece of paper. That provides a thin space of black around the white page, which gives a nice frame to your work.
The next thing to think about is how you present your work. Clean and consistent is what you want—nothing that detracts from the writing. So tear sheets are not a good idea, neither are fancy graphics. Print your work on good quality white paper, using one-inch margins and a standard black, twelve-point type (like Times New Roman). Include a standard heading throughout so page turns are consistent—whether the page is a writing sample or your resume. For writing samples, consider a footer with your name, the title, and the page number of the piece. Footers can be grayed down, so they don’t detract from the rest of the page. Also, think about listing word count in the footer, which can be helpful when talking about your work with an editor.
Now, let’s look at what goes inside your portfolio. A standard portfolio is designed to handle about twelve two-sided poly-glass pages, or twenty-four pages of writing. Anything more would be overwhelming. Following is a list of items you may want to include.
- Table of Contents. Consider starting with a page that lists your name and possibly the contents, in order (categories only). For instance: Flash Fiction, Novel Samples, Resume . . .
- This is a short, third person factual blurb about you and your writing. It acts as an introduction to who you are and what experiences you’ve had. Google “How to write an author bio” for good examples.
- Writing Samples. In this section, include one to three short samples of the different types of writing you do, two to three pages each. The object is to make each sample short enough for an editor to be able to read in just a few minutes. Keep in mind it’s a Choose only your best, edited work.
- Your resume can include your education, writing experience, awards, conferences attended, organizational memberships, social media numbers, personal blurb, and interests. One thing you should not include is your address or phone number. An email address in the footer is fine.
- List of Published Writing. This is a list of everything you have published in recent years. It’s looks more professional if each published piece is numbered and kept to a single line.
- References can be short paragraphs from industry professionals who have known you in different capacities so they represent a range of your strengths.
Your goal when creating a portfolio is to attract potential editors. If you keep your portfolio clean, sleek, and well-organized, your writing will sell itself.
Lynne Pleau has published articles, reviews, poetry, and flash fiction in publications like Marriage Partnership Magazine, War Cry, Christian Communicator, and in Havok, Splickety, and Spark Magazines. She has won multiple awards for her flash fiction.