It’s tough being a self-employed writer. You can be the best writer in the world (or merely in the top 20 in my case), but unless you can sell yourself, you’ll never get the work that your talent deserves.
If I was a builder, I wouldn’t have to ring up random people and ask if they wanted me to knock a couple of walls down, or to do some rendering. People would actually pick up the phone and call me.
Writing is different. Sometimes you get the call asking you to do some work, but on the whole you’re the one expected to do the running and convince editors that they should employ you.
To do this requires pitching, which involves communicating your article ideas to editors. It sounds simple for a writer, but there is definitely a knack to it and it’s one that I haven’t mastered yet. Despite the title of this blog, selling myself is not something I’ve ever been particularly comfortable with.
I’ve had the odd successful pitch, but more often than not they’ve failed to win me a commission. For reasons detailed in the post below, I haven’t really needed to do much pitching during my time as a freelancer. I do have to send a weekly pitch to an editor for the football column I write, but I tend to just pop a vague email over, saying something like: “Was thinking of doing something on Joey Barton and footballers on Twitter.” To which my editor will normally always reply: “That’s fine mate.”
Selling yourself to an editor who doesn’t know you is a trickier business. This week saw me pitch a couple of pieces, neither of which I’ve yet to receive a reply to. Actually that’s not true. The second pitch prompted an automatic out-of-office email reply, informing me that the editor in question would be out of the office for a month, which inconveniently started on the very day that I’d sent in the pitch. So I re-pitched the article to the editor stepping into his shoes. He hasn’t replied, but at least he seems to be in the office, which in these desperate times qualifies as some kind of success.
I’ve got to do more pitching next week and will need to chase up the existing pitches that have been sent out. When you fail to even get a reply, it’s easy to be dispirited, but if I need inspiration I pop over to a hilarious blog called Pitching The World, which details one writer’s mission to pitch every newspaper and magazine in the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook – mainly from his nan’s dining room in Boscombe, where he currently resides.
At least I haven’t got to pitch the likes of Black Hair magazine and Carp Fishers Monthly, which is the gargantuan task that the blog’s author ‘Pitchy’ has set himself. It may sound like an impossible task, but the process has seen the wily old ‘Pitchy’ pick himself up a top literary agent.
As much as I’d like a literary agent, I’m not quite up for the task of pitching the world. I probably need to at least double my pitching efforts, but the editors of The Squash Player and Motorcaravan Motorhome Monthly are unlikely to be receiving correspondence from me anytime soon.