Monday, March 29, 2010

Book Review: No Contacts? No Problem!

I've just finished reading a book entitled,

No Contacts? No Problem! How to Pitch and Sell Your Freelance Feature Writing (Professional Media Practice)

by Catherine Quinn. (ISBN: 9781408123560)

In it, Catherine advises how to go about selling an idea to an editor before you've actually written the article (which those of you who have tackled assignment 5 of the Comprehensive Writing Course will know all about.)

For those of you who don't know, when you're earning a living from writing, writing a complete article in full first and then trying to sell it is time consuming. And as any businessman will tell you, time is money. So, to save yourself some time, freelance writers send 'pitches' to editors, whereby they sell the idea and if the editor likes it, they'll then ask the writer to write it. This saves time and enables you as the writer to slant the feature squarely at the editor's readers.

However, many novice writers feel they can't do this because they don't have a track record. They wrongly assume that the pitch needs to list their writing experience and that editors will only take interest if they've been published in Cosmopolitan, Vogue, The Sunday Times Magazine or Esquire, for example. In most cases you don't, you simply need a good idea - that's what an editor is really interested in.

Catherine Quinn's book works well at explaining the pitching process in detail and shows you how to word your pitches positively. There are a couple of things in her book that I disagree with - for example, she says that a writer should never offer an editor pictures. Her attitude is, a writer's specialty is words, a photographer's specialty is pictures so don't do a photographer out of a job. I disagree with that, knowing full well that on many occasions, my words have only been accepted by editors purely because I've sourced the pictures myself. And anyway - who says a writer can't be good at taking pictures? There's no law against it! I would agree that there are occasions when a writer can't produce the right sort of images. For example, if reporting from a war zone for a national newspaper, the writer needs to be engaged in writing what they see, (and staying alive), therefore a professional photographer would be better at capturing these pictures.

Quinn also goes onto provide a four week plan with a section at the end of each chapter on how to get started and demonstrates the need for keeping track of which ideas you have submitted to which publications.

Over all, it is a good grounding in the production of pitches, (particularly for the newspaper market), and how to make them grab the editor's attention. Her advice clearly works, because her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Observer, The Independent, The Times, The Mirror and Time Out.

If you don't want friends and family getting you chocolate for Easter this year, suggesting this title instead as a present could be a great move!

Good luck!