Monday, February 17, 2014

Chain Reaction

I thought I’d return to the subject of pitching following some comments from students and followers over the last few days.

One of the many frustrations with pitches is the lack of response from editors, when they’re submitted. On one hand I can understand the editor’s lack of response - after all, the pitches are usually unsolicited. They didn’t ask for them in the first place. (Some magazines do send out requests for ideas for certain slots within their pages.) But, as any writer will point out, a magazine needs ideas to fill its pages. Still, nobody knows what sort of day an editor is having at the other end of the email system.

The problem is, we writers are an impatient lot! I know from my own recent experience. I pitched an article idea and the editor responded within 24 hours saying he liked the idea but he wanted to think about it a bit more. He said he'd get back to me. It took four weeks before he did, and it was a long four weeks, but it was worth it in the end!

One of my students pitched an idea to a magazine, and the editor replied quite quickly, however, she replied by asking if the idea could be tweaked slightly. The angle wasn’t quite right. This, the student did, promptly, but then didn’t hear anything. After a month she chased, but still there was no reply. Another month passed and the student thought the editor didn’t like the new pitch. Still, she chased again and was then shocked to get a reply. However, her heart plummeted when she opened the email and the first word she saw was, “Sorry.” Was this the precursor to a rejection?

When she read the email properly, the editor was apologising for the delay in responding, and also because they were still unable to make a decision. Whilst I understand the frustration, I also think this is good news. The revised pitch has not been dismissed out of hand, something that the editor could easily have done at this stage. So, there is still hope.

Another writer mentioned to me that she’d pitched an idea to an editor and not had a response, so assumed that the editor wasn’t interested. This was months ago, but I suggested she chase it up. She did, and despite several months passing, the editor responded with a positive reply.

So, sometimes the pitching game is a slow burn. It’s not a game of instant gratification, although my record between pitch and commission is four minutes! But remember, when you pitch your starting a chain reaction. The editor cannot commission your idea unless you take that first step and pitch. Set the chain reaction going but appreciate that those chain links are of various lengths. Some chain links can take months of gentle enquiries to get a reaction.

Good luck.