Monday, February 24, 2014

Hello? Is There Anybody There?

Last week, I chatted about pitching and chasing, because it’s important to keep sending out ideas and chasing them up. However, we should also remember the human being at the other end of our emails and phone calls. It’s easy to assume that magazines are staffed with hundreds of people. Television programmes and films (such as The Devil Wears Prada) that are set in the offices of a glossy magazine always show offices inundated with people running around with products, writing copy, making tea, having water-cooler moments and sorting out their love lives. Not every publication is like that though. In fact, few are. 

Many, many years ago, I went for a job interview with a publication and was shown around the offices of a large magazine and I remember thinking, “Blimey! I never knew so many people worked on this magazine.” Then it was explained to me that the three people sitting in that far corner over there, were all the staff that worked on the magazine I had the job interview with. 

Not all writing staff at a magazine work full time, or all of their time, on a particular section of a publication. Jill Finlay is the Fiction Editor of The Weekly News, and she is inundated with our short story submissions. She’s a lovely editor, and writes some of the loveliest rejection letters/emails. (I know, because I’ve had some of them!) Yet one contributor was told last week that she only has three and a half hours a week to deal with the fiction slot in the publication. That’s not a lot of time to read the hundreds of submissions she receives every week, let alone deal with all of the correspondence and the emails from writers chasing their submissions!

It should be remembered that publications are businesses - there to make a profit for shareholders. Writers and editors are costs to that business. Whilst it’s easy to say that the publication should invest more time into the fiction pages, the accountants at head office might look at The Weekly News and point out that the fiction constitutes two pages of a 48-page weekly publication.

So, whilst it’s a good idea to chase your pitch submissions, and enquire about submissions made several months ago, always remember that at the other end of the line/email is someone who is probably harassed, stressed, and over-worked, who would love it if their days were forty-eight hours long, or they could have another twenty assistants to help them. Indeed some publications are staffed by only one person, who needs holidays like the rest of us, and the odd day off sick. So always remain polite and courteous and business-like in your correspondence.

Good luck.