Monday, 26 March 2012

Simultaneous Pitch Submissions

There was an interesting article in the April issue of Writers' Forum magazine (see cover shot) about simultaneous submissions, where an American writer suggested sending the same article idea/pitch out to several editors. He mentioned that only on a handful of occasions had more than one editor expressed an interest in his idea, leading him to have to explain to one editor that another had beaten them to it.

This has generated a bit of a debate amongst some of my students, and in the May 2012 issue of Writers' Forum (yes, it's not even the end of March yet, but the May issue is out!) Elaine Everest wrote to the letters page stating that, in her opinion, the practise is unprofessional and an awful idea. (But at least she's got a new Moleskine notebook out of it, having taken the trouble to write a letter to the publication!)

I can understand the thinking behind simultaneous submissions - it can take ages for an editor to respond, if at all. There is an argument that if an editor likes an idea, they will get back to you quickly, and if not then they won't bother at all ... although my latest commission, received on Friday, came from a pitch I made in the first week of January.

I often pitch many editors with the same basic idea, although the treatment of the idea will vary for the editor's readership, therefore I'm technically offering different ideas/articles to the editors - because each pitch will have a different angle.

There is also one other important point to note - market reach/size. The author of the original article in Writers' Forum was an American-based writer, so was writing about his experience in the American market. Because of the vast size of that country, it is much easier to sell the same article to many different publications because their readership does not overlap. An article about seven ways to save money could be sold to a New York circulation magazine, a Dallas circulation publication and a San Francisco publication, without the readership of either of these publications overlapping. (The writer could even specify selling to each publication First New York Serial Rights, First Dallas Serial Rights and First San Francisco Serial Rights, purely because of the size of the country.)

At the moment, I feel that submitting EXACTLY the same idea to two, or more, publications at the same time is asking for trouble. Whether I still think that in 2015 will be another matter. Perhaps I'll come back to this topic then!

Good luck. 

Monday, 19 March 2012

Strut Your Stuff!

It can be strange being a tutor sometimes. Today, for example, I received some postal assignments and also a handful of email assignments. Of the six postal assignments, three made same comment, and of the three email assignments, two made the same comment. At times like this, as a tutor, it can feel a little disconcerting. Why is everyone thinking the same thing?

The comment being raised was the lack of opportunities for freelance writers. Students had studied a variety of publications and seen the phrase "No unsolicited material accepted." 

This phrase (no unsolicited material) does not mean that it does not accept freelance material. All it means is that it does not accept freelance-written material that it hasn't asked for. Therefore, all you have to do is get the publication to ask to see your material.

This is where the 'pitch' comes in - your email (or letter, but email is best) approach selling your idea to the editor. Do this right and the editor will ask to see your article - then, it is no longer unsolicited.

So, it's not that publications don't accept freelance work - it's that they don't want people writing on spec. Pitching first, and then being commissioned is the professional way of doing things. That doesn't mean you have to have been writing for the national broadsheet newspapers for the past 50 years - you simply need to be clear what you are offering and why it will be of interest to your target publication's readers.

However, one point I'd like to make is to remind you to "strut your stuff" - this is the place to sell YOURSELF. If you tell the editor why YOU are the best person to write this piece, and you can offer something that another freelancer can't offer (or even a staff writer, come to that), then an editor is going to be more interested (assuming the idea is right for the publication's readership). 

One student mentioned that they'd been to St Kilda, a tiny island off the Scottish coastline. This isn't an easy place to get to. From the Scottish port of Oban it can take 8 hours to reach the uninhabited island by boat. From some of the Scottish Highlands and Islands, it can be reached in 4 hours by sea, although many trips turn back due to rough seas. An no, the island is not accessible by plane. My point is this - St Kilda is one of those places that doesn't have coach parties turning up every ten minutes. It's not a destination that anyone can simply decide to drop everything and get to by scheduled services. This student, therefore, could offer something that many other writers couldn't. But she didn't mention it until the last paragraph of her article. 

Don't be put off by publications who say "no unsolicited material." Instead, get out there and strut your stuff! Make an editor WANT to see YOUR article!

Good luck.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Tea, Cake and Talk

This week's post is a little late, because I was busy preparing for a talk I was giving to a local Women's Institute group, last night.

(If you're wondering why they are all smiling in this photo, it's because I always take a picture BEFORE I start talking. I find I get better photos when my audience is awake rather than asleep, having listened to me droning on for 30 or 40 minutes.)

The reason I wanted to mention this is because talks are an area that many writers can move into. Last night, my talk was about my writing career to date, but you could offer a talk on almost any subject of your choice. If you've had a couple of articles published on one particular subject, why not consider giving a talk about it? Do you write about family history, local interest, or other hobbies? Or, if you write fiction for magazines, or competitions, why not offer a talk on how you go about creating a story?

Last night, I spoke to a local WI group, however, I've also given talks to Probus groups, Civil Service Pension groups, and Library groups as well as a wealth of writers' groups. Village halls and community centres can be bursting with activities every night of the week, so why not find out which groups meet at those places and then see if one, or more, may be interested in having a guest speaker?

It's a good idea to give your talk an intriguing title. I called my talk Sandwiched between Kate Adie and Nick Hornby, which I hoped raised some interest, and there were 36 in the audience, so I think it worked!

Size isn't everything, and when giving your first talk, picking a small group can be a great step. Some community groups may only have a membership of seven, or eight, and it's much easier to start off by talking to a smaller group.

It's a good idea to plan to talk for about 35 to 40 minutes (although, obviously, if your group has asked for something different, then do what they ask!) and then I usually open the floor to questions.

As a guest speaker, you do sometimes get asked to judge group competitions. Last night I had to pick the three best cut flowers in a stem vase. That was a challenge, based upon my gardening knowledge and skills, but there were no fisticuffs afterwards, so I think I managed to pull that one off!

And when going to give talks to a local WI, you know you're always going to have a good cup of tea and nice piece of cake afterwards!

So, if you think you could talk about your favourite subject for 30 to 40 minutes, why not approach some local groups to see if they would be interested. It could open up a whole new world!

Good luck.

Monday, 5 March 2012

All Change at Best of British

I know that many of my students target Best of British magazine, so I thought it prudent to post about a change at the magazine.

With effect from the March 2012 issue, Chris Peachment is taking over a editor from Caroline Chadderton. The magazine is also moving, which means a change of address too. The new contact details are as follows:

Editor: Chris Peachment (

Best of British
Church Lane Publishing Ltd
Room 101 The Perfume Factory,
140 Wales Farm Road
W3 6UG

Tel: 020 8752 8181

According to the February 2012 issue, the editor will consider articles of up to 1200 words, preferably submitted by email, or if submitted by post an electronic copy should be supplied on a CD Rom. The editor does make it clear that articles submitted electronically and accompanied by photographs will be given preference.

Best of British likes nostalgic pieces from the 1930s up to the 1980s on any British subject. As Chris Peachment said in the February 2012 issue, "You don't have to win a Pulitzer Prize. Just do what Hemingway recommended and 'tell it like it is'."

So, what are you waiting for?

Good luck!