It all began with an email at 17:37 for a photo. “Hi Simon. Do you have any photos of the Stiperstones?” came the request from Country Walking magazine. I’ve recently helped out the magazine with a couple of photo requirements, and so I assumed this was another similar request. I trawled through my photographic library and identified a selection of images that I hoped may be of interest. Twenty minutes later I emailed them the details.
The following morning, shortly after 9am, Country Walking emailed again. They liked one photo and wanted to use it for their ‘Only On Foot’ section. But now they needed me to write the accompanying 330 words. So what I thought was a simple photo request was now a words and picture package. The only trouble was they needed the words within the next 48 hours. Of course, being freelance, I said, “No problem,” and set about rejigging my workload to fit in the urgent request.
When I’ve spoken to new writers at workshops and events, many have commented that it’s nice when editors get in touch and ask them to help out, but sometimes the tight deadlines can be immensely frustrating. How come we have to pitch ideas months in advance and yet when an editor wants something they need it yesterday?
Well, normally, magazines do start planning issues months in advance. Indeed, I’m currently working on a piece for BBC Countryfile for their October issue, and I’m also working on the December issue of my Business of Writing column in Writing Magazine. But, just like other industries, things can go wrong at the last minute. Projects can fall through at the last minute, promised material from other business and organisations can fail to turn up, and an editor is faced with a page to fill and a looming print deadline.
All this happened less than a month ago, on 30th June, and I now suspect that I was helping Country Walking magazine out of such a tight hole, because last week the latest issue of the magazine fell onto my doormat, and when I turned to the back page there was my photo and my text that I’d supplied them with a little over two weeks previously.
So if an editor contacts you and asks you to write something for them in the next 48 hours, don’t curse them for the urgency of their request, nor moan at why they couldn’t have asked you for this a week ago. The chances are they didn’t know a week ago that they would need to make such a request. You could be helping them out of a difficult situation. And remember - that’ll be helping your bank balance too!