Monday, 29 August 2011

Blowing Bubbles

Well, for some of us the summer holidays are almost over. It's one week until the kids return to school here and the seven weeks they've had off has just flown by.I haven't done as much writing as I'd planned or would have liked to have, but that was my choice. And now that the Autumn term is about to start, I'm quite excited by the increase in my writing time this means. It's bad enough to stay motivated and hide in my office when my husband's on his days off from work, but it's nigh on impossible when our daughter is off school and she and her friends are charging around, shrieking 'Justin Beiber' at the top of their voices!  So getting back to some 'normality' will be refreshing (and I get to listen to Justin Beiber's CD all by myself - only joking <cough>)

As you might well know, I've been trying, recently, to broaden my horizons on the article writing front and pitch to magazines I haven't targeted before. It's a bit hit and miss - some editors have ignored me, some have said an outright no, and some have said pitch again in a few months. But I'm working on an article for the one editor that has said yes. It's been fun researching for it and has given me the impetus to keep pushing forward with article writing. A lot of the pitches and articles I'm doing now can also be used for the journalism course I'm still doing, so I'm hoping to kill two birds with one stone.

I'm a positive person, but , just like everyone else, I do have setbacks and it can be hard sometimes to see the point in carrying on with writing, especially when the media reports suggest that publishing is in decline and being affected by the recession. I had a recent experience that didn't help this mood either. I won't go into too much detail as I don't wish to dwell on it. But it involved an article I had accepted for publication a couple of years ago by a magazine. I hadn't heard anything despite my trying to contact the editor on several occasions. Anyway, I heard recently that the editor who had accepted my article had left and although the new editor was interested in it and some other ideas I'd pitched to them,  they weren't prepared to pay for it - when the ex-editor was!

Yes, it's annoying and frustrating, but these things happen and it hasn't put me off pitching elsewhere. Better communication on the part of the outgoing editor might have helped here - I did try! I have written pieces for free before and I dare say I will again but I don't see why writers should forfeit payment to glossy magazines who have a cover price and get a large proportion of their income from plush advertising. Writing is a business, just as much as the magazines are.

We had a lively debate recently on Facebook about when, if ever, it was acceptable to write for free - and it obviously stirred up strong opinions and emotions on the subject ranging from those who were dead set against it and didn't take too kindly to those who did write for free, or who weren't prepared to haggle for a higher fee, to those who could see the value of writing for free - for them it wasn't always about the money.

I think that as writers we should be blowing as many  pitching bubbles as we can and see how far they float.  A lot of the time, yes, you might not get a reply from the editors you target, but sometimes you will. Editors will always need good copy for their magazines and why shouldn't it be you who provides that? The only question is whether the editors are prepared to pay for your copy or not,and if they are, how much? And what will your reaction be to the editors who like your ideas but aren't prepared to pay for them?

On this occasion I walked away as I know there are editors who are prepared to pay for my work. As a writer I supply a product, rather in the same way as a teacher provides their teaching skills to the school that employs them, or a nurse provides their skills to the hospital that employs them, or a plumber repairs a leak or fits a new bathroom for a customer. They expect to be paid for the work they do and so should writers  - you.

I do a lot of volunteer work for which I receive no monetary payment but the rewards I do get: sense of purpose, sense of giving something back to society and helping young people to achieve what they want from life are priceless. But writing is my main business and I have to make money from it to keep my business going. Everyone has to make money to survive in this society, so I see my volunteering and writing as two separate things.

There are only two occasions when I would consider writing for free: if it was for a non-profit making charity and all its fundraising goes towards the people it helps, or if I was running low on examples for my portfolio - and then it would only be for 'free' magazines or ones I know don't make high profits and honestly can't afford writer's fees. But we're all different, and I certainly wouldn't pass judgement on any writer who does or doesn't write for free.

So, don't be afraid to blow your pitching bubbles and see where they land - you have nothing to lose and you might just get your work in a new publication. Think about what you expect to gain from your writing too: pleasure, money, publication, or a combination of all three?

Happy writing

Julie xx

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