The writer’s week: pitch, (read) pitch, (write) pitch (revise) — sales!

This week was crazy.

On Monday I pitched nine ideas to a new-to-me editor at The New York Times on retirement. Hard to think of anything fresh and new. On Wednesday afternoon he assigned one. (I got that idea after doing a reading of my book, “Malled” at a local nursing home. Ideas do come from everywhere!)

English: The New York Times building in New Yo...
English: The New York Times building in New York, NY across from the Port Authority. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last week I pitched another new-to-me editor there eight different ideas for a regular column, the Holy Grail for any freelancer; she liked one of them and asked for a sample. I reached out to about 20 people on LinkedIn as possible sources; some freelancers have a bunch of steady gigs, and/or teach. I have none of that and would be thrilled to have something reliable.

After four months of calling and emailing a friend who works with her, I now have an appointment for coffee with another new-to-me editor next week at a design/shelter magazine I’ve long wanted to write for; with my background studying interior design and passion for antiques, this is a (potential) perfect fit. So excited!

I emailed one of my Times’ editors to remind her (nicely) that my payment from her needs a second approval before I actually get my money. It should, as it must, arrive just in time for April 15 when I put away a wad ‘o cash for my retirement savings. Whew.

Like many freelancers, I know, cashflow is an ongoing challenge. I make money, but it often doesn’t arrive exactly when I need it; I use a line of credit (overdraft protection) to cover my costs until it does.

The Times ran a front-page story about a huge donation of art to the Metropolitan Museum — and I recognized the name of a fellow Canadian and fellow alum of my college as a major player in the story. I emailed her immediately to ask if it was indeed the same person (it was), and pitched three editors within half an hour, all in Canada. Two said no and one said she’d consider it. I also pitched it to three different editors at the Toronto Star, where a dear friend gave me the right names and emails.

Then — of course! — after the Star says yes, the NYC PR people say, “Later, maybe.” Good thing it wasn’t much money. This is the second time, (and probably the last), I waste my time trying to get a hot story for a Canadian client offering little money for a lot of hassle.

I’ve been spending more time on the part of my business I tend to neglect — finding and pitching new markets. It’s time-consuming and tiring as you never know who will bite and who’ll simply ignore you, no matter how great your ideas or credentials. Last week a Montreal friend kindly sent me an ad from Entrepreneur magazine seeking writers who know about design; I sent my clips and resume at once, and never heard a word.

Freelancing is a constant juggling act: doing the work in hand, (well enough to get repeat business); revising stories after submission; getting new work; invoicing and tracking payment; coming up with ideas and pitching.

Planning to visit with friends coming to New York for my annual writers’ conference April 25.

Oh and working out, seeing friends and enjoying the crocus, magnolia, daffodils and bluebells popping up all over downstate New York right now.

I also gulped down — pun intended — a friend’s new book, to be published in July, about American women and their consumption of alcohol. I plan to pitch several angles from it to a few different women’s magazines.

Still grinding away on my book proposal.

Working on a story for Ladies Home Journal andΒ  finally heard back from a source on another LHJ idea. I got this LHJ assignment — unusual for me — just by asking if my editor had anything to assign. We met more than 15 years ago when she was editing a bunch of custom publication magazines for Gruner & Jahr, now long gone.

If you stick around, and keep doing good work, and nurture your relationships, it pays off…

Ladies' Home Journal
Ladies’ Home Journal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Got back the revised version of my story for the Yale Alumni Magazine. I loved that assignment and really hope for another, both well-paid and interesting. I landed that gig by pitching one idea she didn’t like but catching her eye — she assigned this to me.

Spoke to my editor in Florida about my next design story and got a cheery “We’ve got nothing at the moment” email from a long-time editor in Texas.

Sent paper work to a librarian for a Malled talk there May 15; paperwork to get paid by LHJ and a contract filled with the usual obnoxious language, (some of which I amended), to a chaotic and late-paying website I never plan to write for again.

By Friday afternoon — when it was cold, gray, wet and rainy, I was pooped, took a two-hour nap and settled into an armchair to just read for pure pleasure. It’s a thriller, of all things, and I have no idea where I found it, The Wrong Mother, by Sophie Hannah.

This weekend — like every weekend — I’ll plow through The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Financial Times, all in their print versions. If I don’t unplug from the computer, I feel like a cow tethered to a milking machine!

The towering, slithery stacks of unread magazines will taunt me for another few weeks…

21 thoughts on “The writer’s week: pitch, (read) pitch, (write) pitch (revise) — sales!

    1. Thanks…I have expensive tastes! I like to take vacations…and that means working 2x a hard when there’s no paid time off. I’m taking three weeks in May to (I pray) simply relax and recharge.

      Canadians are cheap as hell. They really have no idea how cheap because Canadian writers keep showing up anyway. But it’s not even the cheapness, it’s the whole way they do (or do not) do business.

  1. I have not lived in Canada since 1976 but Canadians, at least the ones I know, can be quite self-satisfied and critical. Canadians vary in friendliness from place to place and they are still very reserved. I have gotten over the Canadian reticence and conservative ways and now am just another sociable, outspoken and friendly American.

    1. You been here even longer than I — but I agree with you. I find the reserve cold and the unwillingness to make a damn decision really really annoying. I’ve worked with several American assistants and they are quite stunned at Canadians’ rudeness — the absolute refusal to return calls or emails, even after they have indicated initial interest. So I miss my friends there, but the longer I stay here the more “American” (probably inevitably) I’ve also become.

  2. Your drive and work ethic are incredible, and an inspiration. I’m exhausted just reading this, and hope there’s a particularly fabulous vacation in the works! πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks! I don’t write it all to impress (although pleasant!) but to give would-be writers a very real taste of what it takes to keep the $$$ rolling in on a regular basis. You really have to hustle hard all the time and it does take a hell of a lot of energy. I do take naps! πŸ™‚

      1. I wish more people would make their workdays transparent. I weary of people who boast about their incomes but never reveal all the work that creates it.

        I slept SO badly last night there is surely a nap in today’s afternoon.

      2. Agree completely, especially since we often hear from people who “hit the big time” (in any number of careers) and others coming up don’t realize all that went into getting there, and what is usually involved in staying there.

        Sorry you had such a lousy night, I hope there’s peace and a nap for you today. πŸ™‚

      3. Wouldn’t it interesting if more people were really truthful about how they got where they did? I think it would do a lot to destroy the “instant fame” fantasy that is so prevalent. What has struck me is that writing ability (at this point) is the least of it for me now…it’s automatic. It’s the getting and managing and maintaining relationships at all levels that will or will not help me keep going.

        I ate (!!???) two small dark chocolates at 10:00 p.m. I had no idea they must have contained a shitload of caffeine. So much for that idea.

      4. Sounds like a book proposal to me…The Business of Journalism, Shmoozing isn’t all Martini Lunches πŸ˜€

        Yikes, that is a bummer! Maybe the caffeine/sugar combo? I have black tea right up until I go to sleep, not at all caffeine sensitive. Not sure how I’d get to sleep without it.

      5. πŸ™‚

        I wonder if caffeine and sugar have a catalyzing effect? I still feel weird. Great for a 4pm pick-me-up…not great to lie in bed all night with one’s heart racing. Very odd.

  3. Your work ethic is phenomenal! It’s not just the work ethic, it’s the way you roll with it all–the pitches, rejections, readings, assignments and the tackling of the dreadful paperwork end of things. Thanks for giving us this peek into your world. You’re an inspiration! One question– what kind of vitamins do you take?

    1. Thanks…Truth be told, if my living costs were lower, my tastes less expensive and I didn’t have to save so much $$$$$ for retirement, I’d probably work a whole lot less. My druthers would be far fewer assignments with much higher $ values, but these are very difficult (for me) to get. But I do like eating out, wearing cashmere and taking vacations, so on I go.

      The other stuff I describe is par for the course, but most people don’t admit it. πŸ™‚ They like to make it look easy, which is absurdly misleading to others. I think it’s really important for anyone who has wild fantasies about Being A Writer that they see what it really looks like when you get up in the morning all alone. Slog city!

      I don’t take vitamins at all. I do sleep 8-10.5 hours every night, nap when needed and try to exercise at least 4x a week. No smoking, a little alcohol. Good friends and a good marriage help, too. And vacations…Counting the days til May when I am taking 3 weeks off.

      1. What’s most amazing to me is that you also cram in time to blog about all of this! And you seem to be a writing machine–do you ever have days when you’re feeling uninspired/ blocked/ like your writing is crap?

        Cashmere is great incentive. I hope your vacation is fabulous!

      2. Well, I have no kids, pets or hobbies. We live in a 1 bedroom apt. that needs very little upkeep or maintenance. I don’t have to commute to work.

        And blogging is a perfect way to procrastinate! πŸ™‚ I also just enjoy it. This way I get to “talk” to people. With my paid work, I just work and submit it and wait for publication/payment then start again. You get almost no personal feedback from journalism, from readers or editors. I enjoy it, but it’s mighty formulaic; blogging is not.

        I wish I had days I felt blocked. Mostly my brain runs 24/7 with ideas. My writing may well be crap, but (whether or not I should be!) I’m rarely crippled by self-doubt. I know what sort of a life I want to live financially and chase down as much work as I can. I start with the end in mind, whether that’s “creative” or not. The “end” is making a living. The way I get there is working my ass off. πŸ™‚

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