One of the greatest upsets in my writing life was learning that real, working writers pitch, write, and sell articles on a regular basis – that it is in fact necessary if they want to not only be “real, working writers” but “paid, not starving, non-homeless writers.” In my nebulous understanding, I figured that you either wrote books and were a writer or you didn’t and were not. If you were still waiting for your book to be written or sold, you sucked it up and got some “stable” job to support you. However, if you had sold that book, you could basically count on the royalties to support you and go on about your life, working to write your next book.
Unfortunately, even when writers sell books, those books don’t always provide them with enough to live on for a year (let alone a lifetime). Said books also don’t always provide them with the level of expertise and notoriety that the authors need to be relevant and sought-after in the field, thus making it necessary for writers to pitch articles. Pitching articles is also an alternative to working an office or retail job and in fact helps you gain contacts in the industry – contacts that can help you when you do have a book you want to pitch.
Plus, you can get paid. $$
Even after learning about this reality, I was reluctant to pitch articles. Part of it was the worry that I would somehow sabotage my efforts to be a “real” writer, part of it was sheer snobbery, but most of it was fear that I was an imposter and had nothing to say that anyone would want to read. I don’t really consider myself an expert in anything, and I’m often puzzled that anyone would want to read what I think or have experienced (this blog notwithstanding), so I have struggled to come to terms with the idea of pitching.
However, last year I joined a wonderful group of women writers, all of whom are active in their fields. They’re constantly bragging their bylines, sharing good opportunities, and encouraging and advising each other. I get almost hourly notifications from them about what they’re doing, what they’re trying, how they’ve succeeded, and how they’ve failed, and it’s been incredible. As a result, I tried pitching to The Toast a few times last year, though never with any success or real effort (but always with anxiety and starry-eyed anticipation).
This year I’ve decided to change that. This year I will pitch constantly, aggressively, and professionally. I will learn how to write a query letter, learn how to craft a pitch, and research the type of places that would actually pay me for my work. I will sell my work and develop a portfolio of clips. I will be a working writer.
For the past two weeks, I’ve pitched to xojane once a week, specifically in their “Unpopular Opinion” section (I have a feeling that we’d get along.). However, I’ve also started compiling articles for Reductress, Bustle, The Toast, and Tin House. My desk is littered with ideas written on scraps of paper, and my week always has several hours set aside for research, writing, and pitching.
Pitching is a terrifying process. It forces you to be open and vulnerable and to set something out in the world you’d prefer to protect. It exposes you, letting others know your writing proficiency, your opinion, and your past. It tricks you into making mistakes, sometimes embarrassing ones, like swearing in a pitch letter or misspelling someone’s name or pasting in the wrong link. It exhausts you mentally and physically because you’re always trying to get ahead, learn something new, and come up with something unique. Most of the time it sucks.
But it is exciting to think that someone will want to read what you have to say and that, better yet, someone will pay you for it. It’s exciting to look towards a future where you actually have publications in your CV and can send people links to online articles or copies of your stories.
So, while none of my pitches have been sold yet (I’ve only sent out two so far.), I’m being optimistic and obstinate. Millions of articles get sold and published every day simply because their authors had the courage to pitch. So why not me? Why not mine?
* Image taken from https://www.ibpsa.com/newsite/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/