In 2011 I found myself experiencing a very newsworthy event. I was in Northern Japan when the triple disaster hit (just in case you missed it, there was an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown). I was aware of opportunities to report from Japan during the disaster, but I knew I had a good story, and I wanted to give it time.
I eventually researched and wrote a 6,500 word piece, which I hoped to publish to raise awareness at the time of the anniversary. I broke the golden rule of knowing what publication it was for before I started writing. But because there was so much popular interest in the event, I was confident I could find a venue. Plus I wanted an international audience (so would publish online).
6,500 words is a long article - but the Internet is a big place, and I had structured my article so that it could be published in two parts of 3,250 words. I had no reason to think that pitching opportunities would be limited. In fact they were.
I spent days searching for publication venues. All I wanted was an audience for my work. I found many publications for non-fiction work but the vast majority – be they big or small, popular or boutique – limited their online word counts to 1,000 words. Those publications that had longer counts (eg New Yorker, Harpers, Vanity Fair) expected maturity in their writers (big names). In the end, I found but one publication I could pitch to (I pitched, and got nothing back).
Writers know that sometimes we have to shelve an idea. But I had spent a lot of time on this article, and many people were interested in the experience. I couldn’t let it die on the basis of just one pitch! I considered publishing it on my own site to have it out in time for the anniversary.
But my site was just brochureware. I didn’t have an audience, and if I was going to self-publish I had to get an editor to review the work first (and this would cost me money). I would not only be giving my work away for free, but also spending money to do that. Self-publishing on my site would put me well out of pocket. (And anyhow, what’s that about? A fledgling publishing their own work? Where was the editor to validate and guide me? How could I get an audience for my work?)
I had to explore different avenues to get my work out there, and I did this from the perspective of an emerging writer. In the next post, you’ll get an overview of what I uncovered.
How important do you think it is to have an editor 'validate' your work via the old 'pitch' model?