Daily Archives: September 24, 2009

A Complex Plan

Hello and welcome.

I am an idiot. A little over a week ago I foolishly started an experiment. I say experiment, though the word experiment is used in a very loose sense. In fact it’s not an experiment at all, no matter how loosely you use the word: it’s something altogether different.

Let’s start again.

I am an idiot. A little over a week ago I began to pitch feature ideas to every UK magazine listed in the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook. There are 642 of them in total – magazines that is, not Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbooks. The W&A Yearbook, for those who don’t know, is a faintly depressing book – a yearbook, whatever the hell that is – that lists a bunch of publishers, contact details for newspapers and magazines, advice on how to approach television channels and production companies, the details of agents – you get the picture I’m sure. On the front cover there is a quote from Julie Myerson – whoever the hell that is – letting us know that the book is “the best friend an aspiring writer can have” (not true: my best friend is Gary Sams) and on the back there’s a load more guff about it being “a must for established and aspiring authors” (The Society of Authors), “full of useful stuff” (J.K. Rowling) and “packed with tips and professional insight” (The Association of Illustrators).

I’m really beginning to hate it.

I’m beginning to hate it because there’s a shitty introduction by Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan. I’m beginning to hate it because the advice – bar one or two exceptions – isn’t going to help anyone, let alone me. I’m beginning to hate it because it just sits there on my desk all red and yellow and garish, doing nothing. I’m really beginning to hate it because there are 642 magazines in there and I’ve made a decision to pitch every single one. That means I have to pitch Trout and Salmon, Slim at Home, and Black Hair and Beauty. It means that in the last week I’ve already pitched Accounting and Business, Aeroplane Monthly and AIR International. It means, in short, that I am an idiot. An idiot with his work cut out.

A good question here would be “Why? Why would you want to pitch every magazine in that depressing yearbook?”

Well, that is indeed a good question. A good answer is a little harder to come by, but I’ll give it a shot. Firstly, I came up with the idea when I was stoned in Darwin, Australia. Now, if you’ve ever been stoned in Darwin, Australia, you’ll know that a lot of things that strike you as good ideas cease to be good ideas when you’re not stoned in Darwin, Australia. Problem is, I had told my wife about my idea (I think I might have said something along the lines of “I’ve had a breakthrough”) and my brother-in-law about my idea and a few other people and it just kind of snowballed to the extent that I can’t back away from my breakthrough because I’ve had lots of breakthroughs before and mostly they just peter out because they are not really breakthroughs at all, just rubbish ideas. So that’s one reason: I’m sticking with it to prove a point.

Another reason is that it’s my livelihood. Prior to being stoned in Darwin, Australia I was a political speechwriter in St Kitts, the Caribbean. I left that job for reasons far too numerous and complicated to go into now, but the main reason I left that job as a political speechwriter in St Kitts, the Caribbean was to go back to being a freelance journalist. That’s right: at possibly the worst time in history for freelancers I left my prestigious, well paid and more-exotic-sounding-than-it-is job to go back to journalism. And when I was stoned in Darwin, Australia, the thought of hassling my regular editors for commissions struck me as too depressing for words. So I thought I would cast my net a little wider. So I decided to pitch loads of different magazines, and the W&A Yearbook seemed a good place to start. 

I’ll go into some other reasons another time (bet you can’t wait). I’ll go into a lot of other stuff too: who I’ve pitched so far and what their responses have been; regular updates on my pitching success or otherwise; the nature of journalism in modern Britain and the writer I’d most like to fight in a pub car park. 

Until then, then.