Monthly Archives: April 2010

The Adventures of Pitching the World

Coming soon: The Adventures of Pitching the World. Below is a sneak preview of the hilarious comic strip based on the life of a failing writer. Also starring Dr Mrs Pitching the World, Bingo, Alan and Boz.

Disclaimer: this is in no way a desperate attempt to claw back some readers and to dodge the business of writing. And while we’re at it, it didn’t take me three hours to knock up the picture below and it isn’t nearly four o’clock in the fucking morning. 

Grandmaster Pitchy and the Furious Wife

For a few months now my wife, who I suspect is beginning to hate me, has been looking at my career with increasing alarm. Frankly, I don’t blame her. I’m on her side. I’ve been looking at my career with increasing alarm too. In fact, my career terrifies me. If I’m not writing and sending off unsuccessful pitches, then I’m writing and filing unsuccessful (i.e. not good) copy to unsuccessful (i.e. not good) magazines. Then I sit back with increasing alarm and wait to get paid unsuccessfully (i.e. not enough, not on time, sometimes not at all).

Regular readers will know that this is nothing new. Nor are my battles with other things, including an ongoing battle with my hairline (not good), waistline (not good, getting worse) and attempts to stay sane (not good, going to get much worse). Still, I have a list. The list was dreamt up by me and my wife, round about the time when I suspected she was beginning to hate me. It reads:

By June 6th 2010:

  1. Get in restaurant reviews (130)
  2. Finish pitching for Pitching the World
  3. Write proposal/synopsis & covering letter for pubs/agents
  4. Other work?                                                                          

Items 1 and 4 on the list are under control. Well, as under control as they can be. Restaurants are being reviewed (surprisingly successfully) and other work is rolling in. And although when I think about my deadline for the reviews and the deadlines for the other work that is rolling in I have to scarper up the road, by a can of super strength lager and hide in a bush in the park drinking it, I think I’m doing about as well as I can. 

No, the problems don’t lie with items 1 and 4. The problems lie with items 2 and 3. I look at “Finish pitching for Pitching the World” and want to puke. My pitches stink. They haven’t got the colour or vim or zip or whatever it was that they used to have when I was okay at this (and for a while I was okay at this, rather than an almighty fuck up at this) and, more alarmingly perhaps, they don’t contain any information. I realise that I don’t have any knowledge of anything: so I’m sending off bland pitches that lack any information to obscure publications and the editors don’t really know what to do with them. Well, they do know what to do with them: ignore them. Ignore them, because they’re not really pitches even, I’m not really sure what they are, but I do know that I don’t like the little shits.

Yep, problems. Problems, because I can’t hope to write a book about Pitching the World if my pitches (which aren’t really pitches, just little shits) aren’t getting anywhere. The best I can hope for is a flash of inspiration or a leg-up. I’ve thought as far as joining the Masons for my leg-up. Seriously. This is my answer to everything right now: join the Masons, I say to myself, and everything will be alright. 

Here’s a pitch that worked, from a while back (for the Independent, before I was an almighty fuck up at this):

I read with considerable interest your article on anaphylaxis and allergies in general, published last July in The Independent. Earlier this year I was admitted to emergency departments on two separate occasions with anaphylactic shock. The first time the complaint was relatively mild: a rash covered the whole of my upper body and face and I had slight swelling of the lips and tongue. The second time was far more severe and I nearly had what was described as “a complete system collapse”. Thankfully adrenaline and steroids – and indeed doctors – are wonderful things, and after seven or eight hours of observation I was released. Rather less thankfully, my GP said that although my initial reaction was due to penicillin, I could be allergic to anything or, in fact, “nothing”. So there could be no obvious trigger. I could – and I know this is a very shaky hypothesis – be allergic to writing this email. Doubtful I know, but reason enough to be brief. Essentially then, I would like to write both about my experience of anaphylaxis and have a broader look at why we may becoming increasingly prone to such reactions.

Try and let me know if you are in any way interested. 

With very kind regards,

Grandmaster Pitchy.

Cop out

Holy Fucking Shit! A Pitch!

And I never use exclamation marks! Never! And it’s not really even a pitch, more an illustration of how far I’ve come. Regular readers of this grief-filled blog will recall the heady days at the beginning of the year when I sent off four magical lines to editors asking about freelance work. They read:

I’m a former political speechwriter, almost a former professional footballer (see clip below), and currently a freelance journalist. Frankly, I’ve become a little jaded over the last few months writing for the same handful of publications that I regularly write for and am looking to broaden my interests. One of these interests is writing for you. Are you accepting freelance contributions at the moment, or would I be wasting my time if I knuckled down and pitched?

At the time I felt pretty enthusiastic about the responses and was moved to write, on this grief-heavy blog on January 24th 2010, the following:

And perhaps the state of journalism isn’t as bleak as many people seem to think it is. If one four line email (a four line wonder, if you like) sent to ten magazines can provoke eight promising leads and a relationship, however slight, with eight different editors then the future might not be so bad.

I even ended up praising the state of the industry in an article published in the British Journalism Review. Well, I’m a little ashamed – yet not at all surprised – to tell you that the future is indeed ‘so bad.’ Despite my initial optimism, my four-line wonder has provided absolutely zero work. It did open a few doors to editors who were receptive to me pitching, but in typical pitchingtheworld style, the moment I saw that those doors were open, I did my level best close them. And not so much just close them: close them, then piss all over them. Then set fire to the pissy doors and walk away.

Still, it’s not all bad news in the life of PTW, it never is. Miraculously, I’ve rediscovered my love for journalism. This is partly because I’ve actually been doing things this week: going out to interview people, visiting restaurants, pretending to be undercover, trying to catch mice etc. and I’ve realised that there are a lot of aspects of the job that I like. I’ve developed a kind of bumbling, shambolic persona – think half Columbo, half Louis Theroux – that allows people to open up to me. The trick here is to make the person who you are interviewing feel as if they are cleverer than you. Actually, that’s not true: the real trick is to make the person who you are interviewing think that you want them to think that they are cleverer than you. I don’t know why this might be, if it’s even remotely true or even if it makes sense, but in my defence I’ve written nearly 500 words and have been working to a strict schedule of Pomodoros today and all this week and my mind’s turned to sludge.

Here’s a pitch I sent to Cat World earlier:

Dear Cat World,

What are your views on cat sharing? More specifically, what are your views on running a feature about a business claiming to be ‘the first cat sharing website’? The idea for Cat Even Stevens (good name) is simple: rather than pay expensive cattery bills when you are going on holiday or otherwise engaged, why not pair your cat with someone who could really reap the benefits. Someone with mice, say, or someone who’s just a bit lonely. Frankly, I think the idea is a winner and I haven’t come across anything quite like it. I haven’t written many cat related features before, but have written for The Guardian, The Independent, Square Mile, Business Destinations, Hedge Magazine, Overseas Living, FRONT and a whole host of others and can pretty much turn my hand to anything. Plenty of clippings available. I should point I am fond of cats. I should also point out that Cat Even Stevens was conceived and implemented by my wife. However, she is on the verge of divorcing me so don’t worry about the piece coming across as too gushing or partisan. Here’s the website address, should you care to take a look: http://catevenstevens.wordpress.com/

Sincerely,

PTW

They haven’t replied so far. I’ll let you know when they do.

What I’ve learnt about journalism since the inception of Pitching the World on September 24th, 2009