Apologies for the title of this post, which sounds like something that would appear on a late night infomercial for desperate writers, if such a thing existed. Really, though, it tells you exactly what you need to know.
Let’s get right to it.
Most writers are always looking for new assignments (they’re also looking for better-paying assignments… note to publishers), and they can get demoralized when they enter those periods–as we all do–in which pitches and queries seem to be dropping into a void. “Not interested” is hard enough to hear, but even harder is hearing nothing at all.
I don’t advocate changing your pitching rhythm, but here are five things you can do–some obvious, others not so much–to keep assignments coming in when editors don’t seem to be checking their inboxes:
1. Talk to your writer friends about your dead pitches.
We all have story ideas we just can’t seem to sell but we know would do well if they just found the right home. Get together, whether in person or online, with a group of writer friends (even one other writer will do) and share your dead pitches. The perspective of other writers can be incredibly valuable; they can help you see holes in your pitch that you might not be able to see, and they may have ideas for outlets you haven’t considered. They may even have editorial contacts they’d be willing to share. Be sure to reciprocate generously.
2. Introduce yourself to new editors at old publications.
Every time I see that an editor I’ve worked with is moving elsewhere, I feel competing emotions: happiness for their career move and frustration for myself; I’m going to have to work to develop a new relationship at a publication where I had an “in.”
In these cases–and they’re getting increasingly common–it’s smart to reach out to the new editor. Congratulate them, introduce yourself as a writer with X, Y, Z, areas of expertise and a history with the publication/previous editor, and express your interest in and enthusiasm about continuing to contribute to the publication during his or her tenure.
3. Work yourself into a new/extra gig by sharing hidden areas of expertise.
A friend who recently took up an editorial position reached out to me with an offer of an assignment. I was thrilled and grateful he’d thought of me. After completing the first assignment, I mentioned how much I’d enjoyed working with the publication and said I’d love to work with them again, especially if they had assignments related to some of my other areas of interest and expertise, which I named. Within a week, I had three more assignments, which would have gone to another writer had I not spoken up.
4. Set up push notifications on twitter.
Too many editors are dinosaurs when it comes to social media, but there are some who use twitter and other platforms to announce when they’re commissioning writers, especially when they’re in a pinch. If you set up push notifications to receive tweets from editors at publications where you’d like to have a byline, you can be among the first to receive such information.
The other way I use push notifications on twitter is to source breaking news in specific topical niches. For example, I’ve set up push notifications to receive tweets from a few chefs who are rumored to be in the process of making some big career moves, but who, so far, have been pretty mum about those. On twitter, though, they tend to have looser lips, and by receiving push notifications, I can be fairly certain that I’ll have a lead on their big news before it breaks elsewhere.
5. Stay in touch with the folks in your outer circles.
I was recently surprised and touched when another writer remembered a particular area of expertise of mine and recommended me to an editor for a print magazine assignment. That assignment has turned into something pretty special (sorry, can’t say exactly what just yet). What was particularly touching to me was that this writer and I aren’t close; I’d say we’re in each other’s outer circles. We like each other, but we live far apart and just aren’t in regular touch. We follow each other on Facebook and twitter, but probably only have a substantial one-on-one exchange every other year. This was a reminder to work harder to stay in touch with people who are more loosely connected to us.
What are your tips for keeping assignments coming in? Share in the comments.