Last week I went to a seminar by the PWAC on pitching articles to magazines. The editors were fantastic and gave some really informative tips on how do do a pitch properly. I've taken a couple of courses on writing for magazines and certainly done a fair amount of reading about, but nothing was as detailed as this hour and a half.
And then came question time.
Do you ever have the feeling you may be the smartest person in the room? Many of the people in my circles are very smart. We have surrounded ourselves with friends who are incredibly smart; some of them know it and others are oblivious to it, but they are smart. So I was singularly unprepared to sit in a room of people who identify themselves as writers and hear the questions that they asked. It felt a bit like a showing of the worst of these people.
Can I fax you a copy of my previous work, because the one I have scanned is a bad scan. (Umm, either scan it again yourself or get someone to scan it.)
I've written a load of books and wondered if I can make a relationship with an editor without sending in pitches. (Hey guy, do you know that this makes you sound lazy? And yeah, the answer is not unless you already know an editor. Do the work!)
What if I have another idea when I am researching and writing an article for a magazine. (Getting new ideas is the lifeblood of writing. Be happy. But don't repeat the research and quotes in another article. No one wants repeats. No matter how much you rephrase that question!)
How can I negotiate rates? (Seriously? Most of the people in this audience are here because they want to learn how to pitch effectively, which means that they don't have much experience. Without the experience, you say "Thank you so much for this money for my work. Can I pitch something else and do more work for you." As you get better and known for providing good work, you will get better pay or be able to negotiate better pay. Oh yeah, and knowing your audience is a good start when writing, as well as when speaking.)
I loved the editors and was not a fan of the audience, but boy did I feel like I was one of the smartest people in that room. I did leave full of ideas and potential angles to approach magazines. I do wish I'd had a smart question or two to ask though. However, sometimes it is smart to just sit and listen.