Tag Archives: pitching

Ramblings on a snow day

Do you ever have those days where you don’t feel like doing anything? I do. I am having one right now. It is just after 10:00 AM here in East Tennessee. I am drinking coffee out of my new coffee mug, which is a 20 ounce Chip from Beauty and the Beast, which you can see here. I love him.

Chip is precious and gives me coffee. I love him.

There is a blanket of snow on the ground, briefly turning our grey mountains into an Alpine paradise. Of course, snow is a Catch-22 in Appalachia. It makes everything beautiful – because frankly the bleakness of barren trees and muddy mountainsides is not beautiful unless you throw a coat of snow on it – but also inaccessible. Still, if it has to be winter, I prefer there be snow.

When I was in high school, we would regularly miss the entire month of January, or nearabouts, due to snow and ice. I lived up a curvy, narrow, one-lane road with traffic that went both ways. You had to pull over to the side to let the other person pass. That might mean your car is mere inches from a 100-food plunge down the mountain. Dangerous at the best of times. Besides, no school bus could make it up a hollow in the snow.

Like I did as a teenager, I am having a bit of a snow day today. Maybe its the weather. Maybe I didn’t get enough sleep. Maybe its the fact that we just lived through an attempted coup. Who can say? All I know is that today is a day for taking it easy.

That doesn’t mean I won’t be doing any work. I’m looking ahead to next week. There’s some research for a piece I want to pitch about the 50th anniversary of All in the Family, a piece I may begin that I’d like to put on Medium on Sunday, and a few other things I’m working on. So, even when I’m not “working,” I’m working. But that’s okay. I enjoy my work.

My goal this year is to make $2000 a month. So far this week I made $350 – though $50 of that was a payoff from work I did last month, so I’m not sure if it counts. If I can make $2000 a month, though, I can breathe a little easier. That’s going to require some hustle.

…when the world never seems to be living up to your dreams, and suddenly you’re finding out the facts of life are all about you

I had a pitch rejected this morning, which isn’t great for my bottom line or my ego. But it’s part of the game, and you have to be prepared to hear “no.” As the proverb goes, you take the good, you take the bad, you take ’em both and there you have the facts of life. Who said that? Oh right, Mrs Garrett.

I fully expected a rejection, though, so it wasn’t devastating. I shot my shot, but I knew it was a long one – my pitch really was outside the scope of what they were looking for, though only just, so I thought I might have a chance. You win some, you lose some, but you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Who said that? This one I don’t know. Someone famous, surely. Anyway, it’s a good idea for a blog if not an article, so you’ll probably read it sometime next week.

2021 is the year of taking every chance, though. It is also the year of being persistent. The worst an editor – anybody, really – can say to you is “no,” and “no” is not so bad. Whenever I am feeling down about a rejection, or a piece not doing the numbers I’d like, I remember how much I hated working in mortgages. Whatever downsides to being a freelance writer (and there are several), it beats being miserable in a job I hate. But, I have a pitch out for an essay on that topic, so I won’t say too much here.

Interestingly, though, I stumbled upon a reminder of that very fact this morning. I finally linked my Gmail account to Outlook (easier than I expected), and in doing so found an e-mail from a former colleague, dated May 2012. She had forwarded it from her work account to my personal e-mail, I suppose so that we could talk about it without the powers that be monitoring us, though I can’t remember and that makes no sense as surely they’d see her forward it out-of-house.

Either way, it was a real eye-opener. Or rather, a stark reminder. My God, we were treated terribly. I forgot just how much extra work we were asked to do for no extra compensation. This was around the time I made the transition from the underwriting department (where I was essentially an assistant, though I bore the title junior underwriter) to processing. It paid more, so at the time it seemed like a good move. A promotion, even. In hindsight, if I wanted to make mortgages a career – which was never the plan – it was a mistake. I should have remained in underwriting.

Either way, reading this message reminded me of why I left the mortgage industry in 2019. I suddenly had flashbacks to myself, sitting at one of those long communal work stations in an open office environment plopped in the middle of an old warehouse on the North Side of Chicago, suddenly and uncontrollably weeping at the pressure the CEO himself was placing on my team’s shoulders.

None of us could manage. Most of us were gone within a year, either to different departments or different companies. I left for a different department. Then I was laid off.

Whenever I feel glum about my career, I try to remember mortgages. The first job I had, and the last. Both were terrible. (The one in the middle wasn’t so bad, though I didn’t realise it at the time – but that was down to other factors, and is a story for another day.) When I think about it, I know I made the right choice. This is where I belong. If not forever, for now.

That seems like a good place to leave it. Chip is empty, so I am going to refill him and probably finish reading Spark’s Press, the new novel by Sarah A Chrisman. I want to review it when I’m finished, so hopefully you’ll read that next week. I’m also going to figure out how to film a reaction video, which I hope to have up by next weekend – though that could take longer, depending on how long it takes me to figure out how to film said video. Either way, every day I’m hustlin’.

Who said that? Oh, right, Rick Ross. A philosopher for our times.

x. Skylar

Skylar Baker-Jordan is a freelance writer based in Tennessee. His work has appeared at the Independent, Huff Post UK, Salon, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @skylarjordan and become a sustainer at www.patreon.com/skylarjordan

Sonia Weiser’s “Opportunities of the Week” newsleter – a great resource for freelance journalists

I first came across Sonia Weiser when she came across me. I tweeted about a website with absurd requirements for its writers, and she asked where. I looked at her profile and discovered she produces a weekly newsletter called “Opportunities of the Week,” in which she collates various calls for submissions from editors. Intrigued, I subscribed.

I recieved my first newsletter today, and Sonia did not disappoint. There were at least two dozen opportunities to pitch listed in the e-mail. Not all of them were a fit for me, of course, but several were. They not only provided me with contact information for editors, but also generated two or three ideas for stories that I can write even if I don’t write them for that specific platform. If you are freelancing, I highly suggest subscribing to Sonia’s newsletter. She doesn’t charge much ($3 USD/month), which is a bargain for the amount of work that must go into finding all these opportunities.

Knowing where and whom to pitch is part of the writing job with which I struggle, especially when pieces seem to fall between verticals. Over the years, I’ve written several pieces that could just as easily be filed under “politics” as they could “culture” or “tech.” Having editors tweet what they’re looking for is therefore incredibly helpful. Of course, no one can follow every editor on Twitter. That’s what makes a newsletter like Sonia’s so useful. Thank you, Sonia, for this wonderful resource.

Anyway, if any of you reading this are editors and you wish to commission me, my e-mail is skylar.bakerjordan@gmail.com. If you’re a reader and have an idea of somewhere I should pitch, drop me a line too.

x. Skylar

Skylar Baker-Jordan is a freelance writer based in Tennessee. His work has appeared at the Independent, Huff Post UK, Salon, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @skylarjordan and become a sustainer at www.patreon.com/skylarjordan

Thoughts and advice for aspiring writers on pitching, waiting, and rejection

One of the questions I get asked the most by people who want to write for a living is “how do I pitch?” Folks simply don’t know how to communicate to a newspaper or website that they would like to write for them. When I first stared writing, this was one of my biggest obstacles. I didn’t know how to pitch, or even if I could—I was just a kid with a history degree and a dream. Imposter syndrome, they call it.

The best advice I ever received was from the writer Kellee Terrell, who told me to “just pitch.” The worst they can say, she correctly pointed out, is no. If being told “no” is scary for you, then you are in the wrong field. Writing is not a career for the easily dejected.

Earlier, I tweeted that I received three rejection e-mails this morning, but that isn’t entirely accurate.  I received two rejection e-mails and one no-response, which I take to mean a rejection. One thing that is true about writing is you hear “no” more than “yes.”

The important thing to remember is that a “no” is not a reflection on you as a person, or even you as a writer. One “no” I received was a fairly blunt “we’ll pass,” but I have written for that website previously so they clearly like my writing. People are busy, editors especially so, and they don’t always have time to explain why they’re rejecting your pitch. You just got to take it on the chin.

Another editor (who I’ve worked with for years) e-mailed me to say they already have someone writing about the topic I wanted to write about. It might be a freelancer who beat me to the punch, or who has some expertise I don’t. Or perhaps there is someone in-house who can write the piece, which means they don’t have to pay a freelancer’s fee. Newspapers and websites have a bottom line to consider, and you might not be in their budget.

If you get a response, even a rejection, you should be grateful. Not all editors will even bother to do that much. No responses are frustrating, because I am never sure exactly how long I should wait to pitch the piece elsewhere or put it on my blog. (This is assuming I have written copy, or that I don’t just abandon the idea.) The nightmare scenario is to pitch a piece elsewhere, get a yes, only to later receive a yes from the place you originally pitched. This has only happened to me once, and it was on a weekend when no one was working but the news item was hot so I mentioned I might publish it elsewhere, so both the editor and I forgave me.

How long should you wait for a response before pitching elsewhere? Sometimes outlets will have clearly stated policies on their website letting you know that after a specified period of time, you can assume no response is a “no” and should feel free to pitch elsewhere. Sometimes, writers will say in the pitch how long they’ll wait for a response.

I am not typically one of those writers who give editors a deadline to get back to me. It feels pushy, and I don’t want to be off-putting. I am not saying that is the best attitude to have, but if a piece isn’t particularly “hot,” – meaning that it won’t “go stale” (read: lose relevance) relatively quickly – then you should let editors take their time getting back to you. If it is “hot,” like the one I pitched but haven’t heard back on, it might be better to give an idea of by when you’d like a response. Most editors would intuitively understand the reasoning.

The piece I pitched but haven’t heard back on is “hot,” but it isn’t so “hot” that I felt “I need an answer within 24 hours.” So, I’ll wait another day. If I don’t hear anything by tomorrow, you’ll read it on Medium. Ordinarily I might try to find it another (paying) home, but it’s the week of Christmas and people are busy enough without me bothering every editor in London and New York. Remember, editors are people too, and they have lives outside of their jobs.  

Part of why I might not have heard back is because I pitched to a general mailbox. You know, the pitches@writeforus.website kind of communal inbox many websites and companies will have. That can sometimes feel like shouting into a vacuum. In my experience, it is always better when you have a direct contact, an editor who you can reach out to directly. That isn’t always the case, and some outlets prefer or require pitches be sent to the communal inbox. Best practice is to follow the instructions on their website, at least until you’ve built a relationship with the publication.

You can’t build a relationship on unsent e-mails, though. Don’t be afraid to pitch because you have never written before, or because you’re not a subject matter expert—although that helps, and it’s worth considering whether you have the expertise or experience to write about said topic. But the worst they can say is “no,” and “no” isn’t so bad.

Skylar Baker-Jordan is a freelance writer based in Tennessee. His work has appeared at the Independent, Huff Post UK, Salon, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @skylarjordan and become a sustainer at www.patreon.com/skylarjordan

I’m baaaaaaack (and clearly have no pithy title)

1044065_10100897395374682_715937988_n

So you’re probably wondering where I’ve been. That’s understandable. Ever since last winter, this blog has experienced a silence so deafening even Madame Kovarian would squirm.

Well, I’ve been busy. I started a new day job which, though still in mortgages, offers me less stress and more flexibility than ever did my last. I’ve been to Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee to see family, friends, and even a couple enemies. I got a free jeep. I’ve lost 15 pounds. I’ve planned a trip to London, and will be spending Thanksgiving in Britain, the irony of which is not lost on me. Indeed, it’s irony which compelled me to choose that date.

But perhaps the biggest change in my life has been that the Columnist, a wonderful up-and-coming site I had the privilege of contributing to, has shut down. I’ve spent the last few weeks regrouping. I wasn’t the most active contributor, but it was through the Columnist that I’ve seen some of my biggest successes to date.

Okay, those pieces were actually my only successes to date. Since we last spoke I’ve pitched, or attempted to pitch, to sites as varied as PinkNews, CNN, and the Advocate, all of which proved fruitless. I had writers and friends, all of whom I admire, encouraging me along, and attended the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association’s conference in August, which was a decent networking event and redoubled my resolve to make this career happen. But it also made me realise that I’ve got much further to go than I thought, not just to get to where I want, but to have the capability of getting there.

When you pitch, and pitch, and pitch, and hear nothing back, not even a rejection, it’s not just incredibly frustrating, but incredibly demoralising. David Bell, Molly McCaffrey, and the WKU Creative Writing department told me as much as a young 21 year old aspiring writer, and they also told me that I’d pitch a thousand times before anything came of it. But what they couldn’t prepare me-or any aspiring writer-for is actually coping with the rejection and dejection. It fucking sucks. Every time I pitched to a magazine or website, only to see another piece over the same topic published a week later, I questioned my own ability, my own talent, and my own voice.

Maybe it was time to give up the ghost.

It was with that in mind that I returned home a couple weeks ago. One of my close friends from university was getting married, and her wedding became something of a sorority-plus-Skylar reunion. Seeing her so deeply in love, as well as seeing a couple other old friends with their loving spouses, content in their lives, made me long for whatever it was they had. It’s no secret that I’ve got some fucked up Disney fantasies, where Prince Charming sweeps me off my feet and we live happily ever after in Chelmsford or Chiswick or Croydon, playing out a queer version of Keeping Up Appearances, with me starring as a sort of Guyacinth Bucket. We’d adopt a couple kids, or have a couple on the NHS, whichever was simpler and cheaper and pissed off Roger Helmer more, and he’d work in the City by day as I baked pies and organised fêtes for little Gareth’s primary school.

Of course that would involve me actually finding a British man, which probably requires me being in Britain, which I’m not. I’m in Chicago. But I could easily adapt that fantasy to meet North American specifications. Instead of Chelmsford or Chiswick or Croydon, it could be Wilmette, Winnetka, or Warrenville. Instead of little Gareth, we could have little Gavin, and instead of playing proper football, he could play American football. (No. I have to draw a line somewhere.) Life could be just as idyllic, if not as ideal.

The point is, I could start living for today, instead of dreaming for tomorrow. I could begin living in Chicago, instead of existing in Chicago. So for about a week after coming home, I embraced all things American. I ate a lot of pumpkin shit, cos I’m white and it’s fall. I listened to a lot of country music, cos I’m white and it’s fall. I started driving my jeep to work, cos, well, you get the picture.

I didn’t write. I didn’t tweet. I actually skipped an episode of Question Time, and only felt slightly guilty. It was liberating. Maybe I could be okay with this. Maybe I could be an assistant for the rest of my life, working in this office with good people. Maybe I’d meet a nice Chicago boy and settle down on some Midwestern Wisteria Lane, and live out an all-American existence. Maybe contentment was all I could, and even should, hope for.

It felt good, not living under the constant pressure to produce, to write, to pitch, to be published.

It felt good to not constantly be thinking about life in London, but living life in Chicago.

It also felt disconcerting. My entire adult life has been dedicated to moving to Britain, and the past year has been dedicated to being a writer. Giving that up felt like, in some way, giving up a big part of my identity. I’m that Anglophile kid who, in the words of my best friends, “loves England and will tell you about it.” I’ve made Britain part of my character, and while giving that up temporarily was relieving, it didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel authentic.

That’s been a massive part of the problem over the past year. I haven’t felt authentic. The stiff analyses I’ve tried offering on the Columnist and on my Twitter feed have been cogent, if not always fresh, but they’ve also been stuffy, and to some degree derivative. They’ve been stiff, formal, and a bit pompous, all of which I’m not.

And my problem has been just that. I’ve been pretending to be someone other than who I am. I’m sick of pretending that I’m a columnist, and not just a boy with a blog. I’m sick of pretending that I’m some uptight intellectual. I’m sick of pretending that I don’t live in Chicago, which while I’ve never done in my writing, I’ve definitely done in my head. I’m sick of pretending that things aren’t shitty, but I’m also sick of pretending things aren’t better than they were.

And that’s where I’ve been. That’s where I’m at. Like last year, when I came back to blogging, writing, tweeting, and pitching, I’m at another pivotal moment in my development as a writer. See, this used to be fun, but at some point in the last few months, writing became more of a chore. And every time I was attacked for expressing an intersectional opinion, or threatened with a lawsuit for calling out homophobia, it became less fun and more terrifying. Every time I pitched and heard nothing back, or had a hit piece written about me, it became less fun and more annoying. Every time I scrapped an entire piece because I felt it wasn’t good enough to go anywhere, it became less fun and more disheartening.

I want writing to be fun again. I can say that because it’s not my job. Writing doesn’t pay my bills. Maybe one day it will, but right now it doesn’t. It shouldn’t bring me more stress, it should be a way to de-stress.

So that’s where I am, and that’s how I’m treating it. I’m not going to beat myself up, or let others beat me up, over writing anymore. I’m going to have fun. I’m going to be me. I’m going to say shit that pisses people off and give zero fucks while I do it. I’m going to blog, and not pitch, and if people want to read this little site, fine. If they don’t, whelp, I’ve always got mortgages.

I’m going to keep looking at ways to move to the UK. I’m going to keep thinking about graduate school. But I’m also going to live life in Chicago. I’m going to eat deep dish pizza. I’m going to cheer for the Blackhawks (though not their racist mascot). I’m going to start dating again, not hold off for the perfect British man. He may not exist. Or he may be living in Lincoln Park. Who the fuck knows?

Point is, I’m done putting pressure on myself. I’m done trying to find a niche. I’m done with the way I’ve been doing this. I’m going to start blogging. I don’t know what about. Whatever tickles my fancy. And I’m going to update as often or as little as I like. Because this needs to be fun. This needs to be irreverent. This needs to be enjoyable. This needs to be about me.

I’m coming back. Watch this space.