Friday, July 01, 2005

Why publishing sucks (Magazine edition)

Last December I had to get a pacemaker, because I had been wandering around with a pulse of 25 for months. The operation was simple, except for when I woke up before they were finished and saw a woman with a laptop programming me like a robot. Afterwards, there was the inevitable question: when will I write about it? And how?

A few months later, after discovering that I now fit the official definition of "cyborg," I thought it was time to try to pitch the story. Pitching stories is the reason I rarely do any freelance work except for the small group of editors I already work with.

I contacted someone at a magazine that will not be named. We had corresponded previoiusly, but never actually worked together. I'll call this editor A. A. suggested that it would be better suited to a particular section of their publication and put me in touch with B. B., after some time, emailed me to say she liked the idea but wanted to hear more about how I would do it. (We're talking an essay of maybe 1,000 words here). So I wrote out a long "sample" of what I thought the piece would be, and waited for a response. Weeks passed. Then, just as I'd forgotten about the whole thing, I get an email from B:

"A. tells me that you tried this idea out on her a few months ago,
and that she turned it down because it didn't seem quite right for
us.  Alas, I don't think I'm going to resurrect it--not enough of an
argument.. But I liked the clips you sent and I'd be happy to hear about
other ideas. You can call me if you want..."

My response:

"Actually, the idea I tried out on her was something else entirely
(about rescuing pit bulls); I couldn't have pitched this, as I didn't
actually have a pacemaker at the time.  But I'll keep you in mind for
other ideas if I have them in the future."

Her response:

"oh dear--sorry about that! how annoying. let me think for a couple more
days about the pacemaker and in the meantime yes keep me in mind."

And that was the last time we ever spoke to each other.

2 comments:

Betsy said...

Don't get me started.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for breaking it down for those us considering the field--writing, I mean.