Creators log

Pitching Articles and Photo Essays

2 March 2024

I’ve started pitching articles and photo essays related to my work in Quillacollo, Bolivia during the Festival of the Virgin of Urkupiña to large publications. A few weeks ago, I approached a major outlet with an idea. Their request for image samples — after a follow-up nudge from me — signals interest, yet I remain cautiously optimistic. If I don’t hear from them by next week, I’ll nudge them again. I won’t rejection deter me, as there are myriad reasons why a publication might accept/reject a work (tone, angle, interest, space, timing, etc.). If they decline, I’ll continue pitching the idea other publications until one bites. So goes the pitching rat race.

This experience has led me to question the common expectation for freelancers to pitch exclusively to one publication at a time. While this may benefit the publications, offering them the first pick, it places freelancers, particularly newcomers without preexisting relationships with editors, at a disadvantage. This practice is especially problematic if the pitched idea is timely, potentially causing financial strain due to the slow pace at which pitches are reviewed. A better approach would be for freelancers to pitch their ideas to multiple outlets simultaneously, allowing interested publications to essentially bid for the idea. This will save the freelancer quite a bit of time. But it comes with some risk.

Many moons ago, I produced house music. Back then, we were expected to submit our tracks to one record label at a time. I did this until the early 2000s when I began submitting my tracks to multiple record labels. I did this because we usually sent tracks through the post on CD-Rs, which mean turn-around times for rejections could take months, if they came at all. This approach once led to a sticky situation with Erick Morillo, the late American house DJ and producer, who expressed interest in publishing one of my songs on one of his labels after including it in one of his mixtapes (he assumed I sent the track to nobody else and included it in his mixtape). By then, however, I had already started negotiations with another label. I ultimately chose Morillo’s offer, which unfortunately strained my relationship with the other label. To mend fences with the other label, I promised them another track (the track I delivered, by the way, sold better than the first and featured in a larger mixtape: Global Underground: Toronto).

Anyway, as this story shows, the balance between opportunity, ethics, and personal advancement is delicate. And multiple submissions, while saving time for the freelancer, might lead to some sticky situations.

Yet writers/photographers are the backbones of the publishing industry. Without us, publications have little to sell to consumers or advertisers. And it is no secret how poorly paid freelancers are. Given that, is a pitching convention that aims to make the lives of freelancers easier too much to ask?

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