Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Jumping the Gun

Thanks for all the insightful comments on yesterday's post...at the very least, it's a good thing that people like us are concerned about this trend, and will raise our children (and spouses, hee!), differently.

Question of the day: Can I pitch a story without having the story written, or the subject on board? For example, if I would like to write a profile of someone (well-known or not) do I have to get their approval before pitching the article?

Well, this raises two questions. First of all, you should never write the complete article until the editor has given you the green-light. The exceptions are essays and travel pieces. As I've said before on this blog, sending in a complete story before an assignment is a huge newbie mistake and sends red flags to editors right away. (Search the archives of the blog for more info on this.)

But things do get tricky when you're pitching a celeb piece or a profile. It's a bit of a catch-22 situation because if you approach your subject first, then don't get the assignment, you've let that person down...and if you approach your editor first, then can't land the subject, you risk letting your editor down. BUT, if this is a well-known person (a celeb, for example), most editors understand that landing the interview isn't a slam-dunk. I do celeb pieces (have a cover story coming out on the 15th with Jaime Pressly), and when my editor and I chat about who he wants me to cover, it's always with the understanding that the publicist might say "no."

So...if you're uncertain that you can land your interview subject, I'd probably just be up front with the editor and say, "I'd love to cover this story for you, and while I *think* I can land Brad Pitt, I just wanted to see if you'd want to run the story if, indeed, I can land him." This covers all bases: you've pitched the story, but also given yourself an out. In my case, since I have a relationship with my editor, I'd rather give myself that flexibility than waste the time of Brad Pitt and his publicist, who might not take kindly to my wasting their time.

But there really aren't any easy solutions for this type of situation, at least not that I've found. Readers, do you have better suggestions? I'd welcome hearing them.


Anonymous said...

I am a relatively new writer going through the exact same situation as the person who sent in this question -- I am unsure of whether I will be able to land my interview subject but already pitched the story! I had no idea what to do but happened to find this blog through a google search and it was a huge relief to read this post. So, thanks for posting this!

Anonymous said...

This entry is a month old, but want to leave a comment, because I'm in the same position as the original writer and the commenter. I want to interview a "local celebrity" for a regional magazine, a woman who used to be a professional athlete and is also a writer herself. Given the circumstances, I believe she'd be open to being interviewed, but I wasn't sure the protocol on who to ask first: her or an editor? I don't have much experience so I'm very wary of disappointing either right off the bat. If you had any more advice, I'd still appreciate it, but in any case I was glad to find this entry. Thanks for writing it, and I'm going to request my library order your book.