5 Reasons I’m Not Writing About Your Business (It’s Not Because I Don’t Want To)
Updated: Oct 20, 2020
“You’re probably more of a plug than you think you are.”
I swung my Torrid boots back and forth in a swivel chair as my friend Evan listened to me complain or the thousandth time about someone in my social circle pressing me to give their company high-profile press coverage. As a fellow media veteran Evan understood that while I didn’t have as much control as clout chasers believed over what warranted a byline at some of the companies I write for, I did have some influence.
I explained to my patient friend that I wasn’t frustrated because I didn’t believe I could be helpful, but because people refused to listen when I explained the limitations of my position.
Then it occurred to me that this conversation probably needed to go beyond his studio. So now I’m talking to you.
You-who has me cornered in the Stop & Shop parking lot. You-who sends me that fake “how you been,” text before pitching me at 8am on a Saturday. You-who refuses to send me a brief bio and hi-res images even though I told you my editor was going to ask for them.
You- who asked me to try your client’s natural hair product line and never considered that I might not like it.
We need to talk.
Because Editors Still Exist (And I Have To Answer To Them)
Whether or not I write your story in a major media outlet does not depend on how many emails you send or how many times you reply to my Instastory outside of work hours. It doesn’t depend on whether or not you called me “sis,” the last time we spotted each other at a pre-pandemic brunch or if you wrote Happy Birthday on my Facebook wall.
It ultimately depends on two things. If I think it's a fit and my editor agrees, I can write about it. If not, I can’t.
Every time I am sent a pitch I want to write about, I forward the email to my editors at the appropriate publication with an appeal about why I think the story is important to their readers.
I exclusively ask for emails from those pitching me, because this is the approved process. If you don’t email me, I can’t email them. They don’t want my fervent phone calls or a chain of my random screenshots; they want facts and answers to their follow-ups.
I really wish they cared about the sporadic flame emojis you send my way but they don’t so you should probably stop leaving them on my pictures from 38 weeks ago.
Because Assignments Trump Pitches
The aforementioned editors are my bosses. That means if they say I need to spend more time describing the circumference of Angela Bassett’s arm and less time deciding if I like the consistency of Rihanna’s lip gloss line that's what’s going to happen.
I consider every pitch that hits my inbox (all five of them) carefully. Some I find dull. Some I find exiting. Many I have not read yet because I was interrupted by the arrival of an assignment with a deadline that was not a suggestion.
Before I can convince any editor your story is worth the work I have to complete the tasks they actually ASKED me to do. If I don’t they’ll drop me one by one and I won’t have anyone left to pitch on your behalf.
Because I Can Only Control What I Own
The only place I have full control is The C Letter (with its tiny but loyal readership hey ya'll!), the same can be said for every writer with their own site.
If you reject my writing an article for The C Letter that article might not get written, meaning another outlet can’t pick it up or refer to it later.
I’ve learned a few things over the past decade but I did just as much research for LoveBrownSugar as I do for ESSENCE and I’m just as careful about quoting people for Stylish Curves as I am for HelloBeautiful.
I understand the desire to refuse smaller sites and go for instant flash but if it’s me you want telling your story I’d like to take this chance to remind you I’m the same writer no matter what the url says at the top of your browser.
Because Payola Is Still Illegal
“Pay·o·la /pāˈōlə/ noun: payola”
definition-the practice of bribing someone to use their influence or position to promote a particular product or interest
“Spon·sor /ˈspänsər/ noun: sponsor”
definition-an individual or organization that pays some or all of the costs involved in staging a sporting or artistic event in return for advertising
“Ad·ver·tis·ing /ˈadvərˌtīziNG/noun: advertising”
definition-the activity or profession of producing advertisements for commercial products or services.
“Ed·i·to·ri·al /ˌedəˈtôrēəl/adjective: editorial”
definition-the parts of a newspaper or magazine which are not advertising.
I had to rely on Webster and his homeboys for this one because things have gotten out of order. Black writers get to have opinions just like the ones at "mainstream" publications do. We are not obligated to write about something just because you submitted it.
If you’re still confused watch the Fyre fest documentary-both of them. And no you can't cash app me!
Because There Just Wasn’t Time
As someone who mopped pee from floors of abandoned houses to get through college, I realize that I’m really lucky people pay me to write about stuff like Spice Girls lollipops.
I’m not saying I have the world’s hardest job. I’m just saying I’m human (no matter how much Boss Blend Coffee I drink.)
I promise I want to get my pitches approved just as badly as you want me to. I want nothing more than to surprise my editors with a hot new [insert whatever or whoever you’re trying to sell here] so I can appear well-rounded, insightful, elegant, and cool.
That’s the best chance at becoming one of them. So I listen to as many tracks, read as many advance reader copies and, try as many hair products as I can weekly I and fight for the stand outs.
If yours wasn’t on the list give me a little time. I promise I’m trying as hard as I can to get us both to the top.