You’d think my skin was as thick as Kevlar with as much rejection as I’ve endured over the years in my freelance writing career and book publishing journey. But 2023 ended up being deeply soul-sucking in the ratio of my article pitches to published articles. In an attempt to rationalize (to myself) why I have fewer published articles instead of questioning where my freelance writing career is going, I have some reflections!
Notably, I’ve gotten particular about my assignments, such as taking on fewer gear reviews. I still write them, because when those opportunities come my way, it’s hard to say no. In general, I need to be 80 percent excited about the topic and 100 percent sure it’s a doable deadline. (In contrast with Justin, who needs to be 15 percent excited about the project and loves to commit to an unreasonable deadline – insert laugh-crying emoji).
Getting back to what I didn’t write this year, it wasn’t for lack of trying. This was a year of a high pitching churn. Instead of chasing shiny short-term goals, I wanted to be bold in 2023, and expanded my reach to publications where I had no contact. Starting with a maelstrom of thoughts in my brain and chicken scratch notes on my computer, my pitches dove into topics that might get less coverage, but are well-researched, meaningful and deserve a spotlight.
For passion project #1, I’ve now pitched the story idea to 3 different publications starting in October until now. This specific pitch is a niche topic on wildlife, so it wouldn’t work for every publication, which is why I’ve been targeting new-to-me publications. Anyway, all 3 of those editors ghosted me. I usually give it a month before recasting the idea to another publication. (You wouldn’t want to send the same pitch to multiple editors and have to turn an assignment down if they both respond yes!). Justin reminds me these pitches weren’t actually rejected, just not acknowledged in their burgeoning inbox, especially given they were cold pitches and the editors don’t know me from a tree on the side of the road. He thinks I should reach out to the editors and follow-up, but I shy away from that method because I just assume the nonresponse means they are not interested. I’m getting ready to pitch the story to a 4th media outlet. Fours a charm? When should I give up? I suppose I will someday. But not yet because I still believe it’s a stellar story that has a place out there somewhere!
For passion project #2, it was a more time-sensitive idea about the intense aurora activity peaking this year and occurring in lower latitudes that I pitched to only 3 publications—all unsuccessful with no response. I wanted to pitch it to 3 other publications, but by the time I did, they had already covered the subject. You snooze, you lose.
There were a few other ideas that didn’t get picked up, but I just let them die with one attempt.
All this to say, this is why I only had 8 published bylines in 2023 compared with 19 in 2022. There are 2 articles I wrote on assignment, which I submitted back in November (and got paid), but they still haven’t been posted, but I don’t usually count them until they are live.
Anyway, here are my published bylines for 2023:
I have a colleague that is the editor at Territory Supply, which is how I received assignments from this pub that I didn’t have to pitch. Frankly, networking is one of the most successful methods for freelancing, so I’m lucky enough to have friends in high places! It’s a no-brainer when she asked me to write about Hikes in Denali National Park.
Outdoor Life is another publication Justin & I have been writing for since 2022 when another colleague started working there. I even afforded the opportunity to go on an Outdoor Life Gear Testing Trip in April with 4 other incredible ladies. See? Friends in high places pays off!! Anyway, I wrote 2 gear roundups on assignment for Outdoor Life this year. One was about hydration packs, while the other was about home weather stations. If you know me, you know I am infatuated with the weather, so that article was a dream realized.
I don’t often write for GearJunkie, because as the name suggests, it’s mostly gear-related reviews. But a colleague of ours reached out to ask if I would write a review of a new activewear boot by XTRATUF. The brand is an icon in Alaska, so it felt important for them to be tested in Alaska, and I was happy to give them a go.
Alaska Magazine is one of my favorite clients, but I’ve been delinquent in pitching them, so I only ended up with 2 bylines this year. The articles aren’t available online, but one was an assignment that ended up being a 6-page spread in the magazine about Alaska bucket lists tailored for distinct groups. The second AK Mag article was a definite passion project about the history of the business district outside of Denali that I pitched successfully. The long-story-short is that 3 men were in the right place at the right time to acquire the land outside the national park for free. The homesteading happened in the 1970s, so these men were not young, and tracking them down for interviews proved to the be the most challenging part of the article! I actually had to write a letter to one 91-year-old man who was living in a remote area of British Columbia to ask him to call me. He did! And I captured his story. Then sadly, he died shortly after the article came out. So at least that piece of his history was preserved.
As I’m listing my bylines, I’m realizing how lucky I actually was this year. Turns out, most of my published articles were from assignments versus pitches. So I suppose I can’t have too big of a pity party!
Anyway, I still enjoy writing articles for Denali Citizens Council when they need something covered, like this one about the Alaska Long Trail. And an old friend of ours came knocking on my door … Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics wanted some researched content for their website, and thought of me. I got to tackle the looming government shutdown(s). I actually wrote a second shutdown piece for Leave No Trace, but they never posted it (probably because the government has been avoiding shutdowns).
One last pitch was for Adventure.com, which was another take on volunteering for the Iditarod. (I wrote a piece in 2022 for AK Magazine about volunteering).
As for my book, I feel like I had a very satisfying year. I sold 20 on my own account and 122 via Amazon and other booksellers in 2023. The best thing about having a book in the world is that it acts like a fish wheel, collecting bits of income even when left alone for many years. I will forever be “marketing” it, but it’s still selling at 3 years old, so yippee.
If I could give myself a tiny boost, I did pitch tons of libraries for our Life in the Last Frontier: Alaska program, and lined up 10 programs for 2023!
Meanwhile, Justin cranked out 18 gear roundups/reviews (like I needed more sandpaper to my already wounded ego).
Thank you for allowing me to wallow in my crushing defeat (drama queen, I know). Good thing I still have this blog. I love writing here … and there’s no rejection!
Predictions for 2024: Will I be able to flip the switch to acceptance? Or will I keep building my suck-it-up-buttercup muscles?