to pitch or be pitched?
January 22, 2008 11:36 AM   Subscribe

Is it better publicity to write an article, or to be a quoted expert in someone else's article?

I'm often caught between wanting to pitch magazines and newspapers with ideas inspired by projects I'm working on, and finding myself contacted by journalists who've pitched similar ideas want to interview me and write about my projects.

Most current example: I wrote a book about nontraditional weddings. I recently spoke to a journalist who wants to pitch a quirky wedding story to the NY Times, and wants to quote me in the article. "That is, unless YOU want to pitch your own story to them," she said, knowing that I'm a writer myself.

This got me to thinking about what's of better value to me as an author: being published in the NYTimes, or being written about in the NYTimes?

I've pitched stories about my projects in the past, and it's always felt weird to write a piece about some lifestyle trend ... that, um, I'm totally into and feel like I should disclose that I'm totally biased and can't be objective about.

So, fellow authors, journalists, PR folks, entrepreneurs, etc: what's better for business: to pitch or be pitched?
posted by arielmeadow to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Good: be written about.
Better: be written about, and have a quote from the article you wrote.
posted by seawallrunner at 11:40 AM on January 22, 2008

Assuming your goal isn't to become a working journalist, it's better to be quoted. It's not that difficult to become a go-to guy on a niche topic. On the strength of this exposure you can then more easily pitch articles of your pwn later, if you desire.
posted by crickets at 12:08 PM on January 22, 2008

Best answer: What do you pay more attention to -- the byline or the names of the people in the story? Better to be written about, unless your goal is to write more articles.
posted by Bookhouse at 12:08 PM on January 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'd add that being written about, especially by a paper as respected as the Times, offers the imprimatur of external validation.
posted by shallowcenter at 12:39 PM on January 22, 2008

posted by desuetude at 12:49 PM on January 22, 2008

Other people writing about you indicates that other people respect your opinion. Writing about yourself only indicates that you think you're great. (The fact that an editor also must agree isn't usually part of the thought process of readers.) So other people writing about you will be best for increasing yours & your book's credibility and increase yours/its' exposure. Writing it yourself increases your exposure only.
posted by Kololo at 1:41 PM on January 22, 2008

Writing about yourself only indicates that you think you're great.

I took the question to mean that he was considering pitching articles about these topics in which he is interested/already has writing experience, not writing about himself.

Expanding your professional experience with a few published clips, especially in a paper of record, will be beneficial to your professional reputation.

Unless the articles suck, of course. Don't do that. Or more to the point, if you just recycle bits of your book, even if it passes muster with an editor, that's boring. And a lot of folks will see right away that you're obviously flogging your book AND making a few extra bucks off of flogging your book. Lame. If you pitch an article, do it because the NY Times is a good venue for it (issue that didn't make it into the book, different angle, etc.).
posted by desuetude at 2:09 PM on January 22, 2008

Hrrm, I think of it this way:

Quoted in a newspaper/magazine: The person is an expert in their field

Writer in a newspaper/general magazine: The person is general writer, who may have chosen an interesting topic (see Wired, Esquire)

Writer in a trade/specialty magazine: The person is an expert in their field (see Scientific American, JAMA)
posted by Argyle at 2:14 PM on January 22, 2008

Best answer: Seth Godin says that "people talking about you is far more effective than talking about yourself," noting that his stats show that he sells more copies of others' books that he promotes on his blog than his own.
posted by youarenothere at 2:33 PM on January 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hey everyone -- thanks for the all the great answers! A few points of clarification:

1. The goal issue is where it gets tricky. While I'm not a working journalist, I am a freelance writer, and of course as an author it always helps to have a nice roster of big publications that you've written for. This is all to say that while I'm not aiming to be a journalist, it's not like writing an article for, say, the NYTimes is going to hurt my career as an author.

2. desuetude is correct: I wasn't looking to write about myself, but rather write about topics that I have first-hand knowledge of and expertise about. I did this recently with ReadyMade Magazine, writing about Americanized bento lunches. It felt weird though to say, "as further evidence of this trend, there's this flickr group where 800 people have submitted 5000 pictures of people's lunches! Oh PS: I founded the group."

Another mitigating factor: I get paid to write an article. Someone else gets paid to quote me in their article.
posted by arielmeadow at 4:10 PM on January 22, 2008

Maybe you can write the article jointly, depending on the allotted length. I think it's better to have written the article than to be quoted. As long as it is a quality piece that is well organized, articulate, and logical, people will respect you even more. Plus, you may later be able to use it in a book or frame it in your office. The Times is arguably the most respected paper in the US. An article in the Times will give your greater credibility as a freelancer.

Regardless, good luck.
posted by dannon205 at 5:01 PM on January 22, 2008

Best answer: It seems to me that the answer may be project specific.

Since you are a writer, writing an article about a topic (like your ReadyMade example) can establish you as an expert/authority and that could lead to further pick up and quotage.

But having written the definitive book on alternative weddings, I'd think that the best case would be for someone else to write, for example, an NYT article about quirky weddings and quote you--you've already got your primary piece out there and press coverage is more validating than an article on the subject penned by you which notes you're also the author.
posted by donovan at 5:17 PM on January 22, 2008

You refer to yourself as a writer. If you want to be a successful writer, then it's better to write the article than be quoted in it. But, both are good. As long as they spell you name right. *grin*
posted by myschyf at 4:11 PM on January 29, 2008

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