Pitch, Bitch!

Pitch, Bitch is a fresh initiative designed to encourage female writers to regularly pitch their work for publication. Carmen Juarez, Walkley Foundation intern, asks founder Estelle Tang what it’s all about.

Self-described as “an informal mentoring resource” for female writers, Pitch, Bitch was inspired by the VIDA Count – an annual tally of gender disparity in major literary publications across the US. VIDA Count findings that female writers were underrepresented in print prompted Pitch, Bitch founder and Rookie staff writer Estelle Tang to do something practical to push publication of female writers’ work.

Pitch, Bitch

Tang sought to address some issues at the root of the underrepresentation issue – evidence that female writers are less likely than male counterparts to pitch their work, and the long-held belief that women are less confident in professional settings (the so-called “confidence gap” picked-up by The Atlantic in April.)

Pitch, Bitch is held on the first Wednesday of every month – Pitch, Bitch day – the first of which was June 6th. Pitch, Bitch day is a friendly appeal to female writers to send out, research or work on a pitch. A kick-in-the-bum to get your work out there, already!

Tang spoke to Walkley Magazine about the inaugural Pitch, Bitch day, advice for female writers and paying freelancers.

The first Pitch, Bitch day is down – what was the response?

I expected writers to get behind the initiative – after all, they’re the intended audience – and they did, tweeting about pitches they were writing and researching, I got a private Tumblr message from a writer who said she hadn’t pitched anything in months and that she was grateful for the proverbial kick up the bum, which was so nice. I was really excited to see all these concrete outcomes happening. But I was also just delighted to see many editors getting behind the idea, too. From literary journals to national newspapers like The Guardian, and book publishing houses like Allen & Unwin, we had a wonderfully supportive chorus on social media from the publishing and commissioning end, and that’s been heartening.

I also got a little bit of heat over the name, which I totally understand. Some people don’t consider the term “bitch” to be fully reclaimed by women and feminists, and I have been grateful to those who manage to see past that to the initiative itself. For my part, I think it’s a highly complex, forceful, and in some ways fun and irreverent word, so I thought it was perfect for the concept. I can’t claim to have come up with it, actually – that was Danielle Henderson, a great writer (and creator of Feminist Ryan Gosling).

…women writers can’t necessarily control what editors will commission or read, we can take charge of pitching and working to get published.

What keeps you motivated re: Pitch, Bitch?

Ayesha Siddiqi, a writer and the editor of The New Inquiry, tweeted something that stuck with me absolutely: “be the person you needed when you were younger”. I don’t have an extensive writing career, but even looking back one or two years, I see someone who was terrified to reach out to editors, or to possibly fail, or acknowledge her own ambition to see her ideas realised and developed. I feel really sad about that, and about the now-infamous VIDA numbers showing how few women are getting published in certain publications. It’s not that I care about, like, The Paris Review or The London Review of Books‘ quotas so much specifically – although I respect and actually adore both those publications – I just agree with the conclusion that there’s an issue here, and that while women writers can’t necessarily control what editors will commission or read, we can take charge of pitching and working to get published.

What do you want Pitch, Bitch to achieve/what has Pitch, Bitch achieved so far?

There are two prongs to the initiative: first is the monthly prompt of the #pitchbitch hashtag on the first Wednesday of every month, which is simply a reminder to, on that day, work on or send a pitch. Second is the Tumblr, yeahpitchbitch.tumblr.com, where we’re starting to publish interviews with female editors and writers, and practical advice on pitching and writing. The idea is for it to be an informal mentoring resource that will then stand in posterity. I am incredibly lucky to have so many writing mentors, and I doubt I’d have published a peep without them. There are probably many writers out there who don’t have the same networks, and I don’t think practical advice and peer support should be limited to those who have the opportunities to seek it out.

The mission is pretty modest, really: to provide practical and good quality advice and support to writers who would like it, so that they feel empowered and well-equipped to pitch [to] editors. I don’t necessarily have the resources to broaden the project more, but I think it’s a vital part of the writing profession. Not everyone needs or wants this, and that’s fine, but I essentially am creating a resource that I wish I’d had when I was younger.

What advice would you give to female writers who are starting out?

Be diligent, work hard and read widely. Try to get over your fear of pitching and rejection, or at least mute it for an hour or two per day.

What have you learnt from Pitch, Bitch?

I have been absolutely delighted by the support and enthusiasm of established writers and editors for the project. I think there’s a perception about writers and editors that they’re difficult to reach out to, which is often true for a variety of reasons, but when you get down to it I don’t think there’s anyone out there who wants women writers to hold back or fail.

How can people get involved?

#pitchbitch day is the first Wednesday of every month, so if writers are using it as a prompt or have a large following of writers, please feel free to use the hashtag and share your news, progress and enthusiasm. I’d also love to hear from editors and writers who would be willing to be interviewed, or would like to contribute wisdom, advice or questions. The best way to do this is to tweet me at @waouwwaouw or through the Tumblr Ask box.

How does Pitch, Bitch approach fair pay for freelance writers?

As I mentioned before, the initiative is quite narrow, focused on the pitching process rather than the whole professional experience of being a writer. Fair pay for writers is incredibly important, and also a seriously complex and fraught issue, especially in an industry that is undergoing massive change. There are some great projects out there opening up the dialogue about pay for writers, like the Who Pays Writers Tumblr, Margaret Simons’ list of publications’ pay rates, and an Emerging Writers Festival database of pay rates, which is probably a couple of years old now.

But in a more practical sense, we’ve received a query from a writer about how to move from writing for free to writing for paid publications, and we’ll look at this issue on the Tumblr in the near future. We’re also happy to field other questions on pitch and pay-related topics.

Carmen Juarez is currently interning at the Walkley Foundation, after completing her Journalism (Honours) thesis at QUT. Twitter: @CarmenJuarez

Artwork and photography by Carmen Juarez.