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Renegade Writers interview Jacquie Jordan

Interview with Jacquie Jordan about the similarities between pitching producers and editors, how to market from the heart instead of the mind, and how to avoid what Jacquie calls “energetic tackiness” in your pitches.

Renegade Writer: I know that you’re a producer and that as a producer you get pitches, much like a magazine editor gets pitches from a writer. What’s the top mistake you see people make when they’re pitching ideas?

Jacquie Jordan: They pitch what they think is interesting and don’t necessarily take into consideration what the outlet is looking for. When we’re working with guestperts, they’re really myopic. They know what they know, but they don’t know how to translate it to the medium that they’re speaking to.

That’s a really good point. How do you put yourself in the mindset of the producer, editor, reader — whoever you’re pitching?

You first have to watch the show. And so many people don’t. As a TV producer, people would call all the time and not have watched the show. And you would think, ‘You wouldn’t waste your breath on this call if you had even seen the show once.’

I spent a lot of time with a guestpert who said, ‘I don’t watch TV; I’m too busy to watch it.’ You can’t get into to a medium if you don’t participate in it as an audience or a viewer. Period. It’s Pitching 101: Know who your audience is.

That makes sense with magazines too. You don’t even have to buy the magazine, you can just go online. A lot of magazines have their archives online now.

Oh, totally. You want to know who you’re speaking to, and you want to have confidence that you’re actually giving them something of value to their readers and advertisers.

I see a lot of people pitch something that’s super interesting to them, but there’s not really an audience for it. For example, a lot of magazine writers come to me who want to write about grandparenting, but there are just not very many magazines out there that target grandparents. Do you get the same thing?

Yes. That’s exactly it. One of my favorite examples is that we had a woman who ran workshops in Los Angeles to teach girls who are about to have their menstrual cycles. She did it in a really lovely way, explaining to them what was going to happen to them — all with the idea that we’re out of touch as a society with that part of ourselves, and that teenagers are relying on magazines or mass media to show them what’s happening.

So our company got her a good booking on Playboy Radio — and she was so offended. ‘How could you? I am the keeper of the sacred sentiment and you’re booking me on Playboy Radio, which exploits women.’

My point to her was, first off, do you want to get your message out to many people or do you want to preach to the choir — because people who already follow you already know your story. Playboy Radio has a huge military base following, they’re heard all over the country, and so you could actually introduce a concept to them that they’ve never heard of — but you have to speak their language.

She asked ‘Well, how do I do that?’ I said, ‘Well, the subject you’re booked on is Why Your Sex Life Dries Up After Marriage.’ She said ‘That isn’t even my age group,’ and I replied, ‘This is how you speak it: You go on the show and say that people run into trouble in their marriage when their sex life dries up. But what you don’t realize, especially on the woman’s side of it, is that this already began while they were young teenagers, because they’ve learned to identify themselves and their sexuality through what they see in magazines and images of celebrities, and not to have any connection with themselves or their bodies. Then you bring it back to your topic that way.’

Many people are so passionate about what they speak about, but they miss the key element of who they are speaking to.

That’s also an interesting concept of slanting your idea to get it across to different audiences that you might not have thought of.

I am all about that. I’m like, ‘How many different ways can we slice the pie to communicate this?’ You’re going to have your friendly audiences. All those, of course, are invaluable outlets, but they expect to hear what you have to say. So how do you blow it out and reach a larger audience that has never been exposed to you in the past?

On another topic, what’s the difference between a mind sale and a heart sale?

A mind sale is very outcome-oriented. A heart sale is approached as an offering and the outcome isn’t the end result. It’s just in the act of the offering.

And it sounds like it’s win-win. ‘I’m going to get money out of this but I am also offering you a valuable service.’ Not just, ‘I need the money — I’ve got to pay my rent.’

Exactly. And it’s even more challenging in an economic time period like this. It’s very easy to offer it from a heartfelt space when the world is overflowing with dollars and there’s a lot of abundance, but it’s not as easy when we’re in a tighter climate.

How can you get into that mindset of doing a heart sale, especially if you’re a writer and you’re trying to get your articles out there?

I tell my people we’re worth more than our one idea. When we think we have one idea and that’s it, we’re in a problem place. And we can’t operate in this industry when people put their life and their money on one idea.

I don’t operate that way. I feel I am abundant with ideas. For magazine writers, it’s a balance of knowing what stimulates you and what your goal is, but also knowing that it’s beyond just one idea and keeping your flow of ideas out there.

That definitely helps because if you put too much stock in one idea, then you’re definitely going to be pitching from that space of desperation.

Yes. Exactly. And I think that a heart sale is understanding that the person who’s receiving is as important as you are in the pitch.

You want to allow that person to figure out how it works for them. If you’ve got all the answers, then there is no room for them to participate. I see this a lot in TV production: Of course you want to come to the table with the best presentation, but you also have to leave breathing room for the executives to wrap their brain around it and see how it would fit their network.

It’s another way of saying ‘Don’t be a diva.’ Because your stuff is going to get changed. Whoever is buying it from you is going to have their own ideas, and writers are notorious for getting upset when something of theirs is changed from the way they envisioned it.

I really love where you talked in your book about energetic tackiness and I was wondering if you could explain what that is and how a freelance writer can avoid it.

When I’m feeling disturbed or desperate for whatever reason, I will not engage in selling until I’m in a place where I’m really grounded and in my confidence and my radiance. It’s the same idea that someone going to a job interview who desperately needs the job, and wants it with their whole life, will never get it — versus the person who goes in, shows up, and lets go of results. Or if you buy a car, you can taste when the salesperson really needs to sell the car…that energetic tackiness makes you just want to run. It’s that feeling that you want to go take a shower after you met the person.

In my book I talk about a woman who called and was real high powered, real fast talking, and bombarded me with the names of her associates like Oprah and Barbara Walters. You feel like you just got machine-gunned down…that’s energetic tackiness.

So say you’re a new writer and you do feel a little bit desperate because you want to pay your bills. How do you get out of that energetic tackiness mindset when you really are desperate?

You have to put away the need for the money and really focus on the value of the work. If you believe it’s really good and needs to be out there, then you’re in a good place. That’s how you get around it.

I also liked where you talked about people who fear exposure. I think writers do, too. They have these great ideas and they’re afraid to pitch them, because what happens when people are reading their stuff? They open themselves up to criticism.

That is so common, and nobody talks about it. The most professional people in the world, you put them on TV and they have meltdowns after because all of a sudden, they realize they’re not in control of how they’re going to be perceived. That’s where you really have to dig in deep and trust the value of your work.