I like it when I feel like I am busy with photography related work. It doesn’t happen often but on occasion I’ll have a few things going on around the same time. Take last week for example. I received payment for my published photos in Yama-to-Keikoku’s Mountaineers Data Book and my photographs and book on the Japan Alps were returned; I completed a submission about an acquaintance’s English garden and sent the photographs and story off by courier to a gardening magazine that has previously published my work; I sold two of my books, This Little Corner; I received the next selection request for photographs to be hung in a doctor’s clinic (we change the photographs every two months); and I could look forward to beginning my next big project: the translation of profiles of foreign mountaineers climbing in Japan. In addition, I have to prepare my gear for an outing on the 11th to Nikko’s Nantaisan. Yes, it’s good to feel like a lot is going on.
Whenever I submit materials on spec to a magazine, I feel like a salesman going door to door, peddling the wares he represents. I am not actually a good salesperson. My father was a very successful insurance salesman and my sister is making great money selling business software. But I prefer to make photographs and write articles and send them off to magazines, hoping that an editor will like what I have produced and agree to publish it.
So, how is it that I feel like a salesman? Because sometimes I have to go “door to door” in order to find the right customer. No, I don’t literally visit publishers and magazines, but I do send stuff out and more often than not it gets returned to me, unaccepted for publishing. I don’t, however, let that kill my idea. I’ll modify the text a little and write a new cover letter and send the package off to another prospective magazine. And sometimes it is my second try where I get lucky and find a paying customer.
I once sent a portfolio of images and a story about the Japan Alps off to Photo Life in Canada. When they returned the submission I turned around and sent it to Outdoor Photography in the U.K. The story and five photographs appeared in the January 2006 issue. When Asahi Kamera in Japan said my New Zealand landscapes were too orthodox, I sent them off to Nihon Kamera and got eight pages in their February 2010 issue. Photo Life also returned my article entitled, “Confessions of a Mountain Photographer,” (what is it with those guys rejecting me?) but it found a home in the pages of Nature Photographer in the U.S.
Sometimes I have a good feeling about who will accept what. It largely comes from a bit of market research, where I check out a few issues before submitting or planning a submission. Currently, I am hoping and praying that Nihon Kamera will want to use my story on the sedimentary rock empire of the western U.S. (Utah and Nevada photographs specifically). I called them two weeks ago and they asked if I could wait a little while longer for a reply.
But other times, there is only great disappointment. The impregnable editorial office of Photo Life rejected a third submission of mine about cultural differences in photographic approaches of landscapes. I had high hopes because their magazine specifically advertised on the cover that they published stories related to the culture of photography. I thought my idea was taking theirs very directly. Perhaps they just didn’t like the photographs.
I initially contacted Outdoor Photography in Canada with a couple of ideas in 2008. The editor was keen on my ideas and I submitted a couple more. There was talk about a profile piece on me, which later evolved into a possible ex-pat piece by late 2009. But by the end of 2011 the direction shifted more to returning my slides, something that has yet to happen though. Outdoor Photography U.K. received a tailored piece (UK specific) about photographing rocks – a kind of geology as art piece – from me but it got lost, as did another rock art piece I sent to a magazine in Tokyo. Asahi Kamera rejected my second submission to them, so now I am planning a third one that will hopefully be a little more attention-grabbing. And while Gakujin has warmly received both of my submissions to them, the end result was that my initial submission was returned unpublished but two very different pieces got printed instead.
So, one never truly knows what is going to make an editor take notice and plan to save some pages for your work. I do my best to look through magazines before submitting to them but it’s an uncertain world. Sometimes you have to follow closely along with what gets published; other times you have to think outside the box to call attention to yourself. The only thing I can keep doing as a salesman is to keep searching for publications where I think my work has a chance of being chosen. And when one door closes I have to go knocking on the next one that seems most likely to open.
Salesman where you gonna go to sell all of your goods today
Yup, salesman, gonna walk along the street, see friends along the way
Hey, salesman, with your wooden cart that you push along while you walk
Hey, salesman with your secret goods that you push while you talk
You always wear a smile,
Even though you’ve gotta walk a hundred ten miles
Short life span – but the whole thing’s grand
Salesman – The Monkees