It's time for a new tact! Having expelled a fair chunk of energy on an email drive to various media agencies, the length and breadth of the UK, trying to find work or at least establish whether these guys would be open to a wine writer within their ranks, it's time to broaden that search. Honestly, the tumbleweed has been rolling and the silence has truly been deafening.
Now, I'm not naive to think because I write an email I'm automatically going to have a job land at my feet, it takes work. I'm aware that some of these publications may already have a writer on staff. For smaller news outlets there is the small factor of costs. I know my own local paper doesn't have a wine writer/columnist; they have shown me the courtesy of ignoring my mails. I'm also aware that newspapers receive hundreds, if not thousands of emails a day with stories and requests. If anything, my emails have also included requests asking for help in setting up some sort of dialogue or assistance in ways to get my name out and about, help to find work as a freelancer or pick up commissioned work. This request wasn't just limited to the media either. Before I resigned from my role at North & South Wines I sent a bucket load of emails to those I considered colleagues within the trade, explaining my reasons for leaving, what my future plans are and help in trying to establish my new career path. Apart from two or three people, again, silence fell upon my inbox.
So how do you get the break you are looking for when those around you aren't willing to render aid?
Am I the victim of choosing to write about something that still has the stigma of elitism about it? After all, the first rule to writing is to write about what you know. John Grisham writes law based thrillers because he is a Lawyer. I know about wine, thus I write about it. FYI, I'm not comparing myself to Grisham.
Here's a brief breakdown of my wine career to date. I began in a local wine store back in 1995 as a part time sales assistant. During my career with FQR, I worked my way up to store manager, running branches around West London. I achieved my WSET qualifications, became a wine tutor and a respected manager for the business. After FQR went into administration, and subsequent closure, I helped establish North & South Wines where I initially created the wine range for the store. I began writing about wine, via my blog, in April 2011. At the start of this year I started to write articles and blog feeds for Harpers as well as a wine blog for Huffington Post UK. I have now built personal connections with wine PR companies around London and have a good working relationship with the editor of Harpers. According to these colleagues I write well, which is nice but alas, being told you write well doesn't pay the bills at the moment! I resigned from front line retail at the end of September this year. As a diabetic, the day to day running of a wine store was beginning to have an extreme effect to my health. I needed to do something which I enjoyed and I could work at my own pace.
So back to my first question, how to get the break? I don't know. It's hard. I try to find a new avenue everyday. I'm not a MW (Master of Wine), I'm not an Oxbridge graduate or did I study journalism at college. What I have is a lot of practical experience behind me. For writers like me, we have to find a niche, find a voice that sets us apart and makes us stand out. I like to write with a certain whim, in a style that suits everyday drinkers. I write to make wine simple, not to over complicate things. I believe certain publications see wine as subject that readers just don't get. I understand that. TV personalities in the past haven't made it easy either. In a recent article via a trade journal, it was claimed that customers were scared to enter wine shops through fear of lack of knowledge and embarrassment. I can testify to that fact. Over the years I have had people apologise to me because they knew nothing about wine. I had to reassure my customers by telling them not to worry, they are in the majority.
In my endeavours, I am persistent. For every piece I write for Harpers, Huffington Post or my blog, I email a copy to everybody in my contacts file who works in wine media or PR. I like to think sooner or later someone will throw me a bone. I have to maintain some kind of optimism in chasing my dream.
My new tact that I mentioned above is to cast my net further afield. I'm in an age where, communicably speaking, the world is shrinking. It's a world of passionate bloggers, passing on ideas, sharing knowledge. I live in London but my own blog gets read all around the world. Outside of the UK I get a large readership in North America. I'm not connected to trying to convey my message here in the UK. I would be best served opening myself up to opportunities abroad. Wine is global and yet I don't have to leave my desk to talk about it. In the meantime, if you are looking for a freelance wine writer, you know where to find me.
Follow Mike John Matthews on Twitter: www.twitter.com/magicmike29