By David Bruce
I already know you have an amazing idea for a story, this post will help you get into the publications you have been dreaming of writing for. When pitching, brevity and accuracy are key.
Crafting an effective pitch is relatively easy. Even if the editor is not interested in your idea, with a good pitch, they may reply with, “No thanks, but what else do you have?” That happens.
After a bit of trial and error, below are a list of the ten best practices that helped me go from lost in an inbox to getting responses from editors and getting published in my favorite magazines.
1. Find the right outlet for your niche. Make sure the magazine or blog is a good fit. Check out past issues and make sure the magazine hasn’t published anything too similar to what you are proposing. Try to approach them with something that’s in their wheelhouse, but come from a different angle so your piece is different.
2. Find the right person. Find the editor that works in the section of the magazine that you are pitching. Many times, magazines break down their sections and have an editor that covers that specific section.
3. Send your pitch by email. People do not want to be pitched via social media, so using the editors working email inbox rather than LinkedIn just makes sense.
4. Hook em high. As in high up in the subject line. Grab their attention with a subject line like, “Query | Lines at the registry are longer than they have ever been. Here’s how to avoid the lines.”A recent survey found that 47% of email recipients open emails based on subject lines. Now, this was a random sampling – picture an editor receiving random email pitches all day. You have to come at them with something that makes them want to read the next sentence, then the next sentence.
5. Address the pitch to the editor by name. Start with “Dear (Name)” or “Hi (Name)”. Refrain from using “Dear Sir or Ma’am.” It reeks of a generic pitch that has been shot-gunned out to several sites, and that’s not the look we’re going for.
6. The shameless art of name-dropping. While name-dropping for some type of social credibility is shameful, in pitching it is somehow… well, less cringe-worthy, and sometimes necessary. If you have a mutual acquaintance and they know the editor to pitch it to, by all means, use the name.
7. Keep your pitch short and sweet. Editors are busy people. They just want to know if the story will work for them and they want to know that you can pull it off. The pitch style that I have had the most success with is actually only one half-page long.
8. Embed links to your work in the email. Do not put attachments in the email. If you’re just starting out, a WordPress blog is a great place to post and share your work.
9. Timeliness. Knowing that your pitch may land in a proverbial black-hole, never to be heard from again, it’s okay to put an expiration on your pitch. Many stories are time sensitive and lose relevancy as time goes on. For this reason, I typically, kindly inform editors, that, I will continue pitching this story after a week or so.
10. Photos. A picture speaks a thousand words, so why not take advantage? If you have a good one that applies to the story your writing, include it. Also let the editor know if you will be supplying pictures with your story.
Now, having a well written pitch is necessary and very helpful for a writer, but it can’t compensate for a mediocre story idea. Run your ideas by trusted friends, and see what type of twists and turns your story takes. Use those twists and turns in your story because that’s the natural progression of the conversation and it will contain questions that your audience will likely have and make for a great piece.
P.S. Here is a basic pitch template that I like to use:
Hello [Editor’s Name],
My name is XXX, and I am a Boston-based freelance writer specializing in [Niche].
My work has been published by [links to relevant outlet], and [link to relevant outlet].
I am passionate about [subject], I would love to use my expertise and insights to write a piece for [this brand or publication]. I have included a story idea below that I think will really resonate with your readers:
[One or two sentences outlining the piece]
I’d love to get your thoughts–is this something you’d be interested in having me write for [brand or publication]?
Thank you so much for your consideration, [Editor Name]. I’m looking forward to hearing from you soon!
David is a freelance writer from the North Shore of Massachusetts and a former 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper/medic. David recently graduated from UMass Amherst with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and is currently in a mentorship program with the Military Veterans in Journalism Program.