Pitching article and story ideas to editors and getting published is the best thing you can do for your freelance writing career.
It’s not easy, but the rewards are well worth the effort.
It can be unnerving putting yourself out there, but it’s one way to grow as a writer.
If you’re ready but don’t know where to start, you can get basic tips from this article to help you out.
What is pitching?
Pitching in the publishing world is a term that refers to writers and authors presenting an idea for a written piece (a feature article, blog post, review, interview, case study) to a publication.
In the print publication space, pitching may also be referred to as a query. Queries are, in essence, pitches sent to editors of print magazines and trade publications.
How do writers pitch?
Most publications accept pitches via email. It’s very rare to find a publisher that wants to receive snail mail, so you will most likely use email to send a pitch.
Writers pitch for many different reasons, but here are some of the most common ones:
- Prestige – A writer wants to get a byline or get published in a popular publication in his niche
- Cause – Writing to pursue advocacies and get public support
- Money – Pitching publications and writing the piece in exchange for payment
These three reasons can be present in a single pitch. Ideally, you would be pitching to publications who are willing to credit the work to you as the author, pay you a fee, and allow you to put a link back to your writer website or social media profile.
Defining your niche
Before you find a publication, you should already know your niche.
If you don’t have a definite niche or focus on a topic, then looking for publications to pitch might be an overwhelming task.
If you’re interested in writing about finance and business, then going for sites like Forbes or Entrepreneur makes sense.
On the other hand, if your niche is focused on women and lifestyle, you might want to try getting published on Cosmopolitan or Redbook.
You might feel like this is a big step to take and the outcome is not always successful on the first try. It rarely happens, but it’s still worth the shot.
Finding a publication to pitch
The first thing you need to do when planning a pitch campaign is finding the publications you want to pitch.
You might already know a few of them if you read a lot about a specific topic.
I got my break as a tech writer when I pitched a tech blog that I regularly visited.
Some publications have a page that lets you know they accept contributions, and these pages are usually called Contributions, Write For Us, Submission Guidelines, Guest Post, and something similar.
Other publications won’t have this explicitly stated, but it won’t hurt to email them and ask if they accept guest submissions before sending them the actual pitch.
Emailing an editor
When you have your pitch ready, then it’s time to write and send the pitch email to the correct editor.
On a large publication, different sections are assigned to several editors. Their contact details are usually found on the Contact page or on the Masthead.
In cases when you can’t find this information, you can use a tool like Hunter.io to find all email addresses linked to a certain website.
So if you want to know who to contact for a site called Cookingtips.com, you simply enter that site into a field and this app can pull up all email addresses on that site.
If you only have the name of the editor but not his email, you can do a search for him on a professional social media network like LinkedIn or Twitter.
If all else fails, you can always use the contact form found in most websites — although these emails might not end up with the person you want to reach. Hopefully, the publication will be kind enough to direct you to the appropriate editor when they do read your pitch.
What’s in a pitch?
There are four basic things you need to include in a pitch:
1. Your idea
The most important element of your pitch is a unique, catchy, relevant story idea. It can be a boring topic with an interesting angle. It can be a popular opinion that’s debunked with a new study.
In addition, make sure that these questions are answered when talking about your topic:
Who or what is the topic about?
Why is it relevant?
Will the readers benefit from reading this content?
It is also important that you write it in a way that will catch and retain the reader’s attention. You can start this paragraph with a question to instantly hook an editor into reading the rest of your pitch.
2. Why your idea fits the publication
The whole point of pitching a story or an idea is because you haven’t seen it in this publication before and you are here to fill that gap.
Once you’ve read and studied the content and style of a publication, then you will know what kind of topics they publish. Also, you will know who they are writing it for.
Understanding a publication’s niche and their audience is important, and when an editor sees that you have this quality, there’s a higher chance that he’ll consider your pitch.
It would be great if you can choose a publication that you already read regularly.
If you’re not familiar with a blog or website’s topics and writing style, it would be great if you can spend a few days reading their most popular content. This would give you a fair idea of how content is written and what kind of audience it’s made for.
If you don’t know where to start, here’s a great list of websites that accept and pay for submissions.
3. Who you are
Introduce yourself. If you have links to a written piece related to your pitch, include that as well. Any other achievements in your career that demonstrate your expertise in your field will also add to your credibility as a writer.
Sometimes, it wouldn’t hurt to include a personal detail about yourself if it’s relevant to your pitch.
I once pitched a tech blog aimed at parents and I mentioned that I was a new mom. The editor replied saying they loved that piece of info about me. I got the gig, and the rest was history.
When you talk about yourself, do so in relation to your pitch — always.
4. Why you are the best person to write the pitch you are presenting
Are you writing about this topic because you think it’s what the publication needs?
Or are you writing about it because you know a lot about the topic — maybe you’ve experienced it yourself — and you have the strong urge to share it with others?
On the other hand, if you don’t have the first-hand experience, what are the things that make you an authority on such a topic? Maybe you’ve done a lot of research, read books, watched documentaries, interviewed people, and so on.
This little detail is important because it will show the editor how serious you are about your pitch, and how much you’ve worked on its development.
If you’re a brand new freelance writer, this might sound intimidating to you, but just pick the best reason you have. Your enthusiasm and honesty will always be appreciated, no matter what the outcome.
Writing your pitch email
Editors are busy people and they don’t have a lot of time to sit and read lengthy emails.
When writing your pitch, do these basic things:
Use the editor’s first name. This indicates that you’ve done your research, you know who you’re writing to, and it makes you look like a pro (even if you’re not).
Introduce yourself. In less than three sentences, tell something about yourself, your writing background, and other places you were published.
Pitch your idea. Succinctly pitch your story. Start with the most interesting detail to catch attention and continue with the rest of the details. You can include an outline, but since this is your first pitch, it’s not always necessary. Just make sure you don’t leave anything out but don’t let it be more than two paragraphs.
Sell yourself. Your story is only half the reason why an editor would pay attention. Half of it is you. This is the part where you tell the editor why you are the perfect person to write the story. Think of the best reason that you have and go with that.
Say thanks. Even if you’re not sure the editor will accept your pitch, always thank them at the end of the email. They still gave you the time of day, so it’s only right that you show appreciation.
This endeavor might sound like it works most of the time — but it doesn’t. Most writers will tell you that it’s a numbers game and that you need to send a number of pitches a day to get one or two responses.
Other lucky ones get their pitches approved after only sending a few.
Whatever the case, you can get a better chance of getting approved if you work on your pitches and make them the best that they can possibly be. It also helps to do extra research to give your email pitches that pro writer vibe.
The thing to remember is that this is a learning process. You only get better at it with experience. There’s only so much I can say about this topic, but it may not even cover all the things you’ll encounter along the way.
If you’re completely new to this, you’ll find that most decisions you have to make will depend on either your instincts or common sense.
Whether you get your pitches approved or not, pitching is a part of a writer’s life and it’s worth doing if you want to grow your career faster than if you work for low-paying gigs.
Do you have a tip you want to share? Leave them in the comments box below!