Pitching seems easy right? Not really. Fun? Sort of. If you’re a writer, marketer, business owner, or salesperson (the list goes on), you’re probably familiar with some sort of pitching. You may not like it, but you realize its necessary. Maybe you’re completely crazy and love it.
I am in-between. I love crafting a perfect pitch (even more when it gets accepted) but it is still stressful, no matter how many times I’ve done it. I’ve found a lot of failure in pitching, with clients and publications. I’ve also found equal success (with both). Recently, I pitched SELF magazine and it was accepted. Read the article here!
Since the article was published fellow writers have asked, how did I do it? SELF was one of my dream publications, and my ability to pitch them came from a whole lot of practice. I also had a very distinct idea and understood their reader base. These tactics can be applied to any type of pitching, but I specifically wanted to share my best tips for pitching the publication of your dreams:
Build Your Portfolio
I’m going to be blunt, and please don’t be offended, but your dream publication is (most likely) not going to accept a rookie writer with no previous experience in some capacity. There are some that win success on the first try, but for most of us, it takes a lot more than luck. You’ll need to prove to your dream publication that you’ve been published professionally. Your personal blog does not count, unless of course you have a gazillion readers.
You can build your writing portfolio by pitching smaller publications first. If you’re still not quite there, start by writing for your school newspaper or church bulletin. If you’re a super newbie, write for free any chance you get. YEP, I said FREE. I mean that. I wrote a lot of free content for many years to boost my portfolio and credentials.
Know Your Audience
I made this mistake very early in my writing career to pitch randomly to whoever I could find. This will never work (and I mean never). Editors are inundated with pitches. They are trained professionals who can sniff out the writers who send mass pitches.
I also advise you to read the publication you’re pitching. Take time to get to know their audience; their wants, needs, and pain points. My success with SELF can be attributed to the fact that I’ve been an avid SELF reader since my early teens. I religiously subscribed to their print publication for many years and knew exactly what kind of content they published.
Craft a Pitch
Every time I’ve written a successful pitch, it had these elements.
Introduce your story idea. What is the hook? Use the same tone of your article so the editor can get a feel of your voice.
Explain what makes this idea unique. It does not necessarily have to be groundbreaking, but why might they want to publish it? For example, most publications publish content about similar topics, especially if its trendy (think coronavirus content), but with a new perspective. What is the angle you can offer?
State the main point. What are you trying to ‘teach’ with your article?
Clearly state what type of content you want to write. Are you writing a financial commentary? A first-person perspective with tips for coping with anxiety?
Add a few sentences about what qualifies as a writer. This is NOT your bio or your obituary. Please don’t add every little thing. Do focus on relevant achievements, your current position, and any places you’ve been published before. Any professionally published content counts. Your dream publication (probably) won’t care if you haven’t already written for The New Yorker. They will care if you’ve been published in legit places.
Close the pitch by including relevant links. If you don’t have an online portfolio, I recommend you establish one ASAP. I use Journo Portfolio and its free up to a certain number of articles.
Here is my qualification paragraph for reference:
I have been writing for thirteen years. Currently, I work as a Marketing Copywriter at my own company, Heather Cherry Consulting Co. I have written feature articles for SELF, Pittsburgh Parent, Deliberate Magazine, Classic Specs, and Nanny Magazine. I have also worked as a Journalist for The Ridgway Record.
Edit your pitch at least five times before sending, and never in the same setting. Always step away and let your mind rest before revising. Read your pitch out loud a few times too, this will help catch any errors.
Write your pitch succinctly without adverbs.
Remember, your pitch is giving the prospective editor insight into your writing capabilities. If you can’t write four paragraphs of flawless content, who's to say you can write an entire piece?
Do not bully the editor in your pitch or suggest they hurry to avoid the piece being published elsewhere. You are not J.K. Rowling, nor is your time more valuable than theirs. Plus, they will probably reject you for the simple fact you are sending simultaneous pitches.