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Whether you’re a content writer, copywriter or journalist, pitching is the first step to getting published. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most nerve-racking aspects of writing. But, if you want to make a living at it, it’s something you’ll have to master. After all, being a great writer won’t mean anything if you can’t get editors on board.
Thankfully, pitching isn’t as scary as it first seems, especially once you know what you’re doing. Here are seven tips on writing the perfect pitch to help you get on the right track and the good side of editors.
1. Do your homework
Many publications explain what they’re looking for from writers on their websites. So, it pays to check for any submission guidelines first. Read them thoroughly if they are provided. Whether or not their site tells you what they want to see, it also pays to see what kind of content a publication has already published. For example, what type of subject matter is typically covered? What sort of tone do their readers enjoy? Editors will soon know if you haven’t read their content and probably won’t bother reading yours.
Typically, publications are looking for fresh content they haven’t covered before. As such, it’s often worth performing a quick google search to see whether your ideas have been covered on the site. Finally, be sure to find out who exactly you will be pitching to so you can address them by name when you come to write your pitch.
Related: Build the Perfect Pitch in 5 Steps
2. Have a clear idea in mind
Generally speaking, you should always pitch an idea before you write an article. The only exceptions are if the publication only asks for complete article submissions (and it’s your prerogative if you choose to pitch still) or your portfolio isn’t extensive. However, some pre-reporting or research will still be required in any case.
Don’t just take an exciting title idea and hit send. Instead, it would help if you showed a fundamental understanding of the topic. You’ll, at the very least, require an outline. Of course, doing this benefits you as well. After all, there’s no point sending in a pitch only to find out later that the idea you had doesn’t work.
3. Get to the point and grab their attention
Editors are busy people. Get to the point quickly and effectively when pitching. The first thing to do is ensure your email title is relevant to your topic. The body of the email itself should include a headline, the subject you are covering, the stance you are taking and, most importantly, why the publication’s readers should care.
The critical question to answer here is, “so what?” What will readers connect with in your article, and what is the primary benefit? Is it timely? is it unique? Interesting? Significant? You should also include a few of the main points you will make. But again, remember to keep it brief. Indeed, the core of your pitch should be no more than 100 words.
4. Showcase your skills and specialization
The writing in your pitch should match the tone and angle you’re looking to achieve in your article and give the reader a sample of how the finished product will look. It would help if you also leaned into any personal experience and specialist knowledge on the topic. Be sure to include links to any previous writing that is relevant as well.
5. Be respectful
It should go without saying that you should always remain respectful and professional when communicating with publishers and editors. Try not to take criticism and rejection too personally; instead, see it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Remember that pitching is an opportunity to build a working relationship even if your initial article isn’t accepted.
6. Be upfront
Whether you bring it up in your pitch or upon acceptance, don’t be afraid to discuss rates early on. Again a little homework can help here. Even if the publication doesn’t declare its rates, you’ll likely find info online with the help of Google. Generally speaking, you should never hand over an article without knowing how much you will be paid, how you will be paid, and when. If the article is time-sensitive, let the editor know that you will have to take the article somewhere else if you don’t hear anything after a certain period.
7. Follow up (but don’t spam)
Sometimes pitches get lost in the shuffle and forgotten. It’s unfortunate, but it’s just the way it is sometimes. So if it’s been a few weeks since you’ve sent your pitch and you haven’t heard anything, don’t be afraid to follow up with a quick and polite reminder.
If you get a no from a publication, there’s no harm in sending in another pitch later. But be aware that it might be a case that you’re not what the publication is looking for right now. The last thing you want to do is start hassling editors whenever you get a new idea. Eventually, they will start ignoring you entirely if you do.
Fear of failure often paralyzes many writers into inaction. However, there will usually be many more no’s than yes’s when you’re first starting. While it can be challenging and feel horrible at first, the more you get used to pitching, the more confident and successful you’ll become at it.