Yesterday I gave you a behind-the-scenes look at my very first magazine pitch, one that – for reasons I still can’t comprehend – landed me what has become a three-year gig penning magazine cover stories about fierce females around Saskatchewan.
If you haven’t had a chance to graze through yesterday’s post, I’ll give you the Reader’s Digest version:
Three years ago, I mistakenly thought Twitter was an appropriate medium to pitch PINK, a magazine I’d been following for a few months, on adding a fresh face to their roster.
Miraculously, they responded to my public plea and suggested I follow up with an e-mail… which I decided needn’t be more than my resume and a “trust me, I can do this” paragraph. Facepalm.
Although I’m happy to hear my professional and personal plunders can score a few laughs, this blog is about more than just me: it’s about building a community and discussing Important People, Important Places, Important Items, and Important Ideas.
(If you clicked over to the blog hoping to find the inner workings of the Little Writer, shoot me a DM and I’ll have my people fax your people a copy of my sixth grade diary. It’s a treat.)
In the world of content marketing, there are things we like to call “cookies:” freebies shared as a way of saying ‘Gee, thanks for reading!’ And because I love cookies – I’m what you’d call a Stress Baker, as my friends back home can attest – I’m excited to share my first batch with all of you.
Here are four tips for pitch perfection that I wish I’d known about before making my first pitch:
A pitch is not a job application.
The e-mail I wrote to PINK’s editor was not, in fact, a pitch – it was a job application… and a poor one, at that. Unless the publication you’ve got your eye on has a position posted on their Careers page, you need to take a different approach. I recognized this a few months after The Embarrassing E-mail and followed up with a story idea that, although the magazine never ran, got my creative wheels spinning.
When you pitch to a publication, you’re a bit like a traveling salesperson: you bring a product (an article idea) and use your sales tactics (words and personality) to sell it.
Do your homework.
One of the top rules in the writing world is to know your audience. It’s important to familiarize yourself with your target publication’s writing style, content, key demographic, philosophy, and – most importantly – submission guidelines.
For example, unless you can come up with an interesting and relevant angle, your article about “Surfing Your Way Down Australia’s Gold Coast” has no business in a magazine dedicated to Canadian agriculture.
Show and tell – succinctly.
Editors received dozens – nay, hundreds – of e-mails every day. Their time (and yours) is precious, so make every effort not to waste it. When it comes to pitches, your words are precious, too: don’t drivel on about your credentials and “right fit” criteria (if you’re asking “Why not?” please see #1 immediately). Instead, use your words – and a strong headline – to politely convince the editor of why and how your article aligns with their brand.
This one might seem like a no-brainer, but hear me out: there is no quicker way to ensure an editor clicks ‘Delete’ instead of ‘Reply’ than by sending a pitch with poor e-mail etiquette. Typos and sentence fragments are nails in the coffin for a freelance writer; after all, you’re in the business of words! Personally, I make sure to read every e-mail, article, blog post, and pitch out loud at least once before I hit ‘Send.’ Another effective option is to pass your draft on to a trusted friend, family member, or colleague.
I’m sure there are countless other tips that could be added to this list, and that’s where YOU come in. Share your Pitiful Pitches and Lessons Learned in the comments below!