Updated: Oct 11, 2020
A concise view of tips and ideas from established writers on how to approach editors and submit the best pitching email.
As a writer, it’s not enough to know how to write. You also need to know how to sell, pitch, market yourself, approach others, network, and dance. The last one is optional but highly enjoyable.
But what do you do as a writer, when words like ‘publication,’ ‘pitch,’ and ‘editor,’ in particular, bring up images of an incredible Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly in ‘The Devil Wears Prada?’ Well, I’d say — prepare as much as humanly possible. And wear stylish clothes.
And what about a new writer’s ego that is as fragile as Faberge eggs? Yet again — prepare, practice, and know the rules of the game.
New game old rules
When I started looking into pitching my work to editors in great detail — by reading blogs, articles, comments, asking questions — I realized that the overall pitching process reminds me of something. It does not differ very much from business or project management (my background) emails you send to corporate clients.
So I’ve condensed all the advice to the following bullet points:
Be polite and genuine.
Be concise and to the point.
Show you understand their challenges.
Highlight what you are going to deliver and when.
Explain what the overall benefits are.
Create an online presence
Elna Cain, an established freelance writer, and blogger in her article, mentions the importance of an online presence. She recommends setting up a website — your signature online office. The site could showcase your skills and talents, illustrate your best writing examples, and serve as a business card when you need to explain what you do.
Nowadays, you also need to be active on social media because you never know where your potential clients or dream editors might discover you. Commenting on popular blogs and writing at least one blog post per week are amongst other valuable tidbits of advice that I found useful.
Elna reminds us not to get discouraged if we don’t hear from editors or are rejected more than once. It might sometimes take 40 or 50 pitches to land a client or be accepted by a publication. It’s like in that fairy tale — you need to kiss quite a few frogs to find your Mr. Charming.
And be sure to include any important information that will help you shine brighter than the rest of us. Are you also a graphic designer? Mention it. Is ‘Research’ your second name? Let them know that.
Get to know the publication
Tim Denning recommends concentrating on what the publication you are pitching to is all about. Show them that you have actually read their articles and mention how it changed your life.
Another outstanding snippet of advice from Tim is to find something in common with the editor. Check their social media, see what they enjoy writing or commenting about. Show them that you have similar views and interests and that you genuinely care, he says:
“When someone likes you and knows you a little, they will start to listen to you, and eventually, your pitch.”
But if your interests are polar opposite, it might be an opportunity for you to impress the editor by bringing something different to the table. No pretending, though, as they will be able to spot the lie unless you are very convincing.
What other writer and editors got to say:
Abbi Perets from Successful Freelance Mom says that you need to be quick with your opening paragraph to capture the editor’s or client’s attention: “You have nanoseconds to interest potential clients in what you have to say before they toss your letter in the trash.”
Rachel Andrew, Editor in Chief of Smashing Magazine, advises to include a few sentences introducing yourself, especially if you are a new writer who is also a subject matter expert in anything the publication might be interested in pursuing.
Behlor Santi, a freelance journalist, in her article in Funds for Writers, recommends using humor as it might help build rapport.
J.D. Myall from Writer’s Digest favors persistence. She is against just waiting there ‘staring at your mailbox.’ It’s better to follow up with a call or an email: “Courtesy and charisma can help improve your results.” And if it’s a no — accept it and move on.
James Randerson, in his article in The Guardian, reminds us to read the publication first and not submit our pitches without knowing what kind of stories they publish or are interested in at this moment in time.
Nikola Banicek, in his article, proposes to concentrate your pitch on what you can deliver without mentioning any shortcomings (e.g., that you are a new writer). And write your pitch as if you are working for your most important client.
Format Team suggests creating a clear but strong subject line to make sure your pitch stands out.