As the managing editor of an online magazine, part of my job is coordinating submissions for our correspondent program. Basically, college students email me their pitches, and it’s up to me to decide which article ideas are suitable for our audience and which aren’t.
There’s some feedback, editing and publishing involved after the fact, but as with any guest post-type submission process, it all begins with a pitch. Or several. And sometimes that’s all I get: an email that contains five article pitches, and nothing else.
Which is fine … I suppose. But some of these writers are journalism students, and part of me (never having taken a journalism class, I’m just being transparent here) wonders if some of these students just haven’t learned the proper way to pitch an article to an editor.
No matter what kind of writing you do, whether it be fiction or essay writing, poetry, articles, whatever, you’re going to need to “sell” your ideas to an editor of some kind. We’ve covered a lot about ideas and writing and pitching in this series so far, but I’ve realized I have yet to go into how to actually pitch an idea.
So that’s what we’ll cover this week. Even if you’ve pitched 100 articles before, you might learn something new.
Read the pitching guidelines before you even come up with an idea
Every publication has them, and trust me, every editor who receives a submission that doesn’t follow them will toss the submission out without a second thought. It’s nothing personal, but if you can’t follow the pitching guidelines, there’s no way an editor can know if you’ll follow any other instructions you’re given, like how to structure your article, for example.
Read those guidelines once, twice, three times. Make sure you are not only qualified (for example, CL’s writers must be currently enrolled in a college or university) but also make sure you understand what is, and what isn’t, expected of you. Some pubs list topics they are not interested in receiving pitches for. They might give you a word limit. Every website or magazine is different.
Submit a list of pitches like it’s a job application
An editor doesn’t just want to know that you can come up with a list of ideas. They want to know you take your writing career seriously, even if you’re just starting out. They don’t want to know every single detail about your life, but don’t just start off an email with, “I want to write for you, here are my ideas.” Would that be the first thing out of your mouth if you were actually meeting an editor for the first time? Hopefully not.
Here’s an example of the kind of emails I send when I pitch articles to publications. Think of it as your one chance to show the person receiving this email who you are and why editing your work is worth their time.
My name is (_). I have recently visited your (website/magazine/blog*) and, upon reviewing your content and submission guidelines, am writing with interest in contributing a (guest post/article/series of articles) to your organization.
I am currently a (student/writer for __/contributing author with __) and have __ years of experience composing (blog posts/articles/etc.) with various publications such as ___. I believe this previous writing experience would allow me to provide content for (organization name) that would help its readers (___).
And so on.
*Do your research before you contact someone
Are you submitting to a website, magazine or blog? You need to not only know the difference but you need to be aware of which type of content site you are submitting to. And you need to express that knowledge in your email.
Magazine editors do not appreciate being downgraded to blog editors. Website managers do not run magazines. You get the idea. Know who you are submitting to and make it clear that you have educated yourself about the organization and the kinds of content it produces. I am not impressed when it’s obvious a writer has no idea who they’re submitting to. First impressions are everything.
Be smart and courteous when you pitch ideas to someone you’ve never met. Remember, it is not about you. It is about what you can do for the organization. You are “selling” your skills, not yourself.
If you have any questions or want to know more about pitching to editors, leave a comment. I’ll be happy to elaborate on anything I’ve mentioned briefly above, and if there’s a question with an answer that deserves its own post, I’ll get right on it.
Did you know you can now submit pitches for guest posts on Novelty Revisions? You didn’t? You must not have signed up for our weekly newsletter yet! Click the purple button on the right to sign up, and you’ll get information about guest posting in next week’s email.
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Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and health. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist, Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.