The One Critical Thing Your Pitch Email is Missing

For anyone pitching an editor, agent or potential client.

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When I was the managing editor and writing correspondent coordinator for an online magazine, I received emails similar to this one at least a dozen times. (I am strictly paraphrasing – this is not an actual copy of an email from a real person.)

Hello editor,

My name is W. I am a student at Totally Awesome College studying A Subject. I stumbled across your blog the other day and was wondering if you would be interested in publishing some of my work as a guest post on your site. I am hoping to get my name out there and thought your web site would be the perfect place to start. Here is a link to my blog so you can take a look at my writing. I have also written an article that I think would be perfect for you to publish, so please let me know if you would like to review it.

W

Student at Totally Awesome College

I may be exaggerating just a little bit, but not my much.

This was a very small magazine, so I imagine editors from larger publications get dozens, if not hundreds of emails like this daily. Pray for them. They need it.

There are so many red flags in this short but disastrous email that I don’t know where to start. But other than the exhausting number of “I” statements and not making it very easy for the email recipient to actually find relevant writing samples (even if the email itself didn’t turn them off), there’s a huge piece missing.

W didn’t even tell the editor why they’re interested in writing articles for that publication. There was no purpose statement. There was no “why” other than the one “why” editors really don’t care about.

Publish my work. Publish my name. Look at my blog. It’s a wasted effort.

Eventually I came up with a few different formula responses for these types of emails. It always started off by pointing out that I was the editor of a magazine, not a blog, but that’s beside the point. Usually, these email correspondences never went anywhere, because these writers weren’t really interested in writing for my magazine. They didn’t know why they were pitching to me. And that pretty much ruined their chances of ever getting their work published in my magazine.

Why am I telling you all this? Because you’re going to be pitching to editors.

And if not editors, then agents, or publishers, or potential clients. It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing fiction or self-help articles or you just like posting stuff on the internet for fun. There’s a very important element to any form of pitch email that far too many people miss, and no one ever tells them about it.

What is it? Your purpose.

Not your life’s purpose, not your purpose for being a writer in general – that’s important, but not necessarily in a short pitch email. Query letters may be a little different, but full disclosure, I’ve never written one, so I’m not an expert in that particular line of communication (yet). I’m mostly talking about pitching shorter works of writing or writing services, but fiction writers can benefit from the general advice as well.

Your “why” is your ticket to ride.

It’s not about you. It’s not about what you want out of the deal. It’s about what you can – and intend – to do for someone else. The email above misses the mark because it doesn’t tell me why I should want to work with W. If all W wants is to get their name out there and doesn’t care where, that doesn’t make me want to say, “Yes! Write for me!”

Why are you interested in writing for This Great Magazine? That’s what I want to know. Why should I pick you, over the dozens of other people who have asked the same question? What can you contribute to my editorial flow? What do you have to add to the conversation? What makes you unique?

It’s not what you’ve studied in school, though for things like health, that actually does help (science needs more credibility, that’s just the way it is). It’s not even really about what you’ve done in the past. It’s what you’re going to do, in the future, to make this publication a little bit better.

Why do you want to write for me? Because you are interested in the subject, it is somehow relevant to you, and you have something of value to give to my readers.

Here’s how the email should have read.

Hello Ms. Dowell,

My name is W. After reviewing the content of This Great Magazine, I am writing to ask if you are taking any article submissions at this time. If so, I would be interested in contributing to your Student Life section.

I am currently a student at Totally Awesome College. As a new reader of This Great Magazine, I would love to be able to contribute my skills and experience as a writer and undergraduate student to a publication dedicated to helping students succeed, grow and thrive.

If you are interested in reviewing my writing samples, to better evaluate whether or not I might be a good fit for your publication, you are welcome to review my online writing portfolio here [link].

Thank you for your time. I look forward to working with you in the future.

Best regards,

W

It’s not perfect. But it’s an improvement.

Tell an editor why they should care, and they’re much more likely to care. Start with what you want. Then go into more detail about why you want it. Then, for the love of God, give them a place to look at writing samples. Don’t expect them to go digging, because they won’t. They don’t have time. They’re too busy sending off formula responses to people who never learned how to pitch to an editor.

Ask yourself that one question before you pitch. Why? If you can come up with a publication-focused answer, then you’re already halfway there. Editors will love you. Trust me.

As you can tell, I enjoy writing on this topic a little bit too much. So if you want more, leave a comment down below letting me know. I could write a whole book about this. Hmmm….

Also, if this helped you, or you have a different method that works better for you – let me know that, too! I’m only one person with one perspective on the issue. I’d love to hear what you think as well.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

How to Write Well, Fast: Fiction | LET’S GET PUBLISHED

The point is to force yourself to write regularly, as much as possible, without putting in too much or too little time on just one project.

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Writing fiction is hard. Doing it well, and doing it as quickly as possible, is even more of a challenge. You can do it. Just keep the following things in mind as you write.

Give yourself a daily word count

Not a minimum or a limit: a word count. Something you will be able to look at once and stick with for the remainder of your project. This might mean you allow yourself 1,500 words five days a week, Monday through Friday. It might mean 2,000 words seven days a week. You could potentially even set a goal to write 10,000 words daily (possible, but honestly, probably not recommended).

The point is to force yourself to write regularly, as much as possible, without putting in too much or too little time on just one project. If you write too much, chances are the quality of your work is going to start decreasing. If you write too little, you’re not technically writing all that quickly, are you?

Save research for later

Research is important even when we’re writing fiction, but you don’t have to be an expert to write about whatever you want. Eventually, you’ll have to get your facts straight (please do). But remember that no first draft is perfect, and if you spend all your time researching and none of it actually writing, you’ll never have a finished first draft to perfect.

This does NOT mean that you can or should publish something inaccurate. It means that, for now, you’re going to focus on the story and moving the plot forward, and worry about perfecting the details later. For example, if you were writing about a police officer and knew nothing about what a police officer does on a daily basis, it’s going to save you a lot of time now if you do your best with what you think you know, focus on the story itself and return to getting it all right at a later time when the story is mostly written.

Know what’s coming next

As we mentioned last week, a primary reason why we often stop writing in the middle of a good workflow is not being sure where we’re going to go next with a story. This is a lot easier to avoid than you might think: just plan it out, in however much or however little detail you want.

You might have to do some quick outlining, meaning you might spend five or 10 minutes prior to the start of your designated writing time planning out what you’re going to write that day. You don’t necessarily have to get into specifics, but in general you’ll probably have an idea in your head of what’s going to happen next in your story. Jot down some bullet points, so you don’t have too many of those “whiteout” moments (when you stop writing, intending to think through your next move, but instead just end up completely spacing out).

Check out more of our LET’S GET PUBLISHED series and feel free to leave a comment down below with any questions you have related to writing, publishing, experience, etc.

Image courtesy of edx.org.

How to Write Well, Fast: Articles and Freelancing | LET’S GET PUBLISHED

Why do people read articles (rather, why do they scan subheadings)? Because, in general, they have a problem.

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What is good writing? It’s writing that effectively and clearly communicates a specific message. The best writers out there have mastered how to say something important and say it in a way that makes people not only listen, but understand.

As a freelancer, you want to write well, but you also have A LOT of work to do. You’re likely getting paid by the word, not the hour (not always the case, but it’s a common scenario). So naturally, you want to be able to write a lot, and make it good, in as little time as possible.

It takes practice, but it can be done. Here’s how to write well … fast.

Do your research first

When writing articles, it isn’t always the writing itself that takes the longest. A lot of the time it’s the research you have to do as you’re writing the article. That’s the big difference between random blogs and legitimate content sites: research. If you make a point, you always need to back it up. Credibility is everything when you’re freelancing.

Once you know what you’re writing about, start with your research. Look into what information is already out there and think about how you can expand upon it and use it as good support. Good writing involves a lot of support, so you don’t want to skip this step. When you put it first, and have all the links you need, you can actually focus on what you sat down to do: write a high-quality article as quickly as possible.

Outline your main points (seriously)

Often what keeps us from getting more good writing done in a short amount of time is allowing ourselves to “break the flow” of writing. You might write a few really great paragraphs about one subtopic, only to have to stop and think about which subtopic you want to cover next. It’s much more effective to outline – yes, outline – your main points before you actually start writing.

Many of you do not like outlining when you’re writing, and considering the way they force teach you to do it in school makes this a completely valid stance. We’re not talking about that kind of outline, though. Once you do your research, simply list out your subheadings, otherwise known as the most important points you are going to cover in your article. This keeps you focused and makes it so you don’t have to break your flow once you actually start writing.

Follow a problem, solution, challenge format

Why do people read articles (rather, why do they scan subheadings)? Because, in general, they have a problem. They want to know if there is a solution, and how they can make that solution work for them personally. Following this article structure is not only effective in terms of readership; it also makes the writing process itself go a whole lot quicker.

Start each section by introducing the problem. Then give any credible backup info that explains the validity of that problem, its affects, etcetera. Then go into specific actions the reader can take in order to solve their problem, and/or challenge them to take action. You can pretty much never fail with this method. It’s fast and it actually works.

Next Thursday we’ll cover how to write well, fast, when writing fiction. Until then, check out other articles in this series and subscribe to our weekly enewsletter for more writing inspiration and resources.

Image courtesy of zahrauae.com.

How to Pitch a Guest Post to Any Online Publication | LET’S GET PUBLISHED

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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.

Good afternoon,

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.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

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.

How To Really Stand Out In the Publishing World | LET’S GET PUBLISHED

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Writing isn’t easy, but there’s comfort in knowing you’re not the only one struggling. There are hundreds of thousands of other writers out there typing their way toward the exact same goals you are.

Which is great. Unless you want to stand out, which, predictably, everyone does.

What can you do that makes you, and your writing, unique? Standing out is almost tougher than the writing process itself, but we’ve come up with a few tactics you can try to make the road a little easier to navigate. 

Build a versatile portfolio 

The biggest mistake younger writers (of lesser experience, not necessarily age) make is believing that belonging to a specific writing niche means you can only ever write about one thing. Regardless of your niche and what kind of work you hope to publish someday, writing the same thing over and over again doesn’t do much to show off your skills, even if you have a lot of them.

Potential employers, agents and editors want to see your work, but they need to see a variety of writing samples. They need to know you’re flexible, experienced and able to write for a diverse market. Your portfolio should contain snippets from different newspapers, magazines and blogs, if applicable. Don’t have any yet? Here’s how you can get started.

Don’t expect to make it big, at least not right away 

Very few writers stumble upon instant success, especially their first time trying. Even if you’ve been writing for awhile, it takes time to really immerse yourself in a consistent style and find your voice. The first few things you publish, even the first dozen, probably won’t be great. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer.

Some of the most successful, well-known writers have been writing, rewriting and publishing for years. They didn’t find success overnight, and honestly, it’s not going to do you much good to expect to, either. For now, focus on refining your craft. Seriously. Put all your energy into getting a little better every day, and worry about publishing later.

Write because you enjoy writing 

Readers can tell when you’re fully engaged in a piece and when you’re not. We write differently depending on how passionate we are about certain subjects and ideas, even when we don’t realize it. If you’re writing just for the sake of writing, just to put your name on the Internet and increase your chances of getting published someday, honestly, you probably never will.

You need to write because you enjoy writing. If it’s not your passion, you’re not going to make it very far. Why? Because as we like to remind you here, writing is hard. It sometimes takes all your time and energy away from you. If you’re not fully invested in it, quitting will eventually seem like your best option. Besides, it’s not only ordinary readers that can tell when your heart’s not in it. Editors and the like can tell, too, usually within the first few sentences.

The biggest key to success in publishing is to never stop writing. Keep your eyes open for writing opportunities and know it’s okay if everything you write isn’t always your best. You’ll have good days and not so good ones. What’s most admirable in a writer, though, is pushing through till you make it count.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

How to Utilize Writing Opportunities You Can’t Fully Commit To | LET’S GET PUBLISHED

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To get published, you have to act. Or in this case, write. As often as you can, wherever you can, at the highest quality you can possibly assert.

If you want to get your name out there, and solidify your brand as you grow, it’s important to take advantage of as many networking and skill-developing experiences as possible. To do that, you have to really be aware of the opportunities available, in case something comes along at just the right time.

It’s tough to stay up-to-date on what’s out there when you’re not currently in an active search. You’ll either end up trying to commit to too much or feel like you’re missing out on something that could really help build up your portfolio.

Here’s how to utilize those writing opportunities even when you know you can’t fully commit to them … right now, anyway. 

Ask all your questions before you apply and/or pitch

Job and internship postings, as well as pitching guideline pages, have a lot of information, but not always everything you’re looking for. While it might be tempting to “just apply anyway,” it’s a dangerous thing to do if you’re not sure exactly what an editor is going to expect from you from week to week, or even from day to day.

It doesn’t hurt to ask questions before you apply. Editors get questions from prospective writing applicants all the time (or they fully expect and welcome them, at least). How many hours/articles/pitches per week/month? What is the average length of one submission? What other requirements, like photos, go along with each general assignment?

There is no such thing as a “dumb” question, and it’s better to have more than enough details than to miss something important that might not allow you to make a full commitment. 

Create a potential list of pitches for future use 

Even if you’re not always writing, you’re probably always coming up with new ideas. That’s just how the brain of a writer works. Just because you have an idea, but don’t necessarily have time right this second to tell somebody about it, doesn’t mean you can’t save it for later.

It’s not healthy, though, to let your head get too crammed with ideas. They need a place to stretch their legs even when you can’t give them somewhere to run to yet. Write them down. Create a list of story ideas and pitches you might be able to use later. When you snag a free hour to write something, you’ll already have a list of ideas to choose from. This can help you make better use of your writing time, especially when there just isn’t a plethora of it sitting around.

Evaluate your current schedule and plan ahead

Editors, publishers, potential employers—they’re all looking for the same things: who are you, where are you and what are you doing? No matter what you have on your plate, it’s important to put your online portfolio—aka, whatever pops up when someone Googles your name—toward the top of your priority list.

To do this, though, you’ll need to take a good look at your schedule, both the current one and the future one. What do you have going on right now that’s keeping you from writing an extra article or two here and there? Will you still be doing that thing one month, three months, six months from now? Is there something you can put to the side, at least for a little while, to make room for a little extra portfolio-building?

Don’t take this to mean you should put off or completely ditch getting a college degree to focus on writing. Never. Do. That. Why? Oh, let us count the reasons. Actually, we’ll just have to give them to you in the form of another post.

Come back later this week for that. It’s going to be fun.

Keep writing. Even when you don’t think you can handle it. You can. You will.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

How to Find Your Writing Niche | LET’S GET PUBLISHED

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It’s time to get serious, aspirers. If you want to be a writer, there are some requirements.

You need to want it, and we mean really want it. Editors and readers alike can tell when your heart’s not in it.

You need to know why you want it.

You need to know where you fit in the publishing world and carve your name into it, because a lot of people—a lot of people—want what you want, for the same reasons you want it.

You need to stand out.

How do you stand out? By finding a niche and, basically, dominating it.

How do you do that? This week we’ll show you how to find the place to chisel your name onto the wall. Next week we’ll show you what to do when you’ve found that wall but there’s no room left for you on it (yet).

 1. Write about a lot of different things

Wait. That seems a little backwards. Aren’t we supposed to be finding our niche? Exactly right. How do you expect to find your area of writing expertise if you haven’t tried writing on different topics, for different publications and audiences?

In the beginning, write what you can write. Write what you enjoy writing about, but don’t hold yourself back from branching out to different topics. For one thing, it’s helpful to get your name out there, but everyone’s trying to do that at the exact same time. What you really enjoy writing about might not even end up being your exact niche—hold on, let’s dive a little deeper into that one.

 2. Figure out your “mission”

You don’t have to have a blog or a business to have a mission. Personal mission statements aren’t just for college applications: they’re part of establishing your brand, which you should start doing if you haven’t already, if you want readers to be able to figure out who you are if and when they do find you.

Creating your own mission statement will help you maintain a common thread throughout all the work you do, so that even when you’re writing on many different topics, you can still communicate your overall message to many different readers. It’s easier to define which niche aligns best with your goals when you know the specific goals you’re looking to achieve.

 3. Explore blogs, websites and forums that set you off (in a good way)

Eventually, as an “expert” you’ll spend less time writing random posts and articles and more time in your niche. Before you get there, though, you have to get involved. You can’t be an expert if you’re invisible, and if you’re not even sure how to begin building your brand and anchoring yourself in a specific writing niche, you might want to surround yourself with people and ideas who can help build you up.

Get out there. Read, comment, participate in conversations and writing challenges. Know the mantras of experts in the niche you enjoy spending time in and connect with them if you can. If you’re tempted to post multi-paragraph replies to someone else’s comment in a forum—because you want to elaborate on a point, not to be a troll—that might be your place to settle in and hang for awhile.

It’s not easy, being a writer. We know.

But you gotta start somewhere.

Find where somewhere is for you. Where do you fit?

And how will that change the way you write?

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Why Pitching “Bad” Ideas Is a Good Idea | LET’S GET PUBLISHED

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Before you scroll down to the comments section to scold us for our latest bite of advice, take a deep breath. Never judge a blog post by its title, right?

So far in our LET’S GET PUBLISHED series, we’ve covered how to choose the right publication to submit your pitches to and how (and why) to keep track of the pitches you do submit. Never once have we advised you to submit a story idea, to anyone, before giving it some serious thought first.

So why, then, are we screaming at you to pitch “bad” ideas? What’s that about, huh?

The thing is, nothing you submit is ever going to be perfect the first time around. Either it’s just not refined enough to make it past the first publication barrier or it doesn’t quite fit the mold of what that particular editor is looking for.

But sometimes, you have a pitch you’ve been brainstorming and fixing up for a little while. You know it’s not perfect. Keeping it to yourself just because you don’t think it’s ready, though, is only going to hurt you. Here’s why.

You are your absolute worst critic 

Have you ever noticed that it’s the ideas you think need the most work that other people grab onto the fastest? It’s always the idea you don’t think will make it to the next round that gets picked up first. There’s a reason for this: you spend a lot of time with your ideas, and after awhile, none of them are ever going to seem appealing enough to you to sell.

When we spend enough time mulling over our story ideas, we become desensitized to them. Have you ever just casually said to someone, “Oh, I’m writing a book/article/story” and wondered why they seem so intrigued? Is it really that big of a deal? It is! You’re just so used to it, it doesn’t look that way to you anymore. We face the same dilemma when pitching ideas. So when you don’t think something is quite good enough—pitch it anyway. Just do it.

You might get more helpful feedback than you expect 

It’s not always easy to predict how editors are going to react to your idea submissions. Some, okay, most, will pick the ones they like and spend their time pursuing those: they’ll just ignore the ones they aren’t planning on using, because they get hundreds, and they’re not robots. They can only do so much.

Some editors, though, particularly with small publications and newer blogs, will respond to your pitches even if they’re not quite ready to move forward in the publication process. You might actually get some decent feedback on how to revise your pitch to make it stand out more, broaden its subject matter or clarify its purpose. You never know, so it’s worth taking a chance regardless of whether you’re completely confident or not. Which, of course, leads nicely into our final reason to pitch, even when you think you have a “bad” idea. 

You never know until you pitch 

Honestly, if you never just “go for it,” you’re never going to get published, anywhere, no matter how much time you spend refining your skills. Pitching to publications is an experience in itself, so even if it feels like no one is ever interested in the ideas you’re throwing out there, it’s so much better than never pitching at all.

As we mentioned above, sometimes what you think will never make it will end up doing exactly that. The more time you spend worrying about whether so-and-so will “like it,” the less time you’re spending getting it out there for people to see, working on other projects and getting better and better at pitching, writing and selling as you go.

Have a bad idea? Pitch it. At least now you know what we mean by “bad.”

You can do it. The moment just before you hit send is the worst. Okay, waiting to hear back is pretty awful, too. But that gets easier to handle, too. We promise.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

How to Keep Track of Your Ideas, and Why You Should | LET’S GET PUBLISHED

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Like the act of writing itself, getting published is a process. Often a long, unpredictable process that involves more waiting than anything else. You have a lot of ideas, and you just want them to be heard, dangit! How do you know you’re doing it right if no one’s emailing you back? 

Just because you’re stuck waiting doesn’t mean you can’t continue to crank out, and submit, more ideas elsewhere. How—and why? We’ll show you.

Keep a running list of pitches 

There are several reasons you shouldn’t ever just “wing it” when pitching a story idea, whether it’s to a magazine, blog or part of a proposal of sorts for your agent. Some online submission forms don’t automatically send you a copy of what you’ve just submitted, and if someone comes back to you and says they’d like you to develop and send in your story … and you don’t remember your exact pitch … that might be a problem.

Keeping a list of ideas you’ve pitched, where you’ve pitched them and whether they’ve been accepted, rejected or ignored can help you figure out your niche (which topics you tend to gravitate toward writing about), which kinds of pitches fit certain publications (and which don’t) and can even help you get used to the time gap between when you pitch and if/when you generally get a response. Once you pitch one idea to a publication, you can take advantage of that gap and pitch different ideas somewhere else while you’re waiting.

Teach yourself to track your own progress

The more you pitch, the better you get at it. We won’t say it gets easier, because that would be a lie. Over time, you do start to get a better sense of what certain audiences want to read, what they already know, what they want to know and how to construct pitches that will grab editors’ attention.

The same way journaling can give you the chance to look back at your younger, less experienced self, keeping track of your story ideas over time, regardless of whether they’ve been accepted or not, allows you to look back at the kinds of pitches you were submitting last month, last year, even a few years ago, if you’re really dedicated (go you!). 

Never pitch the exact same story twice

What if an idea for one publication or agent gets rejected or ignored, but you want to try and pitch it somewhere else? It’s true that your pitch may have been overlooked because it’s not quite the right fit for that particular publication’s audience or that agent’s requested genres. But the pitch itself might also need some revising. Maybe it’s not specific enough. Maybe it’s almost there—but not quite ready yet.

It’s okay to try an idea out in more than one place, if the first or second don’t work out. But don’t pitch the exact same idea every time. Play around with your angle. Keep your audience in mind. Keep working at it, either until it finds its fit or until you decide it’s time to move on to something different.

If you want to get published, it’s important to remember there’s only so much you can control throughout the process. But if you want it—and we mean really want it—you’ll find a way to make it work. You’ll figure out how to improve your pitching strategies and find not just where your stories fit, but where you fit as a writer, too.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.