For Writers—5 Simple Rules for Pitching an Editor
As a writer and editor, I’ve been on both sides of pitching. I’ve made mistakes and I’ve seen other writers make mistakes too. Hey, we’re human, after all. From an editor’s point of view, I’d like to share some tips so that you don’t make the same mistakes I’ve made.
1. Read the magazine before pitching. At least 3 issues. One mistake I’ll never make again is that I pitched an editor at Body & Soul (now called Whole Living) without ever picking up an issue off the newsstand and READING it. The editor wrote back and told me that my pitch was too evergreen. In editor speak, that means it’s not timely, trendy, or interesting. I never pitch without reading the magazine. Ever. Read the cover lines, the table of contents, read every article. Pick up back issues, which you can find at your local library. How do they write? What do they write about? What is interesting to their audience?
2. Don’t pitch over Facebook or Twitter. A few people have contacted me over Facebook and I kindly direct them to my work email and our website (both of which are readily available pieces of information). I never contact an editor of Facebook to pitch. I’ve had conversations with editors I know but I never cold pitch an editor through social media. Contact them via their work email.
3. After a month, move on. I try my best, when someone pitches me, to get back to them in a timely manner (2 weeks) and let them know if I’m interested or not. As a freelance writer, I’d give the editor I pitched 2-3 weeks with a story idea, then I moved on. I check in first before I move on. Something like, “Dear xx, I’d love to know if you’re still interested in X idea before I pitch the idea elsewhere.” If you don’t get a response, don’t hound the editor, just move on with the pitch.
4. Develop & research your pitch. Nothing thrills me more than someone who has written a good pitch with a beginning, middle, and end. One to two sentences is not a pitch. A full paragraph with a fleshed-out idea and supporting examples is fantastic. Remember the rule of threes. For a story idea on vegan doughnut shops, find 3 stores across the US that are doing this. Not 1, not 2, but 3. Something isn’t a trend until there are at least 3 instances of it happening.
5. Have faith. In pure numbers, a magazine like VegNews is published 6 times a year. That means there are 6 food features a year and only 6 ideas that I’ll need. Unfortunately, I can’t take every single one. But keep pitching, have faith, execute numbers 1-4, and you’ll get there.