How to Pitch a Major Publication

Pitching your first story to a major publication can be an intimidating process, but with a little insight it doesn’t have to be.  Just think, if you were an editor what would you want in your pitches?  Once you get down a rhythm for your pitches you can tailor them to each publication that you reach out to and will become confident the more often you pitch stories.

It’s up to you to make the editor’s job as easy as possible when it comes to accepting your story.  The less work they have to do the better your chances are of having your piece picked up for publication.  You want to be clear and concise and show why you are the best person to pursue the story.

It’s also vital that you do your research when it comes to finding an outlet that you want your story published in.  You want to ensure that your voice is a good fit for the publication and that your story aligns with the publication’s persona.  You wouldn’t pitch a technology story to a food publication, just like you wouldn’t pitch a witty and light-hearted piece to an academic publication.

Once you’ve found a handful of publications that you want to reach out to, try to find direct email addresses for editors at those publications.  You’re more likely to get a response from a person than sending it off to a general email address like [email protected]

Tailor your pitch to the person you are writing to and only pitch one publication at a time.  If you were to pitch a handful of publications and they all wanted your story, you wouldn’t want to have to respond to them by apologizing that you decided to go with another outlet.  This step will prevent you from burning bridges.

Before sending off your email double-check your grammar and spelling.  Your pitch could be the best groundbreaking story to ever be reported on, but if you can’t spell or manage simple grammar you won’t be published.  An editor doesn’t have time to explain the basics of English to you.

Show that you’ve done your research and that you’ve started to lay the groundwork for your story.  Editors are generally overworked and don’t have the time to walk you through the process.  You may be lucky to find an editor who is willing to work with you on your pitch, or who is willing to take your story with an underdeveloped pitch, but don’t depend on it.  You only have one chance to make a good first impression and you don’t want to squander it because you were unprepared.

Also, don’t take it personal if an editor decides that your story isn’t a good fit for their publication.  It doesn’t mean that the story isn’t good, it may just be not what they are looking for.

Keep your pitch concise, but include all of the relevant information.  Tell them what the story is and who you’ve talked to or plan on speaking with.  Explain why the story is timely and why it’s important.  You’ll want to have started to report your story before pitching it so you can answer any questions your editor may have.

I’d suggest waiting until the editor accepts your pitch to negotiate your freelance fee.  It’s great to be published in a national or international publication, but it’s even better to be paid for it.  Remember that you’ve devoted a significant amount of your time to the story and they will profit from your piece through clicks or ad revenue.  As a freelancer you make your living from these stories so be confident when negotiating pay.

If you’re unsure as to whether your pitch is direct enough or concise, have a friend read it over to give you suggestions.  If you keep your pitch to around 250 to 300 words and have fixed any grammar mistakes, you are good to go.  If you don’t hear anything back within a week reach out to the editor again.  Editors are busy people and can receive hundreds of emails a day so it doesn’t hurt to check back in.

Although these practices are geared towards pitching major publications, they can also be used to pitch smaller outlets.  Any editor will be relieved to receive a well thought out and developed pitch, heightening the possibility of getting published in a respected outlet.

About Sean Flynn

Sean Flynn is a recent graduate from City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. His work has appeared in The Buffalo News, Condé Nast Traveler, The New York Times 'Fort Greene Local', The Daily Meal, and
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