As a writer, pitching is possibly the most important part of any piece of writing you’ll create — it’s the first step in getting an article published and shows editors that you know how to coherently express yourself. Without a good pitch, your amazing idea may never get commissioned. Pitching is a process: it’s your chance to convince an editor that your idea is needed for their publication - and that you should be the one to write it.
Keep reading to find out how to create the perfect pitch.
First thing's first
Step one is deciding which publication you want to pitch your idea to. There’s no harm in selecting a few and pitching to all of them. There is a lot of back-and-forth between writers about whether to pitch the article to more than one publication at the same time — I would say trial and error. If the pitch is time sensitive it's probably best to pitch en-masse and make the editor aware of this. However, it’s important to always alter the angle and tailor the pitch to each publication’s audience. If you're able to be flexible and are worried about approaching more than one publication, pitch to one at a time — if you don't hear back from an editor you can go ahead and pitch elsewhere. In terms of following up with an editor who hasn’t responded, wait about seven days before sending the next email, and ask if they have thoughts on the pitch you sent through previously: make sure this follow up email is in the same email chain.
If you do happen to get more than one response, be honest with the editor and say it's already been commissioned — honesty is the best policy.
What do you want to say?
Now that you’ve decided on your publications it’s time to flesh the idea out for yourself. It’s important for you as a writer to understand the angle you’re adopting and to narrow down your idea (for example, if you’re writing about a broad topic like hair discrimination in British schools, you need to decide what aspect of this theme you want to hone into). Think about the main line of thought running through your piece and why someone would want to read it. It’s important to ask yourself these tricky questions at the beginning of your writing process, so you’re clear on what you want to say in your piece. This sounds kind of obvious, but I often find myself straying away from my original pitch, and going off into interesting, but irrelevant, tangents.
Short and sweet
Pitches should always be short and concise. You need to get your point across to the editor in as few words as possible. Editors are busy people and receive many emails everyday, so you need to capture their attention with a powerful headline and the main points of your piece. Always include a general overview of the piece in a sentence or two, then add in a few bullet points on any specific points you’ll be covering. Always include a link to any previously published work or to your blog so the editor can get a taste of your writing style. Make sure to also sell yourself and your piece — remember you’re trying to convince the editor.
Many publications have very specific guidelines on how to pitch to them: many accept pitches in the body of the email or via a form on their website. Make sure to check the website or any other sources for specific information on how to pitch to the publication.
Make sure to keep your email formal, but human. I always start my pitches with a very short intro to add a bit of life to a cold email:
I hope you are well. My name is Kristen and I’m a lifestyle and culture writer with experience in x .
I would like to pitch the following article, which will explore …
Pitching can be a time consuming and often unrewarding process so you need to cut the minutes (and even seconds) where you can. Create a generic pitch template which you can just fill in every time you're planning to pitch. You could even have email templates for following up with editors where you can just amend the names/subject line.
Another time-saver is making a list (MS Excel or Google Sheet is great for this) of all the publications you’re interested in that are accepting pitches, alongside the email address of the editor/the link to the form where you need to upload your pitch — both of these should be easily accessible from your chosen publication’s website. Having a concise list like this will make it easier to decide which publications you want to send your next pitch to.
Pitching is truly an art, and, as writers, I don't know if we’ll ever truly master it. It is a skill you will continuously refine over time. As you work with more editors and publications, you'll find out how different each platform can be, and what each editor expects and wants. If you can convince an editor with your pitch — you're halfway there.