Welcome to Pitch Fix, The Write Life’s newest column! Once a month, we’ll take a look at a real pitch from a real freelance writer and figure out how to make it better.
Pitching is one of the most important parts of a freelancer’s career — it’s how we get the gigs that make us money, as well as how we form relationships with editors and publications.
So we’re going to fix that. With Pitch Fix!
Let me introduce our first Pitch Fix subject:
Connor Relyea’s comics pitch to Paste Magazine
Connor Relyea is an actor, editor and writer who has been published in The Billfold, Fangirl Magazine and more. He’s looking to build his freelance writing portfolio, and he agreed to be Pitch Fix’s first subject.
Relyea was curious about whether his pitches were too short. He wanted to showcase his expertise to editors, and wondered if that meant he needed to lengthen his pitch emails. Little did he know that I’d be providing the opposite advice!
Here’s Relyea’s troublesome pitch to Paste Magazine:
I recently graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism with a bachelor of journalism in magazine editing. I have been reading Paste Magazine for several months and I am looking to write for the comics section of the magazine.
I have experience writing about comic books for an independent comic book site, All-Comic.com, where I wrote reviews on Marvel and Image titles. I also currently contribute comic book reviews to a new feminist, geek magazine called Fangirl the Magazine. For the past few weeks, I have been following the Marvel Secret Wars event and providing coverage of the updates for that magazine.
My general focus has been on Marvel properties as this publisher is where I follow the most titles. Recently, it was announced that Kelly Sue DeConnick would be leaving the Captain Marvel property that she has been working on for several years to pursue work on other projects, including the TV spot with Universal with Matt Fraction. I am looking to cover the change in writers on this title, and potentially, if it is possible, secure an interview with Kelly Sue DeConnick to discuss her next steps after she leaves Captain Marvel, what she hopes to accomplish with the final lap of her run and look back on what she has accomplished over the past three years.
Relyea is off to a good start — he has clips and he has a strong set of credentials — but this pitch needs a lot of work. It’s wordy, and it focuses on what Relyea wants from Paste rather than what he can offer the magazine.
Pitch fix: Get to the point
Opening the pitch with “I recently graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism” makes it sound like Reylea has no experience.
If he wants to include this information, he can include it in his bio section — but he shouldn’t lead with it, and shouldn’t draw attention to the fact that he just graduated.
“I have experience writing about comic books for an independent comic book site” doesn’t provide an editor with useful information. Is that site reputable? Is the writing good?
Instead of describing his experience, Reylea should link to his clips — which should be good enough to speak for themselves.
“My general focus has been on Marvel properties as this publisher is where I follow the most titles,” Relyea writes. This comes across as “I read comics, please pay me to write about them,” which is not what an editor wants to read.
Instead of focusing on his interests, Reylea should focus on how he can benefit the publication.
On hoping to, “Potentially, if it is possible, secure an interview with Kelly Sue DeConnick”: Don’t go to Paste unless you have the DeConnick interview in hand. A magazine has no reason to respond to your pitch if it’s only about something that is potentially possible.
Also, even though it sounds nitpicky: “potentially, if it is possible,” is redundant. Keeping your pitches as clean and tight as possible shows editors you know how to write clean copy without wasting words.
Here’s how I’d rework this pitch to send to Paste:
Recently, it was announced that Kelly Sue DeConnick would be leaving the Captain Marvel property that she has been working on for several years to pursue work on other projects, including the TV spot with Universal with Matt Fraction.
I’ve secured an interview with DeConnick about her next steps after Captain Marvel, as well as what she hopes to accomplish with the final lap of her run. Would Paste be interested in this interview?
A bit about me: comic reviewer and blogger focusing on Marvel properties. University of Missouri J-school grad. Clips here: DeConnick Rocks the New Captain Marvel Title, [second link to a piece you’ve written]. Full portfolio available at [link to full resume/portfolio with active links to all articles].
[Name and contact info]
I sent my edit of his pitch back to Relyea, along with a few questions about the experience. Read on to learn more about how he’s changing up his pitching game.
Q&A with Connor Relyea
ND: How do you feel about this pitch critique? Are any of these ideas you want to implement in future pitches? Is there anything you disagree with?
CR: I am really thankful for this critique. My pitching needed a lot of help and all my pitches were essentially the same format as the one that you helped me with, which was probably why I wasn’t getting much work. I have taken all the ideas that you gave me in this critique and applied them to my pitches and I actually landed some more stories. (Ed note: check out one of Relyea’s most recent pieces, The Cost of a Comic Book Hobby.) I don’t disagree with anything that you gave me. It was all really helpful and I feel like I have a better handle on pitching and landing clients now.
What is your current freelancer pitch strategy? How many pitches are you sending out per week, and what is your average response?
Actually, I have been able to slow down on my pitching strategy because I was recently picked up as a local reporter for several newspapers in the Chicago suburbs….I usually send out one or two pitches a week, and normally I don’t hear back, but for some places, like The Billfold, they were really positive and I’ve started to make connections with some editors.
What advice would you have for other freelancers who send out a lot of pitches?
My advice for other freelancers is to learn how to be succinct, which is definitely something that I had to learn how to do. If you can boil your story down to a few key sentences, use those to sell your piece. Plus, editors will love you because they are juggling so many different things and it will be easier for them to decide if they want to run your work or not.
To our readers: Do you agree with this Pitch Fix? When you’re proposing an article that includes an interview, do you secure the interview before or after you pitch?
Got a pitch that’s striking out? If you’d like to be an upcoming Pitch Fix subject, please contact Nicole Dieker at firstname.lastname@example.org.