You’ve got a fantastic idea for a story. You even know which publication or website it’s perfect for.
The only problem? You have no idea who you should pitch — or how to get in touch with them.
Figuring out which editor to contact — and finding that editor’s email address — can be a frustratingly time-consuming aspect of freelance writing.
Don’t despair, though: there are a few tricks for making the process easier. All it takes is some sleuthing — after a while, you may even find the process fun! (I’m not the only one who does a little victory dance when I finally get in touch with the right editor, am I?)
Here are nine tricks for figuring out which editor to pitch, and then finding that person’s email address, so you can place and get paid for more pieces.
1. Get as specific as possible
Unless it’s a really small publication, avoid pitching the editor-in-chief; she’ll probably just delete your email.
Instead, try to find the editor who oversees your story’s beat. If you’re writing about an up-and-coming clothing designer, for example, look for the fashion or style editor. The easiest way to determine this is to Google “Real Simple fashion editor,” or “Real Simple masthead” and then search for “fashion” or “style.”
If you can’t find that information, “Go for a senior, deputy, or associate editor,” says freelance writing expert Linda Formichelli. “If that editor isn’t the right one, she’ll often send your query along to the correct editor.” She says not to bother with contributing editors or copyeditors, as they’re not responsible for assigning stories.
2. Call the publication
This may sound old-fashioned, but it works. If your target publication has a phone number listed, call and ask to be connected to the relevant department. Once you have someone on the line, ask, “Who should I contact with a pitch about travel to Greece?” Easy peasy.
“I sound like a broken record… ‘Pick up the phone! Pick up the phone!’” says Formichelli. “Many of my students are pleasantly surprised that they get a quick answer.”
3. Ask your contacts
If you’re a member of any writing groups on Facebook or other social networking sites, ask your fellow members if they have a contact at your target publication. If they’re familiar with your work, they may even be willing to introduce you over email — bonus points!
“Be sure to supply your e-mail address on the forum or invite Direct Messages so respondents won’t have to share the info with the whole group,” suggests Formichelli.
4. Search Twitter
Smaller websites and publications may not publish a masthead. One of the best ways to find otherwise-unlisted editors is through Twitter, since users often list their place of employment in their bios. In Twitter’s search tool, type in the word “editor” plus the @handle of the publication you’re targeting.
Some editors even prefer to be pitched on Twitter before moving the conversation to email, so it doesn’t hurt to send a direct message. If you’re really keen to make a connection, you might even create what The Write Life founder Alexis Grant calls a Notice-Me List, then strategically interact with editors you want to write for.
5. Join Mediabistro’s AvantGuild
Yes, you’ll have to pay for a premium membership, but for serious freelance writers, it’s often worth it. You’ll get access to mastheads for 50 top magazines, as well as Mediabistro’s “How to Pitch” series, which details exactly what, when and whom you should pitch at 100 publications.
Membership costs $55 for one year or $89 for two years (which, don’t forget, is tax-deductible!).
Once you’ve figured out which editor to pitch your story to, how the heck do you find his email address?
Quick note from The Write Life: Are you looking to improve your pitches? Get a free copy of The Freelance Writer’s Pitch Checklist to improve your success rate with editors.
Here are a few tips:
6. Download The Big Black Book
Your first stop should be Jon Morrow’s awesome new resource, The Big Black Book of Rock-Solid Guest Blogging Targets. This behemoth lists email addresses for the editors at 104 top blogs and online publications — as well as tips on how to pitch them! Solid gold for only $7.
7. Google it
Don’t skip this step just because it seems too easy. Search “Jane Doe email address,” and it could pop right up. You could also try searching “firstname.lastname@example.org” to see if you get any hits.
And remember, while most of us stick to the search box on Google’s homepage, the search engine offers many more ways to find what you’re looking for. If you really want to milk Google for all it’s worth, try these advanced tips for using Google search from Lifehacker.
8. Search Rapportive
If you don’t have this Gmail extension, you’re missing out. It shows the LinkedIn and Twitter profile of whoever you’re emailing right in the sidebar of your Gmail account, which is useful for brand building and general networking — and pure gold for finding email addresses.
When searching for an editor’s email address, start typing different name combinations into the “To” field, like email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org. If she uses her work email for her LinkedIn profile, her name and photo will pop up when you’ve hit the jackpot.
9. Find the editor’s colleagues
If you’re still coming up short, try to find an email address for a colleague at the same publication. In a post for The Muse, Grant calls this one of her “absolute favorite hacks.”
She shares this example: “Say you found one of Joe Schmo’s colleagues, Mary King, and her email is email@example.com. Knowing that, you can easily guess what Joe Schmo’s email might be: firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Next step? Pop it into Rapportive to see if you’ve got a match. (Note that just because it doesn’t appear in Rapportive doesn’t mean it’s a no-go; some editors may use their personal email addresses for their LinkedIn profile.) You can also simply try sending your pitch and see if the email goes through. You never know, you might get lucky!
What are your best tips for figuring out which editor to pitch? Share them in the comments below!