Even if you have plenty of great clients, you probably have your eye on at least another publication or two where you’d like to see your byline.
Whether it’s a new publication, a dream publication, or just one you think might be a good fit, you’ll want to do your research and tailor your pitch for the best chance of success breaking into a new market.
When I recently found a new-to-me publication I wanted to write for, I took specific steps to pitch, and eventually placed an article. Here’s what I recommend.
1. Learn about the publication
Whether you see the publication on your local newsstand or hear about it online, it’s useful to find out as much as you can before pitching.
When I heard about an intriguing publication through a connection, I decided to do a little research to see if it was a good fit. I took a peek at the publication and I also asked around to see what types of experiences other freelance writers had with that publication.
When I heard positive feedback from people who had worked with the publication, I decided to forge ahead.
Sometimes other writers may warn you about a negative experience they’ve had with a publication or editor and, while it’s always up to you, it’s often useful to at least consider what you’ve heard from other writers. It’s amazing what you can learn by simply talking to colleagues.
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.
2. Do your homework
Before I pitched the publication, I spent some time looking through its website. I wanted to see what kind of articles they usually ran and how they approached different topics.
You will also want to study the publication enough to demonstrate that you are familiar with what they cover. If there’s a particular department or section that you think your idea would be a good fit for, be sure to mention that in your pitch. Editors like to know you’ve done your homework.
It also pays off to see if the publication has covered your idea recently.
If they have, unless you have a unique and timely perspective on the same topic, you might be better off pitching that idea elsewhere.
3. Hone your angle
My first pitch included three potential angles on an event happening in my region.
When pitching a publication for the first time, it’s often helpful to use your specialized knowledge, whether that’s a certain niche or the area where you live, to demonstrate that you are the best writer to cover that particular story.
While any writer could cover a more generalized story, you want to show the editor that you are the best person to cover this particular story because of your unique qualifications.
4. Find your editor
Now that you know what publication you’d like to pitch and what you’d like to write about, it’s time to figure out who to present your idea to.
There are a number of ways to find the right editor, but it often involves a bit of trial and error.
If you can reach out to your network to see if anyone knows a specific editor to refer you to, that’s great. If you can find out who edits that beat or section, pitch that person.
I didn’t know which editor to pitch, so I scanned the masthead. Publications have a variety of different titles for their editors including managing editor, senior editor, editor in chief, associate editor and assistant editor.
I couldn’t find specific guidelines on who to pitch, so I picked a mid-level editor and prepared my pitch.
If you’re not sure you have the right editor, some writers find it helpful to include a line along the lines of “I’d love if you could help me direct this pitch to the appropriate editor.” While busy editors may not always have time to respond with this information, you’ll gain very valuable information if they do.
5. Present it right
Once I found the editor I wanted to contact, I composed an email with a quick note of introduction including a few relevant clips and a link to my website. Then, I pitched my ideas in a few short paragraphs.
Be sure to check the publication’s writers guidelines for instructions before sending your pitch. There might be an email address just for submissions, or it might mention important pitching guidelines to keep in mind.
I heard back quickly. The editor liked my idea and was able to assign me a short article in an upcoming issue.
But the catch was the deadline was coming up fast and my copy was due the following day. I shuffled around a few things in my schedule and was able to turn the story around quickly and land my first article in the publication.
With any publication, it pays to do your homework, but with a new publication, it’s especially important. You want to make the right first impression, so make sure your pitch reflects your top-notch writing skills.
Sometimes it just comes down to a bit of luck and good timing. If I had pitched my idea a couple days later, there’s a good chance it would have been too late for the publication since it was a timely topic.
If your first idea isn’t accepted, don’t give up—keep pitching.
Have you ever pitched a new market? Tell us about your approach in the comments.