How to Avoid an Imperfect Pitch

Many (if not most) writers when pitching articles adopt a simplistic approach that is both unprofessional and overlooks key points in the process

Realise that you are presenting yourself and your work, or at least an example of what you can do. If both fail at being professional, you and your story will not be considered. The point, naturally, is to make a good impression. If you do, not only could you be assured of getting the job, but future assignments also.

Present your credentials
Give a brief overview of who you are, where you studied, and for whom you’ve written (name the publications). If you’ve achieved recognition for any work done, make sure you mention this. Offer to send examples of work should they be interested.

Provide full contact details, links to your social media platforms and your website, if you have one.

The publication
You’ll be one of many freelance writers who have pitched to your chosen publication, and your pitch must suit their target market. Read and study their publication carefully to ensure that your article or angle warrants inclusion in their publication and will be of interest to their readers. Think also in which format your work would be most suited: feature, blog, opinion piece, news story, website article, and ascertain which editor deals with your selected niche. Write directly to the commissioning editor for that niche. Don’t make the mistake of sending your email to the chief editor unless it’s a very small publication and the editor deals with all models.

Ways to pitch
Basically, there are two ways to pitch a story. You can provide an outline of the story giving an interesting angle that attracts the editor’s interest or you can submit the full article. Either way, it’s vital that the story’s title is eye-catching and, preferably, compelling. If you struggle with this, seek advice from colleagues as it’s an important first impression.

If you submit the full article, you run the risk of the publication reworking it using their in-house staff. This has happened, so be wary. However, if you’re confident this won’t happen then submit the full article. This will give the editor an opportunity to appraise the quality of your work and to make an on-the-spot decision to accept or reject it.

An outline, well-written with a compelling title and a selection of quotations and pull quotes from your article, can be enough to whet an editor’s appetite. Above all, put yourself in your readers’ shoes. If they were reading the outline, what would make them want to read the article. If the article is groundbreaking or particularly informative, the outline should be the preferred route of pitching to avoid unscrupulous hands getting hold of it.

Another vital first impression
I’ve seen pitches come in that are reasonably well-written but which had glaring grammar and spelling errors. Don’t make this serious and unforgivable mistake. You’re a professional, so you must deliver accordingly. There is little that annoys an editor more than sloppy writing. And because it gives them a taste of what’s to come, they’re unlikely to give you a further thought.

Deadline for a reply
Some may shudder at requesting an editor to reply to a pitch within a fixed period. This should not be the case. For one thing, the pitch is a means of earning an income for the freelance writer. And if it is a particularly interesting and informative piece, the writer may wish to have it published as soon as possible to ensure continued public interest.

Taking all factors into account, decide on an appropriate deadline for a reply. If the deadline isn’t met, you’re at liberty to pitch elsewhere. You might want to mention in your pitching submission that the reason you give a deadline is to have the opportunity to pitch elsewhere should your proposed article be rejected. This can cause the editor reflecting on your submission to think twice and accept your pitch.

As a parting thought, remember that the pitch is not simply a little note telling the editor you have a story to tell and then hoping for the best. It is a document that should be as professional as the article itself.

Bruce Cooper

@2018 Bruce Cooper All Rights Reserved