Learning how to pitch an article to your favorite media outlets could be the key to you finally getting published and paid so you can stop being a starving artist cliche and finally be a well-fed writer.
My first article for Well + Good was published last month and I was ecstatic. As a freelancer who primarily writes health articles, I’d had Well + Good on my byline bucket list for a while.
To be honest, cold pitching is not my jam. I’m much better at building relationships with editors. So oftentimes I only have to send a two-sentence pitch to editors to get an assignment or they come to me with ideas, and I don’t have to pitch at all.
Related Reading: The Best Thing You Can Do for Your Freelance Writing Career Right Now
But if I want to see my byline in a variety of print and digital publications, I must pitch!
In any pitch, it’s your job to answer 3 crucial questions: Why this? Why now? Why you? Here are my top tips for how to pitch an article to your favorite media outlet.
How to Pitch an Article — and Get Published!
1. Pitch the right person at the right time.
Oftentimes when editors reject (or ignore) a pitch it’s not because they think the idea is stupid. The idea just might not be a good fit for the publication at that time. Or you may be pitching the wrong person. If you want to write for Business Insider you shouldn’t send a pitch about a tech startup to the personal finance editor. And don’t send your ideas to someone who plays absolutely no role in the editorial calendar.
The best way to be sure you’re pitching the right person and pitching the type of story that editor is looking for is to respond to a call for pitches. My pitch to Well + Good was a response to a call for stories related to breast cancer.
This is why you should follow the editors of your favorite publications on social media. You also can find calls for in newsletters for writers like Bitchin’ Pitchin’ by Abby Lee Hood. And be sure to join my Facebook group, the See Jane Write Network, too.
2. Know your angle.
Once you have a good idea, it’s time to write your pitch. You must know what makes your story different from other pieces on your topic and convey this in your pitch. If I had sent a vague pitch about my “breast cancer journey” my email most likely would have been trashed. But I specifically wanted to write about the difficulties cancer survivors face after active treatment as this isn’t written about or talked about enough in my opinion.
Write a possible headline for your story. This is your angle. Be sure to include this headline in the subject line of your email along with the word PITCH.
PITCH: What “remission” really means
3. Lead with your lede.
After very briefly introducing myself, I began my pitch with the same type of captivating hook I planned to use in the actual story. By doing this you will quickly grab the editor’s attention and show her that you can grab the attention of the publication’s readers as well.
My name is Javacia Harris Bowser and I am a freelance writer and breast cancer survivor interested in writing a piece for Well + Good about the emotional impact of breast cancer after active treatment.
Slash. Poison. Burn. Done. That’s how many people assume the breast cancer journey goes. You have surgery, go through chemotherapy, and endure rounds and rounds of radiation. Once you ring the bell that signifies you’ve completed active treatment, once your doctor declares you “cancer-free” everyone around you says “You must be so glad all that is behind you now.”
But it’s not. Cancer isn’t behind you; it’s front and center nearly every minute of every day…
4. Keep it short and sweet.
My entire pitch was less than 300 words. These days many editors are reading pitches on their phones, so don’t send them a dissertation. After my lede, I went straight into explaining exactly what I wanted to cover in the piece and who I planned to interview.
You should also propose a possible deadline based on how quickly you think you can turn the piece around. I will confess that this is something I always forget to do in my pitches and when editors reply to me that’s always their first question.
5. When you pitch an article, explain why you should write this story.
As unique as you think your idea might be, chances are there are other writers pitching the same thing. So, in your pitch explain why you’re the perfect person to write this story. Maybe you want to write a profile of a public figure and you have access to this person that the average writer doesn’t have. Maybe you have personal experience or expertise with the topic. Obviously, I was able to provide a unique perspective for my Well + Good article because I am living the very thing I wanted to write about.
I closed my pitch with just a few short sentences about my writing experience and included links to some writing samples. You should do the same even if your experience is limited. Links to blog posts you’ve written for your own site or someone else’s site can still show off your writing skills.
6. Don’t be afraid to follow up.
Editors are busy and their inboxes are full. They may not be ignoring your pitch, it might just be buried or they may have simply forgotten to reply. So it’s okay to give them a nudge. For online publications, I recommend following up in about a week or two. For print publications, follow up in three to four weeks.
7. Keep pitching.
If your idea is rejected remember this is not a rejection of you as a person or even as a writer. This idea just wasn’t a good fit for this publication at this time. Keep going.
I hope these tips will help you check off a publication on your byline bucket list, too.
If you want more help with your freelance writing career, check out my course See Jane Freelance.