This week, I’m promoting my program in which I offer pitch critiques to writers.
It’s designed to help you sell effective pitches and win top-paying assignments. My students, over the years, have sold work to publications such as The New York Times, TIME, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, The Atlantic, Marie Claire (US), National Geographic Traveler, Discover, Afar, GlobalPost, Vice.com, South China Morning Post, and CNN Travel, among others.
What do I teach them?
Things that took me years to figure out but that, if they take to heart, they can implement over a weekend.
1. Don’t waste the subject line. “Query: Catchy Article Title” is still the best way to do it.
2. If you’re unsure of the editor’s gender or the pronoun they prefer to use, address your query to “Dear [FirstName LastName]” Else, Mr. or Ms. is fine.
3. The idea is the most important part of a query letter. A bad idea, no matter how brilliant the writing, just won’t sell.
4. The first sentence of your pitch is crucial. Take the time to make it sing.
5. Humor is good when querying. Humor makes you stand out and gets their attention immediately, especially for service pieces. Make ‘em laugh.
6. For finding names of editors at publications to pitch, run a search on Twitter or LinkedIn.
7. When you begin to lose confidence in pitching, give yourself some “easy wins,” that is, pitch to editors you know will buy from you.
8. For anyone who says quality is more important than quantity, well, DUH. You think? But this is a game of numbers. So get good at writing pitches, then send one DAILY.
9. To write successful pitches, read successful pitches.
10. Find stories that are under-reported and that a publication’s own writers may not have access to.
11. Don’t save or hang on to your best ideas. Send them out today.
12. An editor is not your boss. Think of them as a client or colleague. They just do a different job. Pitching is a negotiation between equals.
13. Don’t write back to editors trying to convince them they’re wrong to reject your ideas.
14. Simultaneous submissions are fine if you don’t have relationships with editors.
15. Follow up on queries after a week. If you still don’t hear back, send your ideas elsewhere.
16. Match your story ideas to current events. Timely ideas will always sell quicker than evergreen ones.
17. It’s the age of Instagram and short attention spans. Don’t write 1,000-word screeds. Get to the point.
18. It’s not about getting assignments; it’s about building relationships.
19. Is there an issue, a topic, a concept that you’re passionate about? Talk to a friend about it. Record and transcribe that conversation. That’s the beginning of your pitch.
20. The more obscure crap you read, the more likely you are to come across story ideas no one else has thought of or knows about.
21. They haven’t rejected you as a person. They just didn’t like the idea or execution. Find a new idea, practice your execution. Get better at pitching and try again.
22. For every rejected pitch, do two things: (1) Send out the idea somplace else. (2) Send the rejecting editor another fantastic story idea.
23. Hitting the “New Mail” button repeatedly isn’t going to make that acceptance come any faster. Just saying.
24. Why should an editor hire you over that freelancer with more experience? It’s a difficult question, but you need an answer.
25. Unless you know an editor, it’s a good idea to keep it to one idea per pitch.
26. The correct response to a rejection is “Thank you. I appreciate the time you took to consider my work.” Don’t argue.
27. Don’t be too quick to declare a specialty. Try writing different things. Find what you like. Find what you’re good at.
28. Show some personality in your pitching. If you like swearing, by all means do.
29. Lion, not sheep. You’re a freelancer. You’re independent. You work for yourself. Stop waiting for permission and find ways to get your work out there.
30. The world does not owe you anything. It’s on you to write awesome things that people will love.
So go, be awesome.
If you’d like to learn how to implement all these strategies above, check out my program in which I’ll personally work with you to craft pitches that you can send to top publications to land assignmennts.
You’ll find it here: