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Pitching an article to a magazine, newspaper or website can be daunting, especially if you’re still early on in your freelance writing career. But here’s the thing to remember: The editor doesn’t know you’re scared. She only sees what you allow her to see. Be bold and confident, and you’re in the running for a successful pitch.

Most pitching these days is done through email. Your first task is to make sure you’re contacting the right person. Search the website for information, and if it’s not there, make an enquiry. I often send a preliminary email that looks something like this:

Hi,

I’d like to pitch an article idea to your magazine. Could you advise me who’s the best person to contact for that? Also, do you have any guidelines or preferences that apply to proposals?

Many thanks,

David L Rattigan
St Catharines, Ontario

Once you’ve established who to contact, start writing — but take time to think it through. Nothing’s worse than an unnecessarily vague, rambling pitch that reads like it was fired off on a whim. (I’ve done it, and I didn’t even get a “No, thanks.”) Like it or not, as a freelance writer, you’re a marketer, and your job with an article proposal is to clinch a sale. To do that, you need to convince the client of three things:

  1. The article fits the publication;
  2. The publication needs the article;
  3. You are the best person to write it.

Begin with a greeting and a personal introduction, being neither too formal nor too casual. Stick to what’s relevant to the pitch, whether it’s your career background, education, personal expertise on a subject or a life experience.

Then make the pitch. Hook the editor just as you would hook the reader of the final article. Wow him with your main idea, summarize what you want to write, and tell him why he needs it. Perhaps it addresses a contemporary issue relevant to the publication’s audience, and you’ve noticed that they’ve yet to cover it. Maybe it’s on a topic that will soon be big news, and this is the opportunity to get a big story out there before every other website jumps on the bandwagon.

Finally, convince the potential client you’re the one to write it. Perhaps you have the technical background the subject requires, connections to someone at the heart of the story or a personal link to the issue. My first pitch to a particular major publication succeeded at least in part because I gave the editor a threefold reason why my perspective mattered to the subject: I was native to the city in the story, I was a member of the (international) institution it involved, and I was also part of the narrow demographic the story affected.

End by thanking the editor for her time, inviting her to respond and leaving things open for future pitches. I typically end a pitch with something like this:

I think this would be a really good fit for [name of publication], and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on it. I’d also love to talk more about writing in related areas.

Many thanks for your time,

David L Rattigan
St Catharines, Ontario

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This article was originally published at The Good Writing Blog

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