Helpful tips to help you write your pitch letter!
You’ve got a great idea for an article or story, or perhaps you’ve finished a masterpiece that you’ve spend weeks and weeks perfecting. Awesome! Now what?
If you have plans to submit your piece for publication, the next step it to pitch to magazines that would be a good fit. But what does that mean exactly? The idea of trying to pitch your story or article can send quite a few writers running for the hills. In fact, writing a pitch sound more intimidating than writing the actual article!
Take a deep breath and rest assured. Pitching your work is not nearly as bad as it sounds, although you do have to switch your mindset from writer to marketer. To many writers, myself included, this sounds gross. We don’t like the idea of trying to “sell” our work. We just want to create a beautiful piece of writing that others will enjoy or get value from. Promoting it like an anchor on QVC makes the bile rise in our throats. No, thank you!
But the fact is, as a writer, that is part of the job. You need to sell your work to magazines or publications in order to actually make money as a writer. So how do you do that without feeling slimy or gross? And what does a pitch need to include to grab the attention of the editor your selling to?
Fear not, my writer friends. I’ve broken it down so that you can pitch your writing confidently and without feeling slimy.
Let Your Voice and Style Show
This is the one chance you have to show your writing skills. You need to let your style and voice shine. It should be a reflection of the piece or story you’ve written, and should wet the appetite of the editor so that they see you pitch and think, “yes, I want to see more.” This can sound intimidating, but don’t freak out. Just write in your style and voice, reflecting the overall tone of the piece you’re submitting.
I cannot emphasize this enough. If you want to be taken seriously as a writer, you need to be professional in every area of your writing. This includes pitches, letters, and any correspondence with editors and publishers. You don’t need to be stuffy and use big, fancy words (see above), but there shouldn’t be any typos, grammar, or spelling mistakes in your pitch. Address the editor by name (if you have it), or a simple “Greetings” or “Hello.” Be clear and concise, don’t brag about how much everyone loves your writing. Be respectful of the editor’s time, and treat this like a job. (Because it is.)
Keep it Short
You also need to be brief. I usually shoot for three paragraphs for a total of 250-300 words. One paragraph of introduction, one paragraph for your pitch, and one paragraph of a brief bio. If you can’t get your message across briefly, you need to really edit the heck out of your pitch. Eliminate needless words, condense it down to be clear, concise, and effective.
Market Your Writing
This is the part that freaks out most writers, so let me break it down. You need to answer one question that every editor (and reader) will have: Why should I care?
It doesn’t matter if your sister loved your article, or your garden club thought it was amazing. It doesn’t matter if it is a subject near and dear to your heart. If you can’t answer the question, Why should they care? you can’t effectively sell your work.
How does your piece serve their audience? How does your piece add value to their publication? How does your piece make their reputation, their publication, their bottom line better? It isn’t about you. It is about them. Once you realize that selling your work is about serving a magazine or publication with great writing that makes them look better, pitching suddenly becomes much easier.
Include a Brief Bio and Relevant Information
Most publication like to have a little information from their writers, and you want to include any relevant information that helps solidify your expertise. Who are you and what do you do? List any professional organization that you are a member of. Share any writer credits or awards you have. Include any credentials you may have that that are relevant. For example, if you are pitching a piece to a magazine about running and finding the perfect shoe, you might want to include that you have been a runner for 20 years, you’re a running coach, and a podiatrist. That is all relevant information!
Include Contact Information
Finally, include your contact information. I always include my email, my phone number, and a link to my website. Imagine they love your pitch, but lost the original email. They have no means of contacting you! Make it easy on the editors and include your contact information.
And there you have it! While even the perfect pitch doesn’t guarantee a sale, the more experience you get writing pitches and submitting, the more confident you become at it, and the easier it gets. Don’t let the idea of pitching drive you away from submitting your work. Apply these tips and pitch your work!
Below is the exact letter I used to pitch my nonfiction article to Muse magazine. The article was accepted an published in the January 2021 issue.