I also learned about how to pitch a story to a publication at this year’s College Media Association’s spring national college media convention in New York City (March 9-12, 2013).
According to the seminar “Becoming a Pitch-Perfect Writer”’s description in the Official Convention Program, “Whether you’re fresh out of college or a veteran journalist, the first step toward seeing your work published is creating a good pitch. Explaining what you’d like to write is only part of the process. You also need to know what editors are looking for and how to show them you’re capable of providing it in just a few sentences. There’s no shortage of aspiring journalists out there, so get some tips on how to stand out from the pack and make you a valuable resource to editors.”
Rick Marshall, a freelance journalist and editor, who has worked and blogged for MTV, informed seminar attendees that there is a lot of turnover in freelancing.
He recommended using a two-sentence pitch
Marshall said that before making a pitch, freelancers need to look at the outlet they’re pitching to in order to:
- learn its tone
- Do its writers write from first or third person?
- What is the average article size?
When targeting a pitch, he said to email the publication’s editorial board, but more specifically, to email the person in charge
Marshall said to keep things short – be personable
In the first email, he said freelancers should either ask if the publication is looking for more writers or just send the pitch right away
He said to introduce yourself, mention other outlets you have been working for
He said to send two links to articles you have written, but he advised reading through them to make sure they are free of errors and said to also make sure the links work
He recommended making the first couple of pitches made easy to do:
- A quick, new article
- Don’t overshoot the first pitch – keep the estimated length to 500 words
- Either do something that’s timely to something that has recently happened or write an evergreen that the publication could use any time
Marshall said to include your Twitter handle in the email
He recommended getting into the mind of an editor and explained that a lot of companies are downgrading to freelancing
He said if you don’t hear back in seven to ten days to reach out again – check in
- If don’t get a response after two check ins, table the pitch for a couple of months
He recommended pitching elsewhere if don’t hear back
- Can repitch to original publication, just let them know you pitched to them before
Marshall said not to ask about rates until somewhere in between the initial pitch and its acceptance
- After first story, you can ask if rates will change down the road once you are given more assignments
He advised to avoid falling into a comfort zone with a company
- Always be moving up
- Network as much as possible