Journalism Advice

10 Secrets to Successful Pitches

Follow these guidelines to get more assignments, and more published clips, fast

We studied several successful pitches to discover common themes that helped writers land the gig. Check ’em out.

1. State How Your Piece Fits the Needs of the Publication

Just like any situation where you’re selling something, you want to provide a solution to a problem or a need.

Not only should your idea be original enough to catch an editor’s eye, but it should also address a need in the magazine—a need you can deduce by carefully studying the types of stories it’s published before.

2. Explain Where Your Piece Could Live

You need to be able to clearly communicate how the piece you’re pitching will seamlessly fit into the publication—and if possible, which section.

“Tell me where you see your article running in the magazine,” said Abigail Tuller, former editor at large at Pregnancy. Not only does this help the editor imagine how the story will live in the publication, but it also proves you’ve done your homework.

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3. Tell Why This Is an Ideal Time for the Piece

Having a solid understanding of the magazine’s lead time as well as their editorial calendar will help you know when to best pitch your stories, and how to best angle them for that particular time.

4. Share Your Passion for the Topic

Showing you have a passion for the piece you’re pitching is essential as editors aren’t interested in a writer looking to make a quick buck, they’re looking for that next great piece to color their publication.

“I like writers who are obsessed,” said Ed Park, former editor of The Believer. “They’re going to bring a certain energy to the piece that the reader will pick up on.”

5. Communicate Your Strong Understanding of the Publication

When you let the editor know you’re a reader of the publication, it’s that much easier for them to trust that you’ll hit on the voice and the goals of the magazine.

“For a writer to understand the publication he or she is pitching to builds confidence in the editor,” said former Salon editor Andrew Leonard.

6. Note That You Have Access to the Source

If you’re pitching a profile piece, it’s best to make the editor aware you have access to the source—this lets them know you have all the pieces in place to execute the story.

7. Show You’ve Already Done Extensive Research

Making it clear you have the research for your piece is another great way to let the editor know you’re that much closer to going from pitch to full story.

Jessica Daynor Pucci, the former managing editor of Draft magazine, said, “I love when writers do the legwork before pitching, as a pitch doesn’t do me much good if I’m not familiar with the story you’d like to tell.”

8. Got a Mutual Connection? Let the Editor Know

If there’s a known connection between you and the editor you’re pitching to, it’s super important to make the editor aware of this early on in your letter. And to take this one step further, ask your mutual connection to reach out and recommend you.

As Kendra Lee, former executive of Heart & Soul, said: “Writers I don’t know will probably not receive a response for six to eight weeks. In those cases, a recommendation from another editor is a strong motivator, as are strong clips and a good pitch letter.”

9. Grab the Editor in the Opening Line

While it makes sense to open a pitch by mentioning a mutual contact, if you’re pitching blind, take advantage of the compelling nature of your pitch and reel them in with the story.

10. Show That You’ve Written for a Peer Publication

If you have published clips from a similar publication, make sure to include those in your pitch.

“Writing for a peer publication is the single most important qualification I’m looking for,” said Tom Standage, deputy editor of The Economist.

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