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Seven Mistakes Writers Make When Pitching

Freelancers, whether they’re established or just starting out, are familiar with the term “pitching.” In fact, odds are that they mainly rely on pitching ideas to editors in order to get their stories picked up. There are different elements that go into a pitch email: a catchy subject line, a hook, and a strong case for why the piece would be relevant both for that outlet and during this moment in time. With that being said, writers who are still figuring out how to create the perfect pitch can run into errors and mistakes are common. It takes both practice and patience. Whether you’re pitching to an editor you’ve worked with before or are pitching someone for the first time, here are some common pitching mistakes to avoid.

  1. Not having a focus

The more specific your pitch is, the better. Why are you pitching to that outlet in the first place? You not only need a strong case for why the article is relevant in the current moment in time but also should provide a case as to why the outlet needs to be producing content on the topic.

2. Not putting pitch in the subject line

How will your pitch stand out in an editor’s inbox? Odds are that the editor you’re pitching to has to manage many pitches daily. Make sure your email doesn’t get lost in the sea of unread messages by including “pitch” in the subject line. Also, be sure to double-check the outlet’s pitch guide for specifics, as outlets typically include these somewhere on their website. Not only will this help the odds of your pitch getting picked up, but it will show the editor you have done your research before contacting them.

3. Pitching last-minute content

How relevant is the pitch at this moment in time? Depending on the type of outlet you’re pitching to (and how quickly they turn content around), be sure you’re not pitching a topic that has passed the zeitgeist at the time. If the outlet is news-related and moves quickly, keep that in mind.

4. Being too wordy

When it comes to pitching to editors, there’s a fine line between providing a strong case for your article and providing too much information (that could later be used within the actual piece). Be sure that your piece is concise. If an editor sees that you have a novel of an email, it may dissuade them from picking up your piece.

Here’s a good example from Megan Nolte on Influence&Co’s blog.

5. Pitching a story that’s already on the outlet’s site

This one seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised at how many writers pitch content before double-checking that it hasn’t already been written about on the website. Do your research! A simple google search with the outlet name and topic should inform you if you should move forward.

6. Not providing sources/cites

Back to the topic of relevance: are any other outlets talking about this topic? If so, link to other articles in your pitch to help the editor gain familiarity with the topic. Once again, you need to make the experience as uncomplicated as possible for them.  

7. Not proofreading

Last but certainly not least, read and re-read your email for spelling and grammar errors. The chance of an editor picking up your work is likely to decrease once they spot any errors.

Want to learn more about pitching? Check out our How to Pitch class.

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