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How to pitch properly- any tips?

Discussion in 'Journalism Forum' started by BeckieJ, Feb 26, 2008.

  1. BeckieJ

    BeckieJ New Member

    Hi. I'm new to the site and hope to make a few contacts and pick up some info along the way!. I have a question which I hope I can get some really good advice on.
    I've recently started to up my game in the freelance writing stakes,( i've been doing mainly free writing for websites and magazines) and have been trying to pitch ideas to magazine editors. My only problem seems to be, that I don't get any offers of work, so I'm assuming my pitching isn't up to scratch. Does anyone have any tips on how I should approach pitching to editors, (I'm aware of the basics, I.e. get the editors name, personal email) , I just don't seem to be getting any further than me sending the email!!!. I don't think its a case of me not being able to write, I just don't think I'm selling my ideas well.

    Any tips most welcome!:)

    Last edited: Feb 28, 2008
  2. BeckieJ

    BeckieJ New Member

    does anyone have any tips at all???????????:confused:
  3. iveren

    iveren New Member

    Hi there BeckieJ,

    I'm in a similar position to you - I haven't started pitching but I need direction!
    Advice? Anybody?
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2008
  4. michael_walsh

    michael_walsh New Member

    I work in a B2B environment where pitching to prospective buyers is an essential tool. No reason why it shouldn't be the same when hoping to open the purse strings of potential editors.
    First identify those most likely to welcome contribution. There's no point in throwing mud at the wall and hoping some of it will stick. Then telephone to politely say who you are, and then ask who is the best person to address your proposal to?
    Without too much clutter a brief letter to the named person (much better than 'The Feature Editor') introducing yourself and setting out your proposal. Try to stick to one paragraph.
    In sales you have to be perceptive. There's two that are very important. 'People don't buy products, they buy people.' So get the recipient to like you. Don't be too formal. The other favourite is K.I.S.S (keep it simple, stupid).
  5. FreelanceUK

    FreelanceUK Administrator

  6. michael_walsh

    michael_walsh New Member

    Jan Murray's advice I thought was spot on, so much so that I printed it off. Thanks for that. :)
  7. BeckieJ

    BeckieJ New Member

    Thank you very much! I shall print it off too!!
  8. the-baron

    the-baron New Member

    Good Ideas

    If you have some good Ideas then make the most of them. Don't throw pearls before the swine.
    What sort of Ideas and items do you write?
  9. BeckieJ

    BeckieJ New Member

    Well, I mainly write about music, but I also cover pop culture, human rights, film, arts, entertainment. I'm quite good at writing about various topics really, I have a knack of making boring things interesting!
  10. kf2

    kf2 New Member

    As a former freelance to the nationals, I'd say if a story/feature is worth writing, then get on with it - and pitch the finished product rather than the idea.

    Good stories can always be placed.

    Even if your writing is poor, the fact and information recorded in a news story (as opposed to feature) makes it saleable.

    I always hired, as a news editor, journalists who could scoop over those who could write a bit but lived "on diary."

    Believe in yourself - pick a strong angle for the feature/article - complete it, then pitch it.

    Saves the news or features ed's time and lists you as a "do-er" from the off.
  11. Janeyboo

    Janeyboo New Member

    Pitching your work to magazines


    I started writing for magazines when I pitched an idea to New Woman. I didn't have any special training or inside information. This is what worked for me. Hope it helps


    Some people prefer to phone the features desk, but I find that harassed and overworked editors (yes they are – really!) are less likely to give you a commission that way. If they have to make a snap decision it’s far more likely to be a ‘no’. Find out their email address. Don’t send your precious idea to editorial@blah, even if that’s the ‘contact’ address given. It’s not hard to find out the features editor’s name. Always send your idea to a person.

    Take a quick look at the magazine you’re trying to sell your idea to. You don’t have to read it from cover to cover but you do need an idea of the demographic (age range of the reader), and tailor your idea accordingly. Suppose you want to write about the size zero debate? For New Woman magazine which is quite heavily celebrity led, and aimed at roughly 25 – 35 year olds you could take the ‘Are skinny celebs responsible’ angle but for Good Housekeeping which is aimed at older readers (sorry, middle youth), you could tap into the fears of mothers, worrying about the pressures to be skinny that their daughters face. Work out the demographic and angle your piece accordingly.

    Write your email. Keep the pitch short – down to a paragraph. Say you want to write a piece about the size zero debate and that you will cover x, y, and z points. Don’t blah on and on. With most pieces you will also need an ‘expert’ point of view. So with size zero, depending on your angle you might need to get a quote from an eating disorders expert. Don’t worry about that for now. Just mention in your pitch that you’ll be talking to an expert.

    Second paragraph, do a short cv. Mention any other magazines or newspapers you’ve written for. Don’t attach a cv – features editors couldn’t give a stuff how many GCSE’s you’ve got. Don’t forget to add a contact number.


    Suppose you’ve been commissioned? The next thing is to make sure you’re both on the same page. Once you get to know a commissioning editor and he or she trusts your style you can be more casual about it, but in the beginning, get it all in writing. The reason for this is two-fold.

    If the commissioning editor isn’t crystal clear about what he or she wants, they won’t be happy with what you deliver.

    And then it will be easier for them to refuse to pay your or offer you a crap kill fee.


    Let me explain. I was once commissioned to write an article. We had an email exchange. I expanded my original idea and planned out my article. I then sent it to the editor saying ‘This is what I’m going to write about, is this ok with you?’ so she was clear about the tone and the direction of my piece. She agreed with it and off I went to write it. When I submitted the piece though, the editor phoned me up and said she wasn’t happy with it, but she couldn’t tell me why. I offered to rewrite it but she said that wouldn’t help. I pointed out she’d been happy with the plan of the feature I’d sent her and in my feature I hadn’t deviated from it. We had a very awkward conversation but she agreed to pay my full fee. Not just because she was being nice but I had submitted a plan of what I was going to write so if things got nasty she wouldn’t be able to say I had not fulfilled my side of the contract by not writing what I’d said I was going to write.

    So be warned. Some magazines send you a very tight brief, which is good. You know exactly what they want: (200 words on x, followed by top tips to avoid y, and two quotes from an expert). Much better than a vague: ‘Ok just write about 1000 words on y’know . . ‘ Ask for a proper brief. If they don't 'do' briefs, then always submit a rough plan, so they know what to expect and you’re covered.


    Don’t be intimidated. Most articles have quotes from experts who are usually trying to flog a book at the same time. The British Psychological Society: The British Psychological Society has a media centre where psychologists, and other assorted experts are ok about giving quotes, usually in return for a mention of their latest book. Ring the centre and say ‘I’m writing a piece about size zero and I need to talk to someone about eating disorders’. You’ll be furnished with a couple of numbers. Most are incredibly nice. If you are using direct quotes, make sure you’ve got them right. Write them down and repeat them back. It sounds ‘duh’ but nobody wants to be misquoted, or have what they’ve said in good faith, twisted to suit the purposes of your piece.


    The National Union of Journalists NUJ - National Union of Journalists has lots of excellent advice about freelance pay (you don’t have to be a member) and an area where you can see what other freelancers have been paid, so you can compare rates. You have to be quite tough on this, because it’s a universal rule that EVERYONE WILL TRY TO GET YOUR SERVICES AS CHEAPLY AS POSSIBLE. Your fee should cover your research and the fact you’re not getting any full time worker benefits. There is also a good section on copyright.

    If a magazine with a circulation of say 300,000 asks you to write a 1000 piece that requires a few days of research, chasing experts for quotes, and offers you £100 you are being roundly ripped off. But for a tiny magazine with a circulation of 5,000 £100 might be seen as quite generous. And remember if you accept really crappy rates, you’re driving down the price for everyone else. Don’t sell yourself short.


    Never miss a deadline. Never ever. If someone dies (you) that’s an excuse but that’s about it. Actually, if you think you might miss it, please ring and tell them. Most editors will give you a bit more time if you tell them in advance. The important thing is to give yourself enough time to write the bloody thing. Don’t get all excited at the commission and say ‘I’ll have it done by tomorrow’ if that means you staying up all night, panicking. Especially if this is new to you, give yourself a generous amount of time. It’s far far better to under promise and over deliver.


    Again the NUJ has a very good section on what to do if you don’t get paid on time. Make sure when you invoice when you deliver the article and that you’re clear on where and to whom you do invoice. And type in BIG letters ‘Payable within 28 Days’. Most big magazine companies have outsourced their finance section to somewhere aggrieved journos can’t just turn up and scream (Like Peterborough).

    I think this covers it.

  12. paperbackraitha

    paperbackraitha New Member

    It's an art, evidently...

    Hello - I have to confess that I hate pitching, but it seems to be the holy grail of journalism. Seems to me that if u can nail it, you're laughing, and if not, well...

    I picked up some good tips in an eBook called How To Be A Journalist (www.howtobeajournalist.com). Here's a potentially useful snippet:

    My three golden rules of pitching are as follows:
    1/ Give them the headline
    2/ Give them the sell
    3/ Knock ’em dead. Quickly
    Great – so what does that mean? Well, remember I told you before that you don’t normally have to come up with headlines for your articles? Well, one of the few times you do have to write headlines is now. I’ll explain more and give you some examples in a moment, but what a headline does is show that you have a way with words and understand their publication (hopefully), and it also grabs their attention. Because they will NOT read this: “Hi, Don – I had an idea for something on the Olympics because I was thinking that there must be so many people in the Olympic village who take drugs and I was wondering if there was some sort of ‘dealer’ network and etc etc etc). You’ve lost them already.

    The book then explains that instead of writing a rambling "Hello, I've got a vague idea", you should do it like this:
    THE OLYMPIC VILLAGE DRUG DEALERS (this is the headline)
    12,000 athletes, no booze and lots of adrenaline – it’s a pressure-cooker and only one man can lift the lid (this is the sell)

    Ed Smith was the dealer of choice in Atlanta, and the dealer of choice in Seoul. He will be travelling to Beijing this summer with a small team of helpers and the keys to a safety deposit box, the contents of which will be sold to a small band of athletes who risk everything if they get caught. This is drug-running at its most dramatic, but Smith says he is untouchable. He is, after all, the son of a diplomat… (this is the ‘knock ‘em dead’ bit)

    No idea if this helps, but I liked it, and it seems to be a solid way of making contact and coming across professionally.

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