Monday December 17th 2018
A hub for writing tips and trends from a former journalist and college professor who sold out big time.

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Tip Sheet: Writing Pitches

There’s an art to writing story and guest post pitches. It’s also an acquired skill that improves in relation to frequency — in other words, like everything else related to writing, you get better with practice.

And rejection.

There are no real hard and fast rules, and the basics shift depending on the outlet and audience you’re pitching. The tone, formality and depth of a story pitch to Esquire will likely differ when you turn to pitch a niche website.

But there are some general guidelines and accepted norms when it comes to writing pitches. Here are a few major elements your pitch should cover:

  • What the Story Is
    Avoid broad topics and present a specific conflict, issue or individual. This isn’t an 8th grade book report. There’s also a fine line between laying out the entire story and being obtuse and vague. Seize on the hook and lean on the compelling or time-sensitive elements of the story.
  • Why Now
    This is especially key if you’re pitching more traditional news outlets. But it’s a good idea for any destination. What’s the news, the so-what? Why should people care about this issue or person right now? If your piece is more of an evergreen or there isn’t a hot time peg, carefully weigh using words like “classic” or “timeless.” It’s also a good idea to cite some statistics or relevant data if you have it.
  • Why This Outlet
    Editors expect you to be familiar with their publication and audience.  Explain to the gatekeeper why this story is imperative or perfect for his or her readers. Make sure you’re keeping up with the publication and not pitching a cover story idea that actually ran the month prior. Narrowly tailoring your pitches to specific sections of a magazine or site also gives editors a taste for your familiarity with their audience and outlet.
  • Why You Should Write It
    This one’s crucial for traditional outlets who already employ writers of some renown. Show the editor why you’re the best possible writer for the piece. Maybe because you have inside sources or a direct relationship with the subject. Or you’ve been affected by the trend on a deep individual level. Whatever the reason, give them a good one or your piece might wind up with a foreign byline.

Those are the biggies. Here a few lower-level considerations:

  • Who You’re Pitching
    Make sure you know. This can be less important for pitching guest blogging gigs at niche websites. Otherwise, direct your pitch to a specific person — the right person.
  • Accuracy
    This one should go without saying. For God’s sake don’t make a spelling or grammatical error.
  • Selling Yourself
    Push your experience and prior work if it’s likely to impress or sway. Try to do it without sounding like a complete jackass.
  • Follow the Rules
    Don’t call the editor if they don’t want phone calls. Send them an excerpt if they ask for one. Failing to follow the clearly outlined submission/pitching guidelines is a simple way for editors to trim your email from their to-do list.

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-To Whom it May Concern = Fail

Know who you’re writing to, and if they prefer phone/email follow ups, etc.

-Professional Heading

It’s still a business letter; make sure your contact information is up high and visible


One misspelling or poor construction = trash can

-Why You’re Writing

If you have an in or have talked to editor, note that

Otherwise, have a professional greeting and get to the point

-A hook

They read dozens or even hundreds a week; give them a reason to keep reading

You can also start the query letter with this; make sure it’s solid and not cliché

-Your Background

If you have relevant work experience, cite it as part of the “Why You?” section

-Keep Close Track of Your Work

Create a spreadsheet, track dates ,target follow-ups

-Pay Attention to the Guidelines

Some magazines want the whole story, others just a query

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