Whether it’s a book proposal, story idea, or an essay you’ve written, pitching media is a challenge. You have to craft the perfect headline, make sure you’re pitching a story, not just a topic, then share a preview of that story that gives away enough information, but not too much. And you have to do all of this succinctly to keep the editor’s attention.
To help you conquer these challenges, we created Pitches That Work, a start-to-finish toolkit that covers these fundamentals and more (with real pitches from writers). More on that later.
Even when your pitch is perfect, there’s still the matter of contacting the editor. We get lots of questions from writers asking about best practices for emailing editors and reaching out to media. Below are five of the most common ones, along with our answers.
Should I introduce myself when pitching media?
Some writers add a quick note in the email introducing themselves and their background. Some writers just get straight to the point. The reason to introduce yourself first is to show off your abilities or connection to the story. If you’ve written for well-known publications, or if the story is deeply personal and related to your identity and experience, you may want to introduce yourself first to give the editor an idea of your credibility. Just don’t spend too much time on it. The goal is to get the editor hooked as soon as possible, and they’re more interested in the story you’re pitching than anything else.
Example: “I’m a freelance writer who has written for Bustle and Medium. I’m also a frontline worker who would like to write a story about the impact of COVID on my industry.”
If you’re going to introduce yourself, keep it short – a sentence or two should do the trick.
How long should I wait before following up?
If the story is very time-sensitive, follow up as soon as you need to – that is, as soon as you think the topic might be cresting. But a good rule of thumb is to wait at least 24 hours. Be sure to mention that your story is time-sensitive in the first email, and the subject line. For example:
Time-Sensitive Pitch: (Pitch Name)
If the pitch isn’t time-sensitive, wait at least a week before nudging an editor with something like, “Just making sure you saw this, thanks!” But in most cases, if you don’t hear back, the editor is just too busy to send a rejection email. Feel free to pitch your story elsewhere.
Can I pitch two publications at once?
If the story is very timely, you should submit it to multiple places and note that you have done so. If the story is not timely and you submit to multiple outlets, you can mention it as a courtesy. Most editors understand that freelancers are likely pitching their stories to multiple outlets. However, be sure to check the publication’s submission requirements—some do not allow simultaneous submissions.
The publication accepts submissions by mail, should I try that?
Mail submissions are becoming a thing of the past, but it might be worth a shot if you don’t have a time-sensitive submission. You might try submitting through email first if their pitching guidelines allow it. If you get a rejection, that’s that. But if you get no response, and are sure it is very high quality, you could perhaps send a mail submission. Don’t expect to get a reply, however. Mail submissions are harder for the addressee to respond to—they simply take more effort.
How should I address the editor? How professional do I need to be?
We generally suggest using an editor’s first name when pitching media. It sounds more conversational and the practice of writing “Mr. Richardson” for an email seems slightly dated.
Small talk is acceptable but should not distract from the pitch. If you’ve read something they’ve written and genuinely enjoyed it, you might mention it to build rapport (who doesn’t love receiving compliments about their work?)
Example: P.S. I read your profile on Amanda Gorman – it was so powerful!
Of course, it’s generally best to do this with people who have very public social media profiles—digging into a private person’s Instagram or raising oddly specific things they’re into can be a little creepy. All in all, an exchange like this can humanize the conversation a bit, but it’s unlikely to win you the article if the pitch has problems.
We’ve created a toolkit for writers that covers everything you need to know about pitching media. It includes:
- Real pitches from real writers: Actual pitches and emails we sent editors, plus an analysis of pitching to writing the story. Other media writers share their pitches, too!
- Worksheets and assignments: You’ll get templates and worksheets to help map out your story ideas.
- Interviews with published writers: Q&As with writers who have placed stories in Glamour, Allure, the New York Times, and more about how they get their pitches accepted.
Our pitch kit is for writers who want to break into writing for media but aren’t sure where to start. It’s also for writers who have big, complicated ideas for stories they’d like to write but aren’t sure how to package them.
The fact is, many editors reject 95% of the pitches they receive. We’ll show you what the 5% of those that get accepted look like. As always, we’re not saying what worked for us will work for everyone, but in Pitches That Work, we share what has worked – not just for us, but for a handful of other professional writers who have conquered the art of pitching media.