What is the best way to pitch a story to a potential publisher? What if you have access to a great interview candidate (say, a prominent local artist) – should you go ahead with the interview, write the piece, and submit it to a magazine; or should you first find a publisher who would like the piece, and then schedule the interview?
Sounds like a chicken and egg conversation, doesn’t it?
Well, we thought it was an excellent question when Brit DeLong (a graduate student who contributes a health column to the DC Examiner and writes her own blog – Busy Girl Health – while studying publishing at The George Washington University) brought it to our attention. Here’s what some of our Live to Write – Write to Live experts had to say on the subject:
Include photos, let the magazine know that you have photos ready to go along with the article (some mags take their own photos, others like to have them supplied.)
Also, it’s important to list all of the people and references you will use for your article. That’s a point that adds credibility to your pitch.
I’ve done articles both ways. Querying or pitching first is preferable. My most memorable article first, pitch second was when I interviewed Michelle Obama. The campaign headquarters chose me to interview her but as a freelancer I hadn’t yet placed the article. I spent the night before the interview calling up editors to see if one would take the article. Eventually one did accept it, but not before I grew myself a baby ulcer.
Trust me, it’s a lot easier to pitch before you promise a published final product.
- Know about the publication you’re approaching – read a few of their other pieces (if not full issues, or a bunch of archived materials if the target pub is a blog).
- If you can, reference a piece or two in your cover note – just briefly, but to make the point that you know what they are all about.
- Proactive tip: If you have a few pubs you would really like to write for, get involved with their online community spaces (Facebook, Twitter, blog comments, Google+, etc.). This will make it a LOT easier for you to approach someone when the time comes.
- There are dozens of great resources out there re: how to write a solid pitch, but a few things that always bear repeating:
- Address it to a real person, vs. “Editor.”
- Keep it brief and to the point.
- Focus on how your piece will benefit the pub’s audience. Remember – this isn’t about you. It’s about the pub and their audience.