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Pitching Help! (Journalism)
February 11, 2013 6:32 AM   Subscribe

I work as a journalist. However, I only get articles in publications due to my personal relationships with the editor(s). I've never been able to send in an unsolicited pitch and have it accepted.

I'm always told by my editors that my submissions are great or I'm a talented writer. However, all freelancing jobs I've gained have been through personal contacts or applying on a job board.

I've never gotten freelance work from emailing someone I don't know. I'm interested in pitching Cracked.com, Wired.com and Polygon.com and would love to know how to pitch.
I'm told pitching is an art in itself. It's a skill I haven't been able to master and it's frustrating me. Help please!

I'm constantly told "This is interesting, I'll get back to you" or "Thanks for keeping us in mind, but while well organized, your pitch isn't top-of-the-mind for us right now. Keep on trying!"
It's very frustrating.
posted by GiveUpNed to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
Renegade Writer. Renegade Writer. Renegade Writer.

Editors move around and will take you with them if you do great work with zero drama. Getting work without having to pitch is a VERY good thing.
posted by mdiskin at 6:44 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's how I answered a similar question about pitching last year. That said, most successful pitches are based on relationships with editors, so you're not alone. Good luck!
posted by bassomatic at 6:46 AM on February 11, 2013


The long and the short of it is that cold pitching in virtually every industry is a low-efficiency move. People take on an inherrent risk in working with someone that nobody in their network knows - and editors in my experience get a ton of cold pitches, making it tough to separate the wheat from the chaff. Bassomatic's advice on standing out is great - but the reality is that the successful journalists I know do a lot less cold pitching as time go on and have learned to work the extensions of their network.

As such, if you want to get picked up more, you need to expand your network - ask people you've worked with to recommend you to a colleague or to provide you with a reference you can post on a personal webpage. Research connections between the people you're pitching and the people you know and see if you can find links - and contact those links asking if it's okay you use their name coming in the door. It helps.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 7:28 AM on February 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Bassomatic's right: keep it short and punchy.

Remember that most editors will be swamped by unsolicited pitches, so yours either has to grab them straight away or not at all. Cruel as it sounds, the editor's glad of any excuse to reduce his "pending" pile, so an over-long, convoluted or dull pitch will end up in the bin straight away.
posted by Paul Slade at 8:35 AM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Editor who acquires freelance stories here. I don't know if you realize it, but getting that "thanks, but not right now" email is the first step in that personal relationship. If they say to keep trying, you should definitely keep trying. I've given similar advice before: I like it when writers throw ideas until they stick. Me saying no to a pitch doesn't mean I hate you, or that I hate your idea. It just means you/your idea aren't right for me at this exact moment.

If you're worried about your pitching skills, MediaBistro offers how-to-pitch seminars (useful at least as much for access to the high-profile teachers, not just the info taught), and they have a rich archive of masthead listings and publication-specific pitching guidelines behind their AvantGuild paywall.

(A bit of a cranky aside: For Cracked specifically, they bring in new writers almost exclusively through the route of a formal writer's forum that they prominently advertise at the bottom of every single story on their site. Forgive my impatience, but if you aren't paying close enough attention to the site to pick up on that, I'm a little concerned.)
posted by firstbest at 9:02 AM on February 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


I'm aware of the writer's workshop--that's where I'm pitching.
posted by GiveUpNed at 9:37 AM on February 11, 2013


Should add that I've written for Wired, and see that I answered yet another question about pitching here. Also, what firstbest says: Getting a response of any kind is really a step in the right direction.
posted by bassomatic at 10:27 AM on February 11, 2013


Is your article timely and relevant??

This was drilled into me when I did a course on Freelance Writing.

Not only does the content have to be relevant but it has to be TIMELY. Ie, it can't be published in 6 months because the opportunity would have passed.

For example, stories on the Pope are timely right now. Or stories about Christmas are timely in June when magazine editors are looking at the Nov/Dec issues.

Think about lead times. What's a lead time for a website? A few days? A week?
Is there an event coming up that they want to cover and could have a feature on?

Hopefully a foot in the door will keep the door open for you.
posted by Youremyworld at 3:40 PM on February 11, 2013


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