What is the sequence in pitching an article for publication ?
April 15, 2018 1:44 PM   Subscribe

Do you write an article before pitching or you pitch before writing?
posted by Yiba to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Based on what my English PhD candidate friend says, you pitch then write. Sometimes like, pitch, get into a conference / journal, write on airplane on the way to the conference.

I'm sure this varies wildly from field to field -- i.e. for the sciences, I can't imagine you would pitch an experiment to a journal -- you'd pitch it to some funding source, do the experiment, write the paper if you got any good results, and send that to a journal.
posted by batter_my_heart at 2:11 PM on April 15, 2018

This depends on a lot of things, who you are writing for, if you have a relationship with them already, your own levels of experience, etc.

For experienced writers with established career/brands and especially of they have an existing relationship with the editor or have written for the publication before (even several times) the answer is no.

For less experienced writers, with no reestablished relationship, editors may well blanch at agreeing to a piece before taking a look at it.

Do note that just cause you wrote it and they agreed to look, doesn't mean they are obligated to publish, however.
posted by smoke at 2:36 PM on April 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think that in academic contexts, we don't really "pitch." True, there are CFPs that come out -- calls for proposals or papers -- that you can respond to. But when you respond to these, you are usually summarizing work that you've already done: enough that you have some sense of what your overall argument will be and how it will speak to the topic posed in the CFP.

You can certainly propose to present something at an academic conference that you haven't yet written, but if you're hoping to publish a piece of writing in a journal or edited collection that's published by a university or academic press, you'll still have to write the whole thing, and then send it in, and then wait for it to be read in its entirety by editors and a peer reviewer or two. There is very much the risk that they will read it and decline to publish it. And there is also a very high chance that they will kick it back to you and ask you to make a lot of changes before they'll agree to publish it.

When I hear folks talk about "pitching," they usually mean cold-emailing editors at magazines or other similarly popular publication venues (online or in print). In this context, you pitch an idea for a piece - but you don't send the editor the whole, entire, completed piece. The editor gets back to you (or doesn't, famously) letting you know "no thanks" or "sure, they would be interested in publishing something like that, send it along when it's finished." Then you can write the thing and send it in for them to consider publishing. They may still say no at this point, or yes, or yes -- but can you change X and Y. You can also, of course, pitch an editor a piece you've already written, but you still don't send the completed piece. You wait and see if the editor is interested in publishing it or not based on your pitch before sending them the whole, finished thing.
posted by pinkacademic at 3:09 PM on April 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

As pinkacademic says, you really never pitch an article to an academic journal in the liberal arts the way you would to a commercial magazine. You write up your research article and submit it to the journal, and normally, again as PA said above, if it's not rejected completely after peer review, it's returned for "revise and resubmit." This is normal even if tiny changes are all that's necessary. (And of course... you're not getting paid for the article. Nope, you don't even get royalties from the sale of the journal your article appears in. Nope. You do for a book but not an article. You're supposed to be presenting research to your peers, not selling it.)
The only times academics do anything remotely like a "pitch" for their writing are these:
1. For a book or edited volume seeking publication from an academic press. Then, true, you normally do not write the entire book first. You sort of pitch the idea with a proposal and a sample chapter or two. In the case of an edited volume, if you are one of the contributors, then yes, I suppose you could consider it a "pitch" because you'd normally write an abstract for your essay and that abstract would be included in the proposal. But this is not an article for a journal, it's part of a book for a press. (Well sometimes a journal does a special issue that is like an edited volume of a book. This could also be a case where this confusion might arise.)
2. In liberal arts you write an abstract for a conference paper. In at least some sciences, you submit the whole paper to the conference and are accepted or rejected from presenting at the conference based on the paper itself. In humanities and social sciences you kind of "pitch" your proposed presentation to the conference with an abstract for your own paper and a panel abstract.
So... the idea of the "pitch" is more commercial than academic publishing understands itself to be. They're not supposedly looking to sell journals (of course debatable) but rather to illuminate developments in the discipline. That's why it's different.
posted by velveeta underground at 4:51 PM on April 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

I wasn't quite sure from the question if pitching was intended for an academic journal or more mainstream publications (magazines, news, et cet).

If it's the latter, I found Zachary Petit's book on freelance writing to have excellent advice on pitching.

There isn't necessarily one way it's done -- sometimes you've already written the story and you shop it around. Other times you might want to get confirmation from an editor first before you start interviewing folks for the story. It really depends on you, the story, your relationship with the topic/interviewees, and your relationship with the editor.

Generally speaking, keep a pitch concise, do it via email, look up any guidelines for solicitations before you send the pitch, double-check to make sure that the publication is actually a good fit for your story.
posted by forkisbetter at 5:34 PM on April 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

I want to emphasize looking at submissions guidelines. I took the Atlantic as an example. Looking at their website, submission info is under FAQs, where they give instructions for pitching an article. So It seems safe to assume they expect you to pitch rather than send an article.

But if you’re new at this, I’d strongly suggest doing general google searches on how to publish nonfiction. Or look for a good book on the subject. And it really matters what kind of publication you’re going for. Writing an article for Nature is way different from writing for mindbodygreen.
posted by FencingGal at 7:54 PM on April 15, 2018

You don't mention what kind of article. For, like, a news feature for a major newspaper, I pitch the idea first and get a green light. I wouldn't waste my time researching, interviewing and writing an article no one wants. I've never written an article and then tried to pitch it. Sometimes I have ideas I think are great but none of my editors are interested, for whatever reason.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:18 PM on April 15, 2018

Thanks, folks for your astute remarks

Sorry, if I was not explicit in the kind of article to publish. I am thinking of academic journals in arts and sports news articles. Based on the remarks above, they have a different route on how to get published.

Thanks once again.
posted by Yiba at 5:52 AM on April 16, 2018

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