Pitching Articles that Sell

To continue the series of posts on writing magazine articles, following on from Writing Magazine Articles – The Easier Way to Get Published and Case Studies of Successful Magazine Articles, this week I’m discussing how to pitch article ideas to editors.

Why Pitch an Idea?

You’ve done your homework on prospective magazines and you’ve got an idea for an article that might fit with their audience. What next? You may think you should simply write the article and wing it off to the editor. And sometimes this may work (see Case Studies above) but if it doesn’t, and the article is rejected, what have you learned?

In most cases you will not be told why it has been rejected. It could be for any of these reasons:

  • They have recently published an article on the same subject
  • They already have a similar article lined up
  • They don’t like your writing
  • Your writing style doesn’t suit the magazine
  • You haven’t met their requirements (too long or too short)

What then? You could try and revamp the article for another magazine but you might have the same result.

It is much better to at least know your subject idea is a good one before you write the article and that is where pitching comes in.

Instead of writing the article, you send the editor a letter outlining the idea and seeking approval to send the full article. Doing this way means you avoid the first two reasons for rejection in the above list because you will be told if either apply. If the editor likes your idea you will likely be asked to submit the full article. This still won’t guarantee it will be accepted but you have increased the odds.

Anatomy of a Pitch

Your first paragraph should give the editor a reason to accept the article. If you’ve done your homework you will have come up with an idea (maybe based around an upcoming anniversary or event) the editor won’t be able to resist.

In the next paragraph outline how you will treat the subject, how many words you propose, and say if you have photographs to accompany the article. Supplying the latter is often a good selling point. (But they must be high resolution and sharp.)

Include the opening paragraph of the article as a teaser.

Finally, answer the ‘why you?’ question. Persuade the editor why you are the best person to write on this subject.

Example of a Pitch (to a Travel magazine)

E-mail subject line: 200 years of Arctic cruising

Dear Editor (find out and use the editor’s name)

Next year marks the 200th anniversary of the first tourist cruise to the Arctic. Would your readers be interested in an article, titled Kingdom of the Bear, outlining the history of Arctic cruising and describing a recent adventure I undertook around Norway’s Svalbard Archipelago? I propose a length of 2000 words and can provide a number of high resolution digital images.

This is the opening paragraph:

We lined the decks enthralled as the mother polar bear guided her two cubs across the ice floe. Then she slowed and stopped, head in the air, cubs freezing behind her. ‘Standing still hunting,’ Dr Ian Stirling informed us. ‘She smells a seal. Wait.’ Suddenly, in a blur of movement, she reared up, punched mighty paws through the ice, stuck in her snout and dragged out a wriggling baby seal. Lunch successfully secured.

I have travelled to more than 50 countries, on six continents, and been published in Wanderlust, Travel Africa and National Geographic*. Examples of my work can be found on my website: http://www.brillianttravelwriter.com.

May I send you the full article? (Always ask this – if you don’t ask, you don’t get.)

Best regards

Brilliant Travel Writer

* I wish!

Okay, it may not be the best pitch in the world but you get the idea. You’re selling the idea and if you’re lucky your pitch will hit the editors desk at exactly the right time and you will be asked to send in the full article. All you have to do then is write the best and most polished article you can and you have made a sale.

Next time I will discuss how anniversaries can be a great way to help sell an article.