“Pitching” editors may sound simple – and it is, if you take the time to understand the unwritten commandments of pitching and the science behind it.
Since sending my first magazine pitch nine years ago (to Mad Magazine, about alternatives to rock-paper-scissors — rejected) I’ve learned that there is a formula to good magazine pitches. The formula won’t always win, but it will likely earn you consideration, which is all you can ask for when you’re coming to a magazine editor cold.
In the meantime, here are 10 tips to hold you over:
- Know the difference between a topic and a story.
- “Pitch small stories to big magazines, and big stories to small magazines.” – Dan Rubinstein, former Canadian Geographic editor
- Study the ‘book’: Know the magazine and its audience. The only way to do this is get your hands on back issues and study, study, study!
- Do your research: A strong pitch often takes hours of reading, calling, pre-interviewing and distilling.
- Write it in the style you would the story.
- If your story has superlatives, use them.
- Give it a headline.
- Attach selected clippings: Don’t give them a reason to Google you if your best work doesn’t rank high in search results.
- Send it to an editor in the middle of the masthead: The editor-in-chief might be too busy to read your pitch in full, while a junior editor might not have the office clout to make it fly in a story meeting. But the ones between are just right.
- Have a B-plan: I use a colour-coded spreadsheet that shows me when I last sent my pitches, their statuses, and who to consider sending them to next. It helps me plan long-term and keep momentum after I’m rejected.