by Meg Dowell
Pitching isn’t so bad.
So you’ve reached that point in Writing Insanity Land.
You’re ready to pitch article ideas to publications. Hurray!
There’s just one problem …
Pitching is scary.
The first article I remember officially pitching was (of course) about NaNoWriMo. I wish I still had that email. I don’t remember how I worded anything, or what about my approach made that school newspaper editor say yes. All that to say, it wasn’t my last pitch. I’ve pitched hundreds of articles to dozens of publications since then.
Is it always easy? No. But it does get easier.
So if you want to start pitching, but you’re terrified — don’t worry. I’m here to help.
Editors, a.k.a., receivers of all the ideas
Emailing someone with an idea for an article feels weird for a few reasons — especially if you’ve never done it before. First of all, it has a cold sales call vibe. You’ve never met this person, you have their contact information, you have something to offer them — in exchange for something you want. I think that turns a lot of people off to the idea. But let’s not think of it like a cold call. Instead, think of pitching as a response to a call for submissions that has no deadline.
Usually when you email a pitch or list of pitches to a publication, you’re reaching out to an editor or content manager. These are their publication’s content experts. They know their pub’s audience, they know what effective headlines for their pub sound like — they know exactly what works and what doesn’t. They’re the people you want to approach — be excited, not terrified!
It’s literally in an editor’s job description to read and accept/reject your pitches. In MOST cases, you aren’t just sending your ideas to some random person who isn’t expecting them. It’s likely the person you’re emailing has seen hundreds of emails like yours already (which is why it’s so important to write an email that really impresses them!). It seems scary — but in reality, it’s just what you do.
How to overcome your pitch anxiety
If the idea of sending a random email to a random person sharing your random ideas (begging to be allowed to write SOMETHING PRETTY PLEEEEEASE) totally freaks you out, it’s OK. Take a deep breath. The first dozen times, it’s terrifying. Sometimes, depending on how far I’m about to leap, it’s STILL scary. Here’s what you can do to make pitching feel less fear-inducing.
- Be formal, but conversational. Don’t sound like a robot, but don’t write like you’re texting a friend. Whoever you’re pitching to has likely worked with writers before. They want your unique voice to shine through — even in your initial contact email. Just be yourself.
- Pitch a variety of ideas. Every article idea should sound very different from its partners, while still falling under the publication’s scope. This makes it more likely that at least one pitch will stick.
- Be excited. Let them know you’re genuinely interested in the topics, in the publication, in writing in general. There are too many people out there who pitch dozens of publications in batches just hunting for bylines. Don’t be one of them. CARE.
- Remember: the best way to learn how to pitch is to do it. A lot.No one ever taught me how. I just did it a whole bunch of times until I figured it out. It took a few years, but it happened. If my anxious brain can do it, you can definitely do it.
Still not sure about this whole pitching thing?
Relax. No, seriously. If you’re worried about being annoying, don’t. You’re doing whatever publication you’re pitching to a favor. If you write something good, and it gets a lot of views, that brings traffic, subscribers, revenue to them — and you (hopefully!) get your name on it (and maybe even a paycheck, depending on what level of writing insanity you’re at). Editors want you to pitch good things. Unless they don’t. Then, honestly, they’ll probably just ignore you.
And if you’re afraid of getting rejected … it’s totally normal and you’re not a pathetic loser. Rejection isn’t fun, but it’s going to happen regardless. Just keep in mind that rejection is not a form of failing. The only way to fail in writing is to not try. So try! WELCOME ALL THE REJECTIONS! Because at some point, you’re going to expect rejection, and receive a wonderful and unexpected surprise instead.
Put these four words on repeat in your mind: you can do it. You might not want to, you might want to put it off, you probably wish someone else could do it for you. But pitching is the first step. It’s one of many steps to earning a full-time writing job (at least it was for me). You cannot avoid it. So instead, learn to live with it. You never know — you may even fall in love with it.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.