We write because we love it, but we pitch because we must. Our masterpieces deserve attention. They exist to be read by the audiences we imagine for them, but first we have to convince the gatekeepers. What do we say? How can we get editors to read and publish our work?
We’ve put together a few tips from the writers in our upcoming LA BinderCon session Women Who Pitch: Freelancing in the Digital Age
Report Before You Pitch
Erika Hayasaki, former national correspondent at the Los Angeles Times, recommends getting out there to find answers to the questions your pitch needs to satisfy. “Make some calls, visit some people in person, hang out to get some scenes.” Erika says, “You can even open your pitch with a scene.” She says you need to know who your characters will be, and answers “Why should I care?”
Go All the Way
Liana Aghajanian encourages writes to apply for grants and fellowships on sites like ICFJ to support your reporting. She also recommends moving away from big cities, and even go international. She says the perspective this kind of change brings can give you an advantage. “You’ll find the living expenses and rent are cheaper, while your perspective and the stories you find will be more unique, and therefore more attractive to editors.” She warns that wanting to write about a subject isn’t enough. Liana says, “Make sure you’re pitching a story, not just an idea – a story contains characters and tension and it has to go somewhere.”
Do your Research
A little extra effort can go a long way. Melissa Chadburn says, “Address your pitch directly to the editor of the column you’re submitting to. You can usually find their names in the masthead.” Since publications want to know you’re familiar with their work, she says, “Reference a previously published piece of the venue that shares your tone or aesthetic.”
Pay Attention to the Details
There’s one mistake Mona Gable doesn’t want you to make. When you’re pitching, depending on someone to put your work out there, check and double check to ensure you have the right name and spelling. “Spell the editor’s name correctly. Seriously.”
Keep the Subject Simple
Senior Features Editor at Bustle Rachel Krantz reads over 100 pitches every day, and she doesn’t want to see PR-like subject lines. “You want to be sure your subject line makes it clear you’re not a PR rep. The main way to do this is not to get too fancy, vague, or cheesy.” She says your subject line could be a potential headline for your article.
How do you craft the perfect pitch? How do you get paid to write the stories you care about? How can you travel around the world to cover a story? Inspired by the Los Angeles-based group “Women Who Submit,” which encourages women writers to gather together and submit their work to magazines, and to celebrate the often intimidating process of sending work out into the world, this award-winning group of panelists will reveal their secrets to becoming successful freelance writers. The will discuss how to tackle a difficult story, how to master the craft of nonfiction storytelling, when a story is a right for longform pitch, which digital outlets pay for travel, expenses and which pay $1 a word vs. $50 for an entire story? Which ones offer the best editing experiences? They will also offer tips on networking with editors, tackling big, ambitious stories, and balancing home, family, and the writing life while trying to pay the bills and follow your passions.