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Wondering how to write an email pitch? You aren’t alone. I used to struggle with this until I nailed down this strategy. Here’s what it looks like…
How to write an email pitch
1. Define your objective
Do you want to get a response from the editor seeking more information? Or do you just want to make them aware of your story?
A cold pitch is all about getting noticed. If you’re looking for a response or feedback, this type of email is not appropriate. Depending on what stage your story is in, you should pitch to the appropriate person.
If you’re looking for publication, pitch your story idea to an editor. If you already have a story written and are looking for work as a freelancer, send your pitch to the appropriate department editor (features, sports, etc.).
2 . Identify who is responsible for accepting pitches at that particular outlet – and make sure it’s not someone else!
Contacting the wrong person can be embarrassing and might prevent you from reaching your intended recipient in future correspondence.
When sending email pitches to editors or producers of online outlets, read their blogs and articles they’ve written; look at their biographies on LinkedIn; even Google them!
That way you’ll know exactly who will be reading your pitch.
3. Don’t be afraid to take a risk
When you’re cold pitching, an editor might not know your name or have any idea what sort of story you are going to pitch them.
It’s important when emailing someone totally unknown to you that you demonstrate why your story is both relevant and interesting. Get straight to the point in the subject line so when they read through their emails, yours will stand out in amongst all the others.
4 . Make yourself stand out from other cold pitches by being different
The best way for this to happen is by being original in either your story premise or delivery method. If you’ve written a satirical piece on something topical, don’t just send it out with no explanation as to why it’s special or why they should publish your article.
If you have a great story idea that no one has ever done before, this may also grab their attention.
5 . Ensure your pitch is free of typos and grammatical errors
Editors are busy people so don’t give them any reason to ignore you by submitting poorly written copy with spelling mistakes, missing accents on foreign names etc.
Use spell check in the email client; if it’s not too much trouble also get someone else you trust to proofread it for you. Imagine if that was the first thing an editor read about you?
They might not be willing to take the time to find out whether anything interesting really lies beneath all of those errors…
6 . Personalize your email according to who you are pitching
Spelling their name correctly is a good way to begin. Editors appreciate it when someone takes the time to find out about them and what they specialise in before pitching.
If you have found an article that they’ve written, use some of the content as a starting point for your pitch – but remember that this doesn’t mean just rewriting parts of their articles – it’s OK if you use some of the same words or phrases, but only as long as they relate to your story idea.
7 . Give context
If at all possible give a bit more information on why this is important now so that editors can see how up-to-the-minute your story really is.
Sure, there might be nothing new in the fact that a celebrity has just announced their engagement, but what about why they’ve waited two years to go public with it?
If you’re pitching an event happening in the week ahead and your article is relevant, let them know – providing you can do it succinctly.
8 . Make sure you provide all important details and follow up accordingly
This includes who to contact if editors have any questions; list your social media handles for authenticity; include your website URL (if appropriate) and indicate how long it might take for publication (i.e. immediate or three months).
Don’t forget to give the date of the story idea too – because this information can be helpful especially if there is anything time- related to your pitch such as a launch or upcoming event.
If you don’t have any samples, indicate what publications you’ve written for before; where your story ideas come from (i.e. personal experiences) and if relevant, why they might like to take a look at them (i.e. movie reviews – if they edit a film magazine).
This is important because editors want to know what sort of stories you’re going to be submitting them in future – it’s about establishing whether or not you will fit into their publication and hence something that shouldn’t be overlooked.
10 . Thank the editor for considering your pitch and remind them once again about its relevance
Don’t forget to reach out again after the initial query if you haven’t heard back within a week or so.
Editors are busy people and might have forgotten about your email in between considering submissions, but just remind them of why they should take another look at your story idea.
11 . Don’t ever send cold pitches by email to large groups of publications at once
This might seem like an effective way of achieving more exposure for your story idea but all it really does is get lost amongst the hundreds of others that also arrive simultaneously.
The best way to get results is by targeting one publication (or blog) at a time with something tailor-made specifically for their readership. You can build up relationships this way; establish yourself as someone dedicated to pitching relevant story ideas and of course, establish yourself as someone who knows about the publication they write for.
12 . Be patient but persistent
If your pitch is turned down then don’t be disheartened – try to learn from that experience but remember that editors are extremely busy people so you’ll need to be patient and courteous if you want them to take another look at your idea.
However, it might not only possible that the timing wasn’t right; maybe your pitch was too long; didn’t include a hyperlink or indeed, an overall lack of clarity.
Always ask what specifically doesn’t work and why before making changes accordingly (i.e. I know this piece isn’t particularly clear as it’s very long! What might make it better if I re-wrote it?).
13 . Be prepared to self-publish
If your pitch is turned down, don’t immediately give up on your story idea.
Consider whether you have time to write the article yourself and get it published elsewhere (knowing that you will always have full credit) before approaching another publication with a similar idea or indeed, reaching out to one of your existing pitches.
You might find that pitching multiple ideas at once works in your favour especially if some are turned down, but others are accepted. This way, editors know there’s more where that came from!
14 . Don’t be afraid to suggest new angles or perspectives
This is very important because while some pitches might be rejected because they’re not relevant enough to a particular audience, others might be turned down because they’re just too similar to other stories already published.
Editors want the best and most original story ideas possible so if you feel your pitch hasn’t been given a fair chance then consider proposing an alternative approach or indeed, adding insight from a different perspective.
Don’t forget that while you might have personal experience in whatever it is you’re writing about, regular readers of your publication probably don’t so this could give them something new and exciting to read.
15 . Remember that no one knows your story idea better than yourself
Don’t forget that while editors are extremely good at what they do (i.e. spotting potentially popular stories) , only you know exactly why your story idea is special.
So if you’re pitching something they’ve already covered before or something similar, there’s no shame in reminding them of what makes your story unique.
16 . Pitch different ideas to several publications at once
This might seem counter-productive especially when you consider the possibility of being turned down more than once but this certainly isn’t always the case.
It could be that one publication has a very popular slot that’s booked up for weeks with other stories while another has nothing planned at all, so yours gets accepted simply because it fits into their schedule.
Think about timing too; there are certain publications that run stories exclusively during particular seasons i.e. Valentine’s Day ones around February, Halloween themed around October etc., so pitching something similar to a publication that runs these types of articles might get you further than pitching something to a general news site that publishes daily.
17 . Be clear about what your story is going to be about and when it’s out
If you’re pitching an idea then make sure the editor knows exactly what you want to write about, where your insights will come from and when it’s due for publication.
It’s always good practice to discuss possible timings in advance so they can work around you if need be; chances are there might already be another similar story due for publishing in the near future and editors need time to plan accordingly.
Your aim should always be to become a permanent contributor at whatever publications take your fancy so giving yourself some wiggle room with regards to timing and deadlines is never a bad thing.
18 . Be clear about what you need from the publication
Make sure an editor understands exactly who will be involved at your end i.e. how many people they can expect to see ‘live’ during the stream, if there are any camera or sound requirements etc., as well as confirming what you’ll need from them i.e. whether you’re providing your own commentary, if they need to supply their own tutorial etc., plus of course, whether you can live without it until after publication or not. If unsure about anything then always feel free to ask!
If you’re planning on streaming yourself playing games for several hours so people can watch then don’t advertise it on your Twitter or Facebook account because if the stream isn’t set up correctly then this will annoy editors, viewers and more importantly, other professional live-streamers who’re doing this for a living.
If you want to share your story ahead of time with people online then do so in an appropriate manner i.e. by uploading unedited footage to YouTube so people can view at their leisure after publication, rather than putting all the relevant links in place during the actual stream itself when things might go wrong.
20 . Don’t forget to promote your story after publication
It doesn’t matter how good you are at what you do; if nobody knows about it then very few people are going to see it!
So don’t forget to share it via your social media channels afterwards so they can see all the hard work you’ve put into making it.