Knowing how to pitch your stories is a skill any journalist needs in their toolkit, so we invited award-winning YR Media grad and writer Rachel Krantz to a live webinar to give us her best pitching practices (You can find the full video here). You’re welcome to adapt this DIY for our submission process (we’ll include notes on how to do so). However, this step-by-step guide will help you create a pitch for any outlet!
Part 1: Get researching
Before pitching your story, do a little digging online to get familiar with the sites and editors you’ll be working with.
- Choose the right outlet for you. Try Googling your idea beforehand and see which sites have similar stories or tone.
- Look up whether the site has done the story already.
- If they have, don’t worry! Try reframing it or looking for a fresh perspective.
- Check to see if the site has any guidelines. (For example, some have word count limits or require a full draft with the pitch.)
- Look up editors on social media to see what stories they’re into or even to compliment them once you write your pitch (“I just wanted to compliment your pinned tweet about XX’s story. I thought it was such a unique perspective on how we XX”!). Start liking or reposting their articles.
- Pro-tip: Twitter is the site where many journalists and editors establish connections and post about work – it’s basically journalism’s unofficial LinkedIn.
Part 2: Make it clickable
Your goal is to stand out so the editor will open the email and read your awesome story idea!
- Include “pitch” or “full draft attached.” Most editors are getting so many emails that they put filters on their inbox to stop messages. When you clearly title your emails, you increase your chances of catching the editor’s attention and getting your email to the right person.
You’ll want to include the title of the piece you’re pitching, too. When you figure out a title for your story, ask yourself: Would I click on this?
Part 3: Time to pitch!
The pitch itself should be straight to the point. Editors are busy people, so you’ll need to convince them right away that your story is worth time and effort!
- Begin with a short personal introduction (emphasis on SHORT. Don’t use more than one paragraph to do this). Now is also the time to compliment the editor and link to articles you have published in the past!
- Pro-tip: Design a simple website to display your articles. It’ll make you look that much more legit.
- Within the pitch, include who, what, where, when, why and how. If you need a little more guidance, take a look at DIY: Perfecting the Pitch. Rachel sent us an example of the email she usually sends. Feel free to use it as a template.
- Some journalists write out the whole article before even pitching it. This is usually a great idea if you’re a newer writer or your 1-2 sentence pitch doesn’t quite capture the nuance of your story. If you decide to include a draft, attach it and copy-paste it directly onto the email.
- If you’re interviewing subjects for the article, put links to their bio or relevant work. Here’s the example Rachel gave us: “I would speak with Dr. Stephanie Starkis, author of Gaslighting, as well as to Tara Brach, meditation teacher, psychologist and author of True Refuge, for their practical tips/exercises for healing in this roughly 1200-word piece.”
Part 4: Didn’t hear back?
The editors might not respond to you right away. It’s okay to follow up with another email, just in case they didn’t see the first pitch.
- When you follow up depends on whether your pitch is evergreen or time-sensitive.
Stories that can be published year-round without losing their value.
Note: when pitching an evergreen story, you can “peg” it to a current event. For example, if you have a personal narrative about mental health, plan ahead and pitch it during Mental Health Awareness Month.
Wait 3 weeks before following up.
Rachel’s POPSUGAR story “13 Weird Ways Going Vegan Changed My Health” is a great example of an evergreen piece.
|Stories that are relevant only for a short amount of time. |
If your pitch is time-sensitive, note it in the subject line.
Note: You can pitch time-sensitive stories to multiple sites at once and go with the first one to accept it.
Wait 1 or 2 days before following up.
Check out Rachel’s POPSUGAR story “9 Father’s Day Getaway Ideas For Every Kind of Dad” if you need an example of a time-sensitive piece.
- Don’t get discouraged if your pitch is rejected or if you never hear back! Editors have to be very selective and are often pressed for time. Even professional freelance journalists get their pitches rejected.
- Pro-tip: If you’re rejected multiple times in a row, try following up with the editor to see if there’s something different you should try.
Part 5: The fun continues
That’s it. Congratulations on pitching your story! You can celebrate by starting research on your next one!
- Follow journalists on social media and stay up to date with their articles. It’s important to be a reader as well as a writer! Learn which stories and styles stand out to you.
- Reach out to editors. Ask if they’d be up for a short call to share advice or their stories of how they got to where they are.
- Check out Sonia Weiser’s newsletter to get updates about open pitch calls.
- Browse through SheSource and Source of the Week to find experts to interview.
Pitching is just the beginning of the journey! Whether or not your story was accepted, you have just made huge steps in the direction of being a writer. Keep it up, and we’ll see you at our next webinar!