Saturday, 25 January 2014

Best Foot Forward

I have no idea how many articles I've pitched since I started article writing about five years ago, but I know it's a lot! And I've had lots published. It would be interesting to work out the percentage of articles I've had published from those pitched, but I don't like maths and I have neither the time or the will to do it. Yet, it could well help me to ascertain which of my pitches were the most successful and why. So, if I'm ever in an analytical fame of mind I will swallow my mathematical misgivings and give it a go.

During my time as a writer, I've also come across lots of editors. I have to say that I've never come across any that are anything but professional and courteous. And that has a lot to do with how writers approach them. Editors are busy people. Aren't we all? I hear you cry. Yes we are, but just as we don't appreciate our time being wasted, neither do editors.

When you approach an editor for the first time, they don't know you or your writing from Adam. They have hundreds of writers, some like you, some more experienced, some less so, approaching them every day. Some of the ideas expressed to them will be bang on the money and will be commissioned fairly quickly. Although true that editors will go to the names they know and trust first, that doesn't mean to say that it's a waste of time pitching to them. Far from it. What you have to do to get their attention is to sparkle brighter than the other writers out there.

No, I don't mean by wearing the gold hot pants and glittery top, although that might work in some professions - it's not going to help you here. I mean by making your approach to the editor as professional as possible. By that I mean by making sure that:

1. You are approaching the right editor at the right time in the right way. Editors don't appreciate being called the wrong name (please, please, please, get the spelling right.) Or being telephoned when they state they want an e-mail.

2. You have read several issues of the magazine they edit, cover to cover and know the readership demographics and what the editor likes to publish. Editors don't like being pitched an idea that is far removed from what they usually publish.

3. Being courteous at all times. They are a professional business. You are a professional business - so act like one.

4. Making your pitch as specific and succinct as you can. No editor has the time or will to plough through a page of pitch so make sure your e-mail subject line it to the point and gives the editor a fair clue as to what the pitch is about. The crux of your idea should be in the first paragraph. Two to three short paragraphs are all you need. Outline the main ideas of the article, who you've interviewed if you have. Tell them if there are photos available (either ones you've taken, or a source if you have one.) Also give subheadings of the natural progression of the article or bullet points work well. Add a few words as to why and where you think the idea will work well within the magazine and why you should be the one to write it - relevant qualifications and experience.

5. Add a few relevant lines about yourself as a writer and your experience. The editor wants to know if you've got past form that shows him you can write.

6. Add your contact details  - especially a link to your writing website or your writing blog that should show some examples of your best published work. Check the text in your website/blog too to make sure it makes sense with no grammatical or spelling errors. An editor might be put off by these. If you can't get your website/blog right then how are you going to get the article idea you pitched to the editor right?

7. Be patient. Don't give into the temptation to contact the editor the same day or a couple of days after you've sent the pitch if you've heard nothing. A week later is a reasonable time scale to nudge.

8. Don't sit twiddling your thumbs once the pitch has been sent. Target another editor with another idea. That way, if the first editor doesn't want your article, you still have other options out there. The more article pitches you have out there the better.

The aim, as I said last time, is to have at least five pitches out there a week. It's not that hard to achieve if you really think about your pitch and how best to approach the editors and sparkle.

Happy writing and good luck

Julie xx

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