By Estelle Erasmus
I teach my writing students for New York University that you should never give up when it comes to getting an editor’s attention. If you want to be a freelance writer, a good pitch letter with a great spin on a topic, timely element, newsy connection or unusual personal experience is a great first step toward getting that assignment.
I asked several writers for their recommendations as you ask yourself these key questions that will take you through the pitching and submission process.
Have You Rejected Rejection?
“Keep writing in the face of rejection. Publish on Medium. Create a blog. Get your words out there. You never know who is reading. You may even land a book deal.” @lakshgiri
“Follow up. Editors get busy and forget. For time-sensitive pieces give it 24-48 hours. If it’s occasion-specific, several days to a week. For an evergreen piece, wait a few weeks or more.” @anovelattitude.
“When an editor sends a rejection with an invitation to submit again, take them at their word. Don’t let imposter syndrome convince you they say that to everyone and you are not capable of achieving that byline.” @rhiyaya
“A ‘no’ from one publication isn’t a condemnation of the piece. It just means it’s a ‘no’ for them. Keep trying. And when editors give you notes on a piece, consider them—sometimes those notes lead to excellent revisions that make the piece perfect for another publication.” @sarahwcaron
Estelle Adds: If your previous rejected pitch has been accepted by another publication, include it in your follow-up email, and if you have the link, share it. It will help build your bona fides.
Did You Tweak It Till It Is Top Notch?
“Think of different angles on the same story idea so it fits with the demographics of various publications.” @girlwithapen
“I submitted a parenting article 12 times before it was accepted by The New York Times, during which time the editor changed. I believed in my article, so during the 15 months it took to be accepted, I kept tweaking and improving it.” @traveler0603.
“Find a timely hook (especially an upcoming holiday or commemorative month. If you’ve written a piece about your childhood memories of your favorite ice cream joint, for instance, and you realize National Ice Cream Month or day is coming up, you can peg it to that, with enough notice.” @CarenLissner.
“Google your working thesis to see what others have written about it to focus your pitch. In my early pitching days, I pitched versions of pieces that had already been written because I didn’t do my homework.” @slouisepeterson.
Estelle Adds: Part of your “sell” is the title. I always tell my students to come up with a tantalizing or provocative title that tells the story of your essay or proposed article. I sold the pitch “How to Bullyproof Your Child” to The New York Times and pitched “The Doula Who Saved My Life,” to The Washington Post.
Have You Analyzed The Editor?
“Networking with other writers can help you distinguish between editorial ghosting that is about you and your ideas, versus ghosting that is about the editor’s busy life. By asking your community you’ll find out is he on book leave? Does she send crickets for months and then randomly circle back?” @gailcornwall.
“Follow editors on social media and pay attention not only to pitch calls, but what their personal interests and pet peeves are, and pitch accordingly. If you can come up with a story that editor would like to read, you’re in a good position.” @sharonvanepps
“Familiarize yourself with pieces edited by the editors you’re pitching. See how your piece can fit in to what they’re publishing, and offer something fresh. Also, comment positively on a recent piece they’ve edited in the beginning of your pitch.” @YourItalianHope
“If you can meet them in person at some point (post pandemic), do it. Go to a networking event, reading or panel. Having a face to put to the name in their in-box will make them more likely to respond.” @Shemkus
Estelle Adds: The number one way to annoy an editor is to state “I’d love to write for you,” without mentioning a specific story, article or essay. Successful pitches aren’t about topics (i.e. parenting during a pandemic). Instead, they explain the concept, how you plan to research it, your sources, key points you’ll cover, and why it’s important.
Is Submission Your Mission?
“Pick an area where you’re the expert. Pitch stories that relate to your lived, personal experiences in that area, as they lend authenticity to your pitches and your eventual piece. This could also lead to future assignments on those topics.” @ShannonSMWrites
“List at least 10 places you want to submit to, beginning with the biggest reach publication. Start at the top, and as you work your way through submitting, each time you get a rejection, send your piece to the next one on the list.” @LisaRomeo
“Getting away from my parenting duties for a few days helped me figure out a new angle for an interview with a parenting expert that turned into my first Washington Post byline. Even taking a long walk can help clear your head enough to figure out creative new angles for your stories.” @Shoshanakordova
“Don’t be afraid to follow-up. I’ve followed-up on unanswered pitches after a week with a simple line about the piece still being available and gotten bites. I’ve also replied with drafts after they’re finished and gotten acceptances that way.” @laurenrowello
Estelle Adds: I tell my students it’s especially important not to post your work on your blog without first trying to place it in several outlets, especially if it’s an evergreen piece. There is always a way to tweak a piece or a pitch if you are determined to get published.
Source: Forbes – Money