No matter how good your story may be, getting it into the spotlight is a challenge.
It helps if you have a way with words, and you’re able to craft blog content that drives engagement with an audience already. Then, when you go to reach out to that perfect publication where you’ll reach a new, larger audience, there’s the strategic problem of catching the attention of an editor.
Not to mention the necessity of coming up with a worthwhile topic to write about in the first place. And after all that effort and coffee, your article might still get rejected, or even worse, you’ll just never hear back at all. All your conscientious work and two good cups of coffee wasted.
Nevertheless, a good writer soldiers on. When it comes to pitching, there’s quite a lot you can do to help your story soundly land at a major publication.
Here’s my 3 proven steps to pitching your story to a major publication and building meaningful relationships with editors.
1. Know Your Publication.
It goes without saying, but you need to be familiar with your target publication. Don’t be that person who submits an off-topic article, because editors hate those people. Note the writing style and demographic, and keep the audience in mind when you write the piece.
Having a clear target that is compatible with your style doesn’t hurt, either. And more power to you if you actually know, or are friends with an editor. If you’re not, start following them on social media and build a relationship with them, one Tweet or Facebook post at a time. Starting on this warm up, long before you pitch them on your story idea will greatly benefit you once you reach out.
2. Write a Value-Driven Email to the Editor or Writer.
When it comes to reaching out to the editor, email should be your main approach, especially if they don’t know you. A 2014 study shows that writers significantly prefer email pitches over other mediums, so it’s better to stick with email rather than social media to pitch your story.
Besides having a killer subject line, you need to sell your story in a short and concise manner. Editors are busy people, so keep it simple and don’t bury them under a deluge of paragraphs. Being frugal with your words allows your ideas to surface.
I recommend writing a finalized, well-polished draft of your article before pitching it to an editor, to show them that you mean business and they won’t have to wait for you to finish your edits. Make the assumption that they’re ready to publish you right away and prepare accordingly. In your email, be sure to include your proposed title with a short 2-3 line description of your piece and a link to the editable Google Doc where they can check it out in full if they’re interested.
The less friction you place between getting an editor to review your piece, the more likely you are to get published.
3. Create High Quality Content.
Once you have the go-ahead from an editor (score!) then comes the story itself. If you’ve already written the piece, you’ll likely have some edits to make before it’s ready to go live. However, the more you can cut down on potential changes by knowing your target publication and the editor, the quicker you’ll get published.
What really propels a story to strike home is the quality of your content. Since editors publish only a handful of stories per day, you have to be very mindful of what type of subject is generally more likely to be accepted and hosted by editors.
Depending on your topic, this might mean sticking to a current event, or perhaps writing about something more evergreen. Editors are big fans of exclusivity, they like handpicked research, infographics and studies that pique the curiosity of their readers. Although different editors have their own idiosyncratic preferences, content-wise, if you provide them with enough exclusive content they will be interested.
Stylistically speaking, avoid making any sort of grammatical or spelling errors. Don’t be redundant with your diction choices, either. You don’t need to cram your article full of four-syllable unpronounceable words, but you should sprinkle a few New Yorker-esque words in here or there if possible. Avoid using clichés, because there’s usually a more creative alternative to expressing yourself.
If you keep in mind your target audience, build a relationship with an editor or two in high places, and craft original, remarkable content, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to see your story on the pages of a major publication. Give it your best shot, come up with something compelling, and don’t feel bad when the rejection letters come.
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