6 Quick Ways to Tweak Your Pitches to Get More Article Writing Jobs

Editor

Frustration stress and writers blockEver had a pitch rejected?

It happens to all freelance writers — we get used to it.

But what about being rejected by the same editor twice? Three times? Four?

How about eight times?

That’s how many times it took me to land one of my target magazines, a craft-brewing trade publication.

Rather than seeing this as a cause for embarrassment, this pitching experience is an example of how creativity and determination can end up landing you a feature article in a dream publication.

It also helped me discover how to write better pitches that get you more article writing jobs.

Here are six tips I learned along the way:

 

1. Research the publication first

This one I actually had down pat. I spent a couple hours scrolling through the last year’s worth of headlines from the craft beer publication’s back issues, to be sure I didn’t duplicate any pitches.

Research is crucial, so you don’t end up wasting your time pitching something they just published a few months ago.

2. Come up with a specific, unique angle…

While preparing for my initial pitch, I noticed news outlets had profiled a few hotels that carried craft beer, so I pitched a trend piece about craft beer in hotel bars.

The editor rejected the pitch for being over-covered in the past year. However, he said he would consider it if I could find a more unique angle.

3. …Or broaden an idea that’s too specific

With another pitch, I focused on a new craft beer technology coming out in a few months. The editor didn’t feel comfortable featuring the technology without knowing more about it.

Sometimes you need to broaden your topic, turning one or a few bits of news or products into a larger-scale feature.

4. Pitch the front of book first

After my first few feature rejections, I started looking for smaller pieces to pitch, such as a craft beer book review. This is the type of article that would run in the front of the magazine, also known as a front of book (FOB) article.

This can be an ideal way to break into a new publication with an editor who is not familiar with your writing.

5. Chalk it up to bad timing

You may have a great idea, but sometimes it’s so perfect that the publication is already working on it. One of my favorite article ideas — craft beer at Disney World — was heading to the presses as I typed.

There’s no way I could have known. It’s disappointing, but at least I knew I was on the right track.

6. Send great clips

Why did this editor give me so many chances? In my initial pitch, I provided some relevant beer industry clips. Besides showing promise with my initial (though rejected) ideas, the editor said he would try to get me in the magazine based on my clips.

The lesson? Share clips whenever possible, even if they’re not the same niche. It’s the polished writing that counts.

Success

Ninth time’s the charm! I finally landed a feature article with the national craft beer magazine’s website, at a flat rate of $350, comparable to many other print magazines I write for.

Thanks to our back-and-forth emails, the editor and I established a solid working relationship. He invited me to write more pitches, and hopes to meet when he travels to a beer event in my hometown.

Plus, knowing how hard I tried to land that feature made seeing my byline that much sweeter.

How do you get your pitches in shape? Tell us in the comments below.

Carolyn Heneghan is a New Orleans-based freelance writer who contributes to national and regional magazines and company blogs in food and drink, travel, technology, business, healthcare and education. Check out her website or follow her on Twitter.

 

35 Comments

  1. Catherine

    Great post Carol,
    I just landed on it and I think this is what I need to get started. I wrote my first pitch recently and it was a flop. This article is a great guide for me. I feel encouraged never to give up.
    Thanks!

  2. Derek Thompson

    A timely piece for me, as I’ve just had a second piece rejected by the same website (the first didn’t float their boat and the second was similar to an evergreen theme they’d run a couple of times in the past). Research is critical – yuu’re like the voice of my business conscience!

    • Carolyn Heneghan

      You never know when a blog post will speak to your present situation, Derek–it’s happened to me many times on this blog! Research is definitely the name of the game in the freelance world–it’s all we’ve got besides the words and ideas in our heads! Don’t let the rejections stop you from pitching again–they’re rejecting the original idea, not the writer behind them, so don’t hesitate to do a little more research, tweak that pitch and send it right in! I look forward to reading your first post on that site! 🙂

    • Catherine Hamrick

      Great answer, Carolyn. Great attitude.

  3. Cherese Cobb

    Carolyn,
    You crafted such an inspirational article that soothes my pitch-jitters.

    I’ve only stopped pitching to one editor because he told me his blog is for men. Plus, when he replies he just writes NO! I just view it as his loss.

    • Carol Tice

      Ewww — definitely time to move on when you get that sort of jerk, Cherese.

    • Carolyn Heneghan

      Cherese, please tell me you’re joking! That is an awful way to treat writers, and please don’t stand for it! There are many better publications out there who can’t wait to publish your writing–including blogs for men! (Who, by the way, often love to include articles with a woman’s touch and perspective!) It is most certainly his loss, and that is exactly the attitude I wish more writers were able to have.

      Thank you for the kind words! Best of luck with your pitching endeavors. 🙂

  4. Catherine Hamrick

    Nice article. Constructive tips.

    “And it’s so frustrating for all of us writers when editors are just crickets when it comes to our pitches.”

    I mentioned these points in one of Carol’s earlier posts: editors are overwhelmed–budget cuts, staff support cuts, “work faster/cheaper” mantra, spiraling circulation….

    Once more with feeling: I was a senior editor hit with 60 to 100 pitches per day for a national magazine–the one-and-only worker bee in my department. I responded when I could–as a human.

    1) Your email subject head needs to hook (40 characters or fewer)
    2) Your first paragraph/maybe second needs to hook
    3) The process is akin to a hiring manager skimming through a pile of resumes
    4) Carol et al covered research and strategy quite well
    5) I worked many late nights, trying to respond to smart pitches and produce content
    6) I received my share of berating phone calls from writers–I was always polite but firm because I represented a brand (For the record, do not call editors; meetings also chew up their days. Email.)
    7) Editors are not crickets. They are people who work hard for a living–many at stagnant wages unless they are on the staff of plum publications.
    8) I now freelance. Rejection does not faze me. I respect editors as business people. They create environments that serve readers while bolstering ad sales and circulation. As Carol says, pitch strategically.
    9) In addition, publications are not the only means to write. Carol reviews other freelance opportunities in numerous posts.

    • Andrea Kluge

      How enlightening to hear from a former editor! Thanks, Catherine, for sharing.

    • Catherine Hamrick

      You are welcome, Andrea. I pick up many tidbits from all contributors to this site.

    • Carolyn Heneghan

      Thank you, Catherine–it is always so refreshing to hear an opinion from the other side of the freelancing spectrum–our editors! 🙂 I certainly meant no ill will to editors, I actually just mentioned in a previous comment how busy I know they are, so it’s completely understandable that answering every single pitch isn’t always realistic. This is exactly why I appreciate the editor I worked with in this particular pitching experience, because he did take the time that so many editors are either unable or unwilling to take. Part of writers’ frustrations with editors comes from not understanding the role and responsibilities of editors to their fullest, so having writers like you who can straddle both sides of the issue is so valuable! Thank you so much for your insight!

    • Catherine Hamrick

      Thanks, Carolyn. Pitching can discourage me, too, as I am now a freelancer. It’s part of the job.

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