Free Review: Here’s a Chance to Buff Up Your Pitch Letter

Evan Jensen

Offer: Help to Buff Up Your Pitch Letter. Makealivingwriting.comYou write a pitch letter, send it off, and get nothing.

That ever happened to you? Every freelance writer knows what it’s like.

You crank out queries and letters of introduction to editors and marketing managers.

You try some heavy-lifting techniques to engage prospects and land assignments.

You even flex your writing muscles and try different approaches to crafting pitch letters.

You hustle.

That’s exactly what you should be doing. But your pitch has to be strong enough to get noticed.

If your pitch letter is weak, it’s gonna feel a lot like working out at the gym, even though you’re not really sure if what you’re doing is working.

And that’s not what you want. You want to connect with prospects, land assignments, and make a living writing. Right?

If you’re not getting the results you want when you send a pitch letter, it’s time to get some help.

Ready to buff up your pitch letter? Here’s a chance for a free review:

Prepare for a pitch letter workout

I’ve been writing for a living for 20 years (newspaper reporter, editor, copywriter, blog editor, full-time freelancer).

But it’s not the only thing I do. When I’m not on a writing deadline, or chasing my three kids around, I:

  • Lift weights
  • Run a ton of miles
  • Eat healthy
  • Help people lose weight, build muscle and get in shape as a personal trainer

Do it long enough, and similar problems start to appear that can easily be corrected with a little tweak, modification, or this-is-how-you-do-a-deadlift demonstration.

It’s actually a lot like helping writers improve pitch letters and queries inside the Freelance Writers Den.

Pitch letter problems that show up frequently include:

  • Weak lede or introduction
  • Stiff and formal writing style
  • The-world-revolves-around-me approach
  • Novel-length query or LOI
  • Lack of focus or failure to provide ideas

Don’t worry if you’ve made these mistakes. We’ve all been there. With a little help, I’m confident you can make your pitch letter stronger.

Want to get your pitch letter in better shape?

From now through Tuesday, May 14, I’ll review your pitch letter for free in the comments section below and provide feedback and suggestions to help you. But you’ll need to follow a few rules:

  • Study the basics of writing an LOI or query letter
  • Submit your pitch (letter of introduction or query letter) in the comment section below. (Do not include links.)
  • Identify a specific publication or business you’re pitching. (I won’t review generic templates.)
  • Ask any specific questions you have about improving your pitch letter.

If you want to write better pitch letters, you have to work at it. It might be hard at first. But with a little help, you can improve, boost your response rate, and start landing more client work. Let’s do this.

Want a free pitch letter review? Post it in the comment section below.

Evan Jensen is the blog editor for Make a Living Writing. When he’s not on a writing deadline or catching up on emails, he’s training to run another 100-mile ultra-marathon.Avoid writing scams: Join Freelance Writers Den

63 Comments

  1. Adebayo

    This free review is a great eye opener – The reality is; No newbie without proper training will ever write a good LOI.

    For me, enough of grouping in the dark with the hope of finding something small but precious as a misplaced diamond signet.

    Freelance Writers Den I believe is the answer to all my disturbing questions.

    Reply
  2. Michelle Walch

    Hi Carol,

    Thanks again for offering your advice. Here’s one I’m working on for Liisbeth. I pitched a version of this story before, and the publisher turned it down but gave good feedback. So I changed it. Here is.Article Pitch for LiisBeth: Profile of Feminist Entrepreneur
    May 25, 2019
    To the Publisher:

    I am submitting an article pitch about a women-owned clothing maker solo business who caters to large women.

    The Pitch:

    Clothing designer Becky Tonkin never set out to work for herself. Then she started making natural fiber, zero waste clothing for all sizes. Plus-size people are underserved and her clothing serves that niche. Her business contributes to a diverse maker community and their fans.

    Why this story is important:

    • It profiles a feminist enterprise that makes clothing for extended sizes.
    • It is about a women-owned clothing business that serves a diverse community by creating useful products not easy to find elsewhere.
    • This is a profile of a business that contributes to the vitality of an already diverse maker community.
    • Helps larger women and those who identify as women find clothing that fits them.
    • Shows how the business-owner is authentic, and makes people feel comfortable and not judged when shopping for clothing.
    • Shows how the maker community naturally attracts diverse people as they are marginalized in other areas: “I think the maker community is so diverse because marginalized people find ways to creatively make a living when the world is basically built against us.”

    Why this story is relevant to LiisBeth:

    • Demonstrates a feminist entrepreneur.
    • Creates clothing for plus sized women.
    • Shows how the maker community is supportive of underserved groups of people. Says Becky: “The plus size population is so terribly underserved in the “slow fashion” community that I’m really an anomaly and all kinds of people are drawn to that. I’m also fairly unpretentious and “real” and pretty easy to talk to. There’s a certain kind of disarming quality to having someone help you get dressed in an open-air booth – there has to be a lot of trust and vulnerability there!” 

    Why Michelle Walch as the Writer:

    • Three years blogging about solo business owners, especially encore entrepreneurs.
    • Two years blogging about healthy aging, women’s health, and rural health and aging.
    • Has been a feminist since age one.

    (Hope it’s ok that I’m a repeat seeker of advice.)

    Reply
    • Carol Tice

      Michelle, afraid the free review time is over! But we do monthly reviews for all members interested inside my Freelance Writers Den community — our editor Evan Jensen (who also is this blog’s editor) gets HIGH response rates to his own pitches and has been coaching our members and helping them get better results for years now.

  3. Ify

    Hi Carol,
    Thanks for reviewing pitch letters. Here is a query I wrote for Chatelaine magazine but I did not get a response.
    Good day Editor!
    My name is Ify. I am a blogger and freelance writer in the United States. I am writing to pitch the article “Nine ways to motivate yourself to Exercise” for Chatelaine magazine. I currently work part-time as an RN and I have a degree in Kinesiology. I blog under a pen name.

    Nine practical ways to motivate yourself to exercise
    Intro:
    I am a kinesiologist who was once a personal trainer. I always thought I would be fit and would never have to motivate myself to exercise because I just love it! Ah! How things change. I am a mother to a very active toddler and now I have to motivate myself to exercise. Here are nine ways I motivate myself to workout. These are not unique to me. They are ideas anyone can use.
    1. Watch weight loss stories: There are so many weight loss stories online and watching them motivates me. I think “If someone else can lose so much weight and transform their lives, I can definitely lose my baby weight.” I love to watch weight loss stories on Youtube or Netflix’s “Bringing sexy back”
    2.Set a time of the day to exercise. Picking a time of the day to work out means part of the decision-making process has already been performed so all you have to do is stick to it. It may seem like something that is inconsequential at first but I have had better success with this than I have had when I tell myself “I will exercise sometime in the evening.”
    3. Plan to exercise every day- If you have not been exercising often, you probably will not get to it every day but you are more likely to do it sometimes if you put it on your daily to-do list.
    4. Use Pinterest as your personal cheerleader: I love Pinterest because it has so many creative and motivational ideas that you can have available to you at any time by saving it on your own Pinterest board. Save motivational pins about exercising. There are so many motivational quotes about exercising, and simple work out routines on Pinterest. This way, if you are too busy to make it to the gym it is only a Pinterest pin away.
    5. Add in physical activity to your day: Adding in physical activity to my day by walking around the store or taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a good way to motivate myself to exercise. This usually lets me know when I am out of shape.
    6. See exercise as a mood-lifter: Most people don’t want to move when they are down in the dumps but if we see exercise as a way to pick ourselves up emotionally, we are more likely to do it. The other options like watching a movie or eating junk food will slowly become less of a pull.
    7. Use a calendar as your journal to mark days when you exercised and for how long.
    8. Set a specific goal with a specific timeline. If you are trying to lose weight you can set a goal for how many pounds you would like to lose per month. It should be something realistic. ( I will add some examples of realistic weight loss goals). If you are trying to gain muscle tone. Assess your muscle tone by measuring the circumference of your arms or your waist.
    9. Pick a form of exercise that fits your lifestyle: If you are someone who likes to stay indoors, use work out videos. If you like being outdoors, go run in a park.

    Reply
    • Carol Tice

      Ify, I can spot 3 obvious things off the top here — one is that you can’t use a pen name in journalism for magazines. They’d want to know your real name.

      The other is that… this is like a blog post. It’s you writing off the top of your head about your experience. There are no interviews, attributed facts. That’s not what magazines are looking for, in the main — they want reported stories where you interview experts and create the piece. Your ideas, opinions and thoughts are usually NOT part of the story (except maybe in that essay spot on the back page of many big magazines).

      Finally, there is no news hook – no fresh research or breaking event that makes Chatelaine readers need to read this NOW, in particular. Editors assign stories that have a news hook.

      Study your publication and read deeply. See how they lead, source, quote, and conclude stories. I’m betting you’ll see they don’t begin with the word “I.”

    • Ify

      Thanks so much, Carol! I appreciate the information. About the pen name, I was actually referring to the fact that if anyone googled my name my blog would not show up. I would have to supply the link. I felt this was a good idea while working as a floor nurse because I did not want my ideas or any medical advice that I may give to become an issue while I was trying to “find my voice” as a writer. I sent my full name in the query letter that I wrote to Chatelaine.

    • Carol Tice

      OK got it. 😉

  4. Michelle

    Hi! Thanks for offering this service. Hope I’m not too late. This is a pitch to KOA Kampground’s blog about our Yellowstone road trip and our children’s nature picture book made it in to 2 of the KOA gift shops in the area. It’s kind of a book tour. Sorry, I’m not expressing this very well! Anyway, here is the pitch:

    My family and I enjoy KOA Kampgrounds. We stayed at a few during our Yellowstone road trip in 2018. Two Kampgrounds carry our children’s nature picture book Letters of the West. What a great pairing!

    I want to share the memories made with this Yellowstone road trip (we stayed at the Jackson/Snake, West Entrance Yellowstone, and Craters of the Moon KOAs) and how other campers can enjoy KOA campgrounds and use our book as a kind of guide to flora and fauna in the area.

    Reply
    • Carol Tice

      Michelle — what would readers LEARN from your story? What is the headline you would write? In general, pitches with no headline tend to go to the delete folder fast.

      You’re going to want to include that in your pitch. In general, magazine queries are not 2 paragraphs long — they’re a fully-fleshed out sample of exactly what would be in the magazine, starting with the opening paragraph. Editors want to see that you understand their audience and writing style.

      Have to say, reading through this, it basically sounds like you’re asking for free promotional advertorial space in their magazine to promote your book! Rather than pitching an article with readers’ needs in mind. I would expect they’d respond to you with their ad rate sheet and recommend you place an ad for your book in the magazine, or their rates for paid advertorials.

      My tip would be to instead pitch a useful article, where your tagline would note you are the author of this book. Congrats on that, BTW! I’d use your KOA book angle to introduce yourself, you’re sort of a built-in authority for them. Then craft a pitch with useful info for readers that’s NOT self-promotional. Expect your tagline credit with the book title in it to be the promo for you. Make sense?

    • Michelle Walch

      Hi Carol,

      Thanks so much for your tips! That really helped me adjust the pitch, which I was stuck on. Gonna send this improved letter off soon.

      Your writing advice on Twitter is really helpful. I read it almost daily.
      –Michelle

  5. Diane Helentjaris

    Here’s my pitch to True West magazine which I would like to send to the Editor (I have his name). They have a 300 word limit on pitches and need several illustrations which I will have for them. Thanks/Diane

    Wild West Star Lulu Belle Parr

    Finding herself divorced and living in the seedy river town of Steubenville, Ohio in 1903, Lulu Belle Parr did what no other woman would do: she reinvented herself as the World Champion Lady Bucking Horse Rider and went off to live a life epitomizing the romanticized ideals of the Wild West. Lulu Belle worked for the big boys – Wild Bill Cody, Pawnee Bill, Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey. She toured Europe and South America, performing her awe-inspiring feats of horsemanship, trick shooting and bison riding before crowds including the Prince of Wales and the President of Argentina. As Lulu Belle said, she wasn’t afraid to use a gun or to look pretty. The petite beautiful woman followed her own star throughout her life with independence and strength. She marched, along with her Wild West cowgirl colleagues, for women’s suffrage in the May 1913 New York City march. Married three times, her second spouse was, like her, a celebrity Wild West performer. Her final try at matrimony was to marry a clown on Halloween and leave him on April Fools’ Day. Not giving up the performing life until her late fifties, she returned to Ohio to live in poverty with relatives. After her 1955 death, she lay unnoticed in an unmarked grave until local history buffs re-discovered her, planted a marker, held a parade and made sure she was inducted, as she well deserved, into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame.

    As an experienced nonfiction writer, I would love to share Lulu Belle Parr’s story with the readers of True West. Her colorful story, lost for so long, has yet to be shared in detail and fills out an entertaining part of the women’s side of western life. Men and women alike deserve to know about her.

    Reply
    • Evan Jensen

      Hi Diane,

      Interesting. Nice idea. I looked at True West, and this aligns with the type of historical features I saw on their site. Bet you’ll get a bite.

      A couple things,
      First sentence is pretty long. See how it compares to other stories on the True West site.

      I wonder about dropping the reader into one of Parr’s performances or stunts to introduce her, vs. starting with a mega summary paragraph. Just an idea. I noticed some of the True West stories do begin with a brief historical summary. But some drop the reader into a situation:

      Really liked this real-time intro sentence for the story “The Legendary Maney Gault”: On April 1, 1934, 6’2” Frank Hamer was sitting, cramped, in his tiny Ford V-8 automobile in a lonely riverside migrant camp near the West Dallas viaduct, eating from a can of sardines and celebrating Easter Sunday alone.”

      Working headline
      It’s standard practice that you include a working headline in a query letter. It’s another way to show off your skills, and help an editor envision your piece in their magazine. Take a look at the headlines for stories at True West and come up with one for your article based on their style. And include it in your pitch. “I’d like to write [Working Headline] for True West about Wild West Star Lulu Belle Parr. Then map out how you’ll write the piece and highlight elements of her life. Even better if the Lulu Belle Parr parade is coming up you could point to.

      Nice idea. Minor updates.

      Keep going.
      Evan

    • Diane Helentjaris

      Thanks so much for this help, Evan. This are exactly the type pointers I was hoping for!

      Thanks for all you and Carol do with this site.

      Best,
      Diane

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