How to Land That First Big Magazine Writing Assignment

Editor

Write your first BIG magazine article! Makealivingwriting.comWhat freelance writer doesn’t dream of snagging a magazine writing assignment for newsstand favorites such as Men’s Health, SELF, or GQ?

Heavyweight magazines may be hard to crack, but with smart, persistent strategy, it’s possible — even if you’ve never had a national magazine writing assignment before.

Here are the tips that helped me land a magazine writing assignment for Runner’s World.

Embrace the pre-interview

When I first started pitching, I tried to get by without doing any pre-interviews. Why spend my time finding an expert and interviewing them, if I’m not even sure the article idea will sell?

But I always ended up with anemic, generic query letters that didn’t get any traction. Once I started doing pre-interviews, I sold more articles — which means less of my pitching time is wasted on queries that don’t sell.

Pre-interviews make your pitches meaty. Not only can you include juicy, pithy expert quotes, but your pitch will come across as authoritative because you will be far more knowledgeable about the subject.

When you find someone you’d like to pre-interview, reach out with a simple, professional email. Through practice, I’ve come up with a successful formula:

[Email Subject Line:] Writer Inquiry: Nailing That First Pullup

Good afternoon Ms. Expert,

My name is Lauren Bedosky, and I’m a Minnesota-based health and fitness writer. I’m working on a pitch for Big Name Magazine that offers readers tips for nailing their first pullup. I read your great article on the subject on Health & Fitness website, and I’m hoping to have a short, 10-minute phone conversation with you.

Are you available sometime in the next couple of weeks?

Thanks for your time,
Lauren

Solicit advice

Hire a coach or find a writer buddy who can look over your pitches and give you feedback. A fresh pair of eyes can spot holes in your logic and tell you if your idea is compelling enough to catch an editor’s attention.

It’s way better to get that feedback early in the process, instead of further down the line when you’ve invested a great deal of time and energy.

Create a follow-up plan

Some writers don’t bother following up on pitches they send, but if I put a lot of work into a pitch, the last thing I want to do is give up on an editor after one go. In fact, most of the responses I get come from sending a quick follow-up email two weeks after the initial pitch.

It’s up to you how detailed you’d like to be. I keep a simple Google spreadsheet where I track pitches sent and responses received. Keeping a spreadsheet also helps me identify new markets to target if my pitch fails to land anywhere.

Stay busy

Once you hit “Send” on a pitch, it’s tempting to spend the rest of the day watching your inbox.

But trust me, your time is better spent working on the next pitch. The more solid ideas you have, the more chances of nabbing an assignment. I’ve kept busy pitching, which has lead to a second assignment from Runner’s World and one from Redbook.

In fact, I often respond to rejection emails by offering another idea. Doing so keeps the conversation going and helps build that critical editor-writer relationship.

How have you gotten assignments from editors? Tell us in the comments below.

Lauren Bedosky is a Minneapolis-based health and fitness writer who’s written for Runner’s World, Experience Life, and others.

J-School: 4-Week Journalism Crash Course. Grow your freelance writing income. Usefulwritingcourses.com

23 Comments

  1. Deena

    Hi, Lauren, and thanks for the informative post. I like how you packed all the (very actionable) information into something short and sweet.

    One thing I’d like to mention: I’ve read several posts on requesting an interview that say you should give the person two or three possible times for scheduling it. That way, they have one less thing to think about, and can simply check their calendar and hit Reply. What do you think about this?

    Deena

    • Lauren Bedosky

      Hi Deena, so glad you liked the post!

      That’s interesting, I’ve never tried offering time slots. I might consider doing that next time, but I can honestly say most people I reach out to respond to my interview request, so I’m not sure this is going to be necessary. It certainly couldn’t hurt, though, especially if you’re finding that people aren’t responding to you for some reason.

  2. Nicole Gregory

    I love the conversation related to following up. I too worry about being a pest, but it is a lot of work to send in a well thought out pitch and sometimes the idea needs to be sold or better communicated plus it shows you care about what you have written. It is much easier to send out a quick follow up and even faster for an editor to hit the delete button if they are not interested. Hopefully after a quick reply, but none the less might as well do the brief extra work than to give up. Polite persistence can never hurt, think of all the sports stars who would have never amounted to anything if they had just given up. Well written and an easy informative read. Thank you!

  3. Lauren Bedosky

    Great input Carol! So helpful to hear from an editor.

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