Last week I looked at how to console yourself when a pitch gets rejected by an editor. This week, I present the salve and solution. There are five components of a good pitch that will turn rejections into successes.
1. The Hook
2. The Pitch
3. The Body
4. The Credentials
5. The Close
The attention grabbing hook: Start the sentence with something irresistible and snappy.
Problem/solution hook: Ensure that the problem genuinely afflicts the audience of the magazine
The Informative hook: A couple of little known but intriguing stats to lead into a broader discussion/pitch.
The question hook: Start the pitch with: Did you know… Have you ever imagined if… What would you do if…
These questions should be reserved for when the answer isn’t apparent at all. Otherwise the question is redundant.
The personal experience/anecdote hook: Written from the author or subject’s perspective. Although be wary of this when the publication doesn’t accept first person submissions.
Attention grabbing hook: Such as a grabby, exciting part of the story.
Hooks to avoid
- Personal introductions: Boring! Get straight to the point.
- Self-aggrandisement: In all cases, getting straight to the point with a concise, powerful and targeted pitch will win you brownie points. This is a precise way to demonstrate your writing ability, respect for the publication and so on.
This should be the second paragraph and talk about what you are offering. It should offer a proposed title for the piece, and a word count and additional media that is within the range permitted by the publication. Keep it short and sweet. Don’t select a wide ranging topic or it may be bounced.
The Body/Story Outline
This is a brief outline or structure of the piece. It should flow in a logical way and contain interesting and relevant sub topics. This should be in a bullet point format, or can be succinct and in a single paragraph.
Common mistakes made with the story outline
- Don’t fish: In other words don’t send a query or state that you’re available for assignments without a specific article topic in mind. This won’t garner a response from time-pressed editors. After you have written 2-3 times for them, then you can state your availability for more briefs or ongoing work.
- Don’t raise questions that can’t be answered: For example saying that you will interview someone to find out something. This may cast a doubt in the editor’s mind.
- Don’t over-cluter the outline: Don’t get bogged down in data or too much detail. Reserve this for the story itself
- Don’t tease: Being deliberately mysterious or teasing will not be looked on favourably by an editor. They want to know about the answers to questions that you pose.
Make sure that you roll all of your relevant experience into a neat little paragraph. Don’t ramble too much here. Also, think outside of the square in terms of your experience and don’t berate yourself or sell yourself short. If you don’t have much writing experience, you may instead have a lot of hands-on experience in the topic area, or professional experience in the industry where the publication is targeted. All of this could be classified as credentials as well.
- Professional experience in the topic area
- Industry experience in the area of publication
- Academic degrees or training in the topic area
- Teaching experience
- Personal/first hand experience in the topic area
- Writing experience (professional or recreational)
Close the pitch with a little sign off, and remember to include a timeframe for submitting the piece to the editor. Provide your email, phone and skype (or whatever mode of contact that you prefer). Then finish with a polite, but not overly familiar sign off like best wishes or kind regards.
Add an additional two weeks over the stated response time, just for a buffer and to allow them to get their email back log in order. Don’t hassle them about it whatever you do.
When one door closes…
Actively seek out another door. But don’t jam your foot in there! If you tweak the pitch and change it to suit a different publication, your idea may grow some wings and fly really high!