Understanding how to write a pitch is going to make or break your chances of getting published.
A “pitch” is an email you send to a publication — usually to the editor — to share an idea you want to write about. The goal is to convince them to give you the go-ahead so that you can write the article and it’ll eventually be published.
For many (if not most) publications, editors get bombarded with pitch emails on a daily basis. Very few end up being approved. So, if you want to get your work into bigger publications, then knowing how to write a pitch is key!
And now, I’d like to share some of my best tips with you.
BTW, if video is more your jam, here you go!
Psst! Many websites have a page specifically for people interested in contributing, but it can be hard to find them. A simple solution is to Google contribute to + website name. So, it’ll look like this.
What to Do Before You Send Your Pitch
I know that pitching an article idea can feel like a numbers game. There’s a lot of rejection involved in the process, so you simply send more emails.
But never forget that quality matters as much as quantity.
One of the biggest mistakes I see is that writers will copy/paste the same pitch email and send it to whatever publications they can find, with zero regard to that publication’s audience.
It won’t matter that you sent more emails. This approach will result in crickets.
Before you send a pitch, ask yourself:
- Who is this publication’s audience? Think age, gender, interests, etc.
- Will they care about this topic?
- How is my idea relevant to them?
- Can I see my article fitting in with all the others on this site?
You’re not doing yourself any favors by pitching your idea to a website or publication that doesn’t serve the same audience you do. Do your research ahead of time and your response and success rates will be much higher.
Now, let’s get to writing the pitch itself.
How to Write a Pitch: 4 Pro Tips to Getting Published
Important note: The FIRST thing you should always do is read any directions for pitching that each publication offers on their website, if any. Many have a page specifically for people interested in contributing, where they’ll tell you how they prefer you do it. You might also find these directions under their contact or FAQs page. These directions take priority!
1. Write an Irresistible Subject Line for Your Pitch
Everything starts with the subject line. While the numbers vary, somewhere in the ballpark of 47% of recipients open an email based on the subject line alone.
I’ll usually start the subject line with “PITCH,” so that the editor knows at a glance what it is.
Then, follow up with your proposed headline. Remember your only goal in this step: Get them to open the email. If you were thinking that this needs to be something that’ll seriously hook your reader (meaning the editor), you’re correct!
We’re not going for clickbait. Don’t be that person. Rather, it needs to pique their interest enough to at least get them to open the email. A surprising statistic is usually a good approach, as long as it’s relevant.
If the topic you’re pitching is time-sensitive, be sure to mention it here. (And just so we’re clear, if it’s not time-sensitive, don’t say it is just to get the editor to open it. That won’t end in your favor.)
There are many ways to go about this, but let’s do a before-and-after example, with a completely made-up statistic.
Example of a Bad Subject Line
Subject: PITCH - How women can avoid being harrassed on their runs
Example of a Good Subject Line
Subject: PITCH - 63% of female runners have reported being harrassed - here’s a simple solution
2. Tell Them Who You Are, What You Want to Write About, and Why
If you’ve done your job with the subject line, the editor is now reading your email.
This is where it starts. Don’t open your pitch email with small talk. Editors don’t care.
Dive right in with your name, the topic you’re interested in covering, and why.
If you have some huge credit to your name that makes you particularly qualified to write this article, now’s the time to drop it. For example, if you’re pitching an article to a gun magazine and you’re a cop, mention that upfront.
Example of a Good Pitch
My name is Megan, and I’m a fitness writer. I’m interested in writing an article for Jim’s Fitness Magazine on the effects of keto on muscle-building, as keto is a growing trend among health-conscious individuals.
3. Get into More of the Nitty-Gritty
Part of writing a pitch is giving the editor a good idea of what your article would cover. This might include:
- Why this topic is relevant right now.
- What stance you’d take in the article.
- Why this is the perfect article for their audience.
- How it will help their audience.
- Any interviews you plan on conducting for it.
You don’t need to write an epic novel detailing all of these points. In fact, because editors are so busy, you should take great care to get to the point.
However, you should still spend the necessary time conveying to them why it’s in their publication’s best interest to publish this piece.
Keep in mind that you don’t want to tell them what your idea is. You want to tell them what the story is: what you’re covering and how you’ll go about covering it.
Paint the full picture. And avoid language like, “I’d love to write about…” They don’t care what you’d love write about. Tell them why their publication needs this story.
Example of a Good Pitch
Going back to our idea to write about the effects of keto on muscle-building, here’s a sample pitch.
Beginning in late 2020, Google saw a huge increase in the number of people wanting to learn about the keto diet, and this has held steady. It’s been of even greater interest to athletes, since some question whether or not you can really build muscle using fat as your main source of energy.
In this article, I’d use what research has found so far to explain why your body prefers carbohydrates as fuel, and why carbs are crucial to gaining muscle mass. I’d reach out to experienceed dieticians and athletes for their perspective.
This will give your readers science-backed information on how they can achieve their fitness goals by tailoring their nutrition to muscle gain.
See what I did here? The what is the story and why it’s important. The how is reaching out to experienced dieticians and weightlifters.
4. Explain in Your Pitch Why You’re the Perfect Person to Write This
You’ll want to wrap up your pitch email by explaining more about why you’re the perfect person to write this article. What makes you qualified?
This is where I see a lot of writers go wrong. They use passion as their reason for why they should write this. “It’s a topic I’m really passionate about.”
I hate to say it, but while we care about our passions, editors don’t. They’re helping run a business: the publication. So, you need to give them concrete reasons why you have what it takes to write this article.
Example of a Good Pitch
I’ve been a competitive athlete most of my life, most recently spending five years training as a competitive Olympic weightlifter. I’ve also followed a macro-based nutrition plan for about six years, portioning, weighing out, and logging all of my food. This has helped me manipulate my diet in order to lose, maintain, or gain weight for my training.
How Long Should Your Pitch Be?
Everyone’s got an opinion on this one. Some people will tell you 500 words is the standard. Sometimes, I feel like this is way more room than I need.
So, I say this: Make it long enough to tell the editor what they need to know, and not a single word longer. The shorter, the better.
Lastly, I want to leave you with this: Don’t get discouraged when (not if) you get turned down. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Focus on quality. Do good work. And your pitching will pay off.
One of the best things you can do as a writer is ensure that you’re creating content people actually want to read about. This is where search intent comes in. To learn more about this, check out my blog on everything writers need to know about search intent.