Now that I’m the new editor of a print publication, I am fielding pitches, and I think it’s time to share some guidelines as to how that’s done. Because I’m getting a lot of these kinds of pitches from writers:
“Hey! I’m happy to write about something related to cider in California. Here’s a story I did a few months back about cider. Let me know!”
“Hello, I would love to write for Terre. Please take a look at my website, where I blog about wine and food, and see if anything interests you. Thanks!”
“How about a piece looking at the rise of natural wines in restaurants across the U.S.?”
The writers sending these pitches might be very talented, but there’s not much for me to work with here. Writers, you should not make your editor think of a story for you; it is up to you to figure out what the editorial approach of a magazine is (and yes, we don’t have an issue out yet, but we did explain our approach via text and video on our Kickstarter, which raised almost $17K, thanks to many of you who supported it, and I also have a lot of published articles on this site which indicate my interests and views) and propose articles that might fit based on that.
A good pitch should provide a glimpse of what the article itself will look like. It can begin with a colorful lede; for example, you might offer a few details of a person or place that peak an editor’s interest. This also helps to show your writing style; the rest of a pitch will be somewhat more technical and practical. You’ll want to outline the 5 W’s of journalism: who, what, where, why and when…
And regarding “why,” the pitch should address the timeliness or significance of the story you’re pitching. In the case of Terre, we are not really looking for “trend pieces,” such as “5 Restaurants Serving Natural Wine To Try Now.” This would be more the territory of a website looking for clicks.
Being a boutique print magazine, we want articles with a lot of substance and energy, and we are looking for in-depth, colorfully written medium-form stories, in the 1500-2000 word range. For this kind of feature, I would love to see pitches that promise a story which will move from the specific (“this winemaker has an interesting vineyard because X”) to the general (“this vineyard is an example of how indigenous grapes respond to climate change, which applies to broader questions like X”), as much as possible. I realize this is difficult to do, but I think it’s important to do more than simply profile an interesting producer; we need to make connections to the bigger picture.
As well, a good pitch should address the following:
- why are you the writer to take on this story?
- how will you do this differently than anyone else?
This could be answered in a number of ways, and it will be specific to the publication. For example, if you are writing a memoir about working on a vineyard, I as an editor would like to know what literary skills you have, because memoir is a genre that really depends on beautiful, talented authorship. If, however, you simply want to pitch an interview with a renowned winemaker who is difficult to access, you could offer your prowess as a reporter or perhaps your language skills (maybe the winemaker only speaks Croatian, and you do?), and your knowledge of wine in that region.
Also, it’s great to pitch several ideas at once, so an editor can see your general range of thinking, and also, you might get more than one assignment! Every pitch should begin with a proposed headline. It won’t be the final headline, but it does help to frame the pitch.
So, a few more tips here, and also a review of the points above:
- give your pitch a headline
- use a colorful lead
- pitch something you’re passionate or curious about that you think fits the publication
- explain why you’re the person to write this
- offer a sense of your approach and what you envision as the approximate word count
- explain why this story should be written now, and why for this publication
- check back, and make sure you’ve at least tried to address the who/what/where/why/when of this story…
- and finally, but this is also the most important: pitch stories, not topics–i.e. look for something that’s actually happening, or a new phenomenon, or a person who is remarkable right now, and construct a narrative around that
Was this useful at all? I really hope it was, and that it helps those of you who are writers, whether you’re pitching Terre or someplace else.
And in case you’re a writer, and you’re wondering: yes, Terre will pay contributors. Send pitches to email@example.com, and soon! Many assignments have already gone out.
Want to keep up with our progress at Terre Magazine? We have a newsletter, which will send out very occasional updates; sign up here. Cheers from Paris, where we’re slogging through a brutal heat wave; I’ve taken refuge at a friend’s apartment to work until I’m brave enough to venture back out for a glass of wine.