Pitching. It’s one of those touchy topics, whether you’re a writer or an editor. What does an editor want to see? How many pitches are too many? How can I get a quality pitch from a writer? Regardless of your role, you have to put yourself out there in what can seem like a terrifying way.
I sat down with Carrie Smith Nicholson (@carefulcents) of Careful Cents, Angela Tague (@AngelaTague) of Web Writing Advice, Jess Ostroff (@jessostroff ) of Convince and Convert, and Chels Knorr (@ChelsKnorr) of ClearVoice for the do’s and don’ts of pitching from the writer and editor perspective.
Don’t let simple hangups get in your way. Tap into the powerful tool of pitching to get the right content, and if you’re a writer, to get the work you want. Below are a few quotes from the podcast, broken down by category. In this full #ProContent podcast, “Pitching: The Writer/Editor Relationship,” you will learn about:
- Unexpected success of finding great writers
- Over-pitching, effective communication, requesting an extension
- To pitch or to be pitched
- Timeliness and scheduling pitches
Carrie Smith Nicholson: When I think of the word pitching, it sounds kind of scary. It’s like you’re having to put yourself out there. It’s also something that is great for being able to get in front of other editors and really get your work out there, but it does take a little bit of courage and you have to refine your process. I’ve been doing this for over six years and even now sometimes you get a little bit nervous when you’re about to send that pitch.
Jess Ostroff: I’ve been on both sides of it: pitching on behalf of clients, but also receiving a lot of pitches. Pitching has gotten a bad rap for a while, especially in the PR space, because so many people have been doing it wrong for so long. It just can be really impersonal and people get wary of pitches now, unfortunately. But I think when done well, a pitch is really personalized and focused, and helps answer a question or solve a problem. When I’m reviewing pitches I always look for that. Specificity to my audience, the personalization to the audience, and why I should care.
Angela Tague: As a writer, pitching is scary, but in my experience over the years once you can get over that fear, you can definitely grow your business. I know a lot of starting out freelance writers reach out to me and say, “Hey, Angela. How can I get more work? I’m a great writer, I try to put myself out there. What can I do?” And I always say, “Have you reached out to the publications you would like to write for, or the brands, or the companies?” You need to put yourself out there, if you want to get the work. That’s why pitching is so critical as a freelancer.
Short, sweet and personal
Jess Ostroff: I’m sad to say this, but it’s very clear to me the people who are paying attention and who actually care about what they’re pitching and who they’re pitching to. If you can do a little social media stalking, no harm in that.
Chels Knorr: I want a writer to prove themselves first, I can’t work to make a writer a better writer, but I can work with them on a topic. Show me in your pitch that you can write, spell my name right, be concise. Show me that you’re a quality writer. You have three sentences to do it.
Thinking from the client’s perspective
Angela Tague: As a writer I think you have to be absolutely on target with your pitch as far as who you’re trying to reach. You need to think about the client, not about yourself as a writer.
Chels Knorr: Timing has so much to do with it. You really have to pitch with timing in mind, from so many different angles. You have to think about time of year, you have to think about the time that an editor is going to put into a pitch and if a writer has done the legwork, that’s a big bonus for getting that gig.
On the benefits of pitching
Angela Tague: One of the biggest benefits I’ve seen for me, is just go ahead and pitch it, even if you’re not sure. You have no idea how few pitches they’ve received, or maybe really bad ones, and yours could just get in a really good pile with everyone else’s and only have a few to choose from.
Jess Ostroff: Pitching is a great way for us to build up our network of writers who we trust, and also a great way for them to reach a new audience, and for us to reach their audiences. I think, in the best worlds, the relationship is mutually beneficial and the writer is getting their voice and ideas out to some different people and vice versa.
Chels Knorr: We have a small in-house team, and so we go through stages where, if we’ve had a client for a long time, we have brainstorm burnout — times when we just don’t have fresh ideas and we still owe a certain amount of content every month. This is the times when pitching is really nice, because we can then bring in new voices. You just don’t know where fresh ideas are going to come from. It’s nice to have someone else doing the creative part sometimes.
On building relationships
Jess Ostroff: I think some people see pitching as more of a transaction. Don’t just throw out pitches to anyone and anywhere. Actually look at the publication deeply, and look at it as if it were something that you could potentially develop a long-term relationship with.
Angela Tague: And something else that I’ve seen as a really big benefit is if you can find really good editors and really good publishers, they can actually make you a better writer. They’re paying you, but you’re getting better experience out of it.
Final tips for successful pitches
Angela Tague: My main tip for a successful pitch is to make it personal. Another tip for a successful pitch would be that the lead-in is everything.
Jess Ostroff: Use the subject line. The subject line is really the first thing that people see. You have to have a compelling subject line, and maybe that means, “Things I Hate About Facebook Ads.” It’s not, “Hey, Jess, I have a pitch for you.” Oh really? I get so many emails that start with that subject line.
Carrie Smith Nicholson: Have mutual respect for somebody when you do follow up on the pitches. Do so maybe two weeks later. You may not receive anything, but I’ve had pitches that I’ve sent that were really good, weren’t super pushy, and they filled out all the guidelines properly, but I didn’t hear from them about it, or they weren’t interested in it at that moment. Six months later they came back and said, “Hey, your pitch really stood out to us and we’d love to have you write these topics now.”
Be specific, think different.
Do you have any other helpful tips on pitching? We’d love to hear about your experience.