6 Quick Ways to Tweak Your Pitches to Get More Article Writing Jobs

Frustration stress and writers blockEver had a pitch rejected?

It happens to all freelance writers — we get used to it.

But what about being rejected by the same editor twice? Three times? Four?

How about eight times?

That’s how many times it took me to land one of my target magazines, a craft-brewing trade publication.

Rather than seeing this as a cause for embarrassment, this pitching experience is an example of how creativity and determination can end up landing you a feature article in a dream publication.

It also helped me discover how to write better pitches that get you more article writing jobs.

Here are six tips I learned along the way:

 

1. Research the publication first

This one I actually had down pat. I spent a couple hours scrolling through the last year’s worth of headlines from the craft beer publication’s back issues, to be sure I didn’t duplicate any pitches.

Research is crucial, so you don’t end up wasting your time pitching something they just published a few months ago.

2. Come up with a specific, unique angle…

While preparing for my initial pitch, I noticed news outlets had profiled a few hotels that carried craft beer, so I pitched a trend piece about craft beer in hotel bars.

The editor rejected the pitch for being over-covered in the past year. However, he said he would consider it if I could find a more unique angle.

3. …Or broaden an idea that’s too specific

With another pitch, I focused on a new craft beer technology coming out in a few months. The editor didn’t feel comfortable featuring the technology without knowing more about it.

Sometimes you need to broaden your topic, turning one or a few bits of news or products into a larger-scale feature.

4. Pitch the front of book first

After my first few feature rejections, I started looking for smaller pieces to pitch, such as a craft beer book review. This is the type of article that would run in the front of the magazine, also known as a front of book (FOB) article.

This can be an ideal way to break into a new publication with an editor who is not familiar with your writing.

5. Chalk it up to bad timing

You may have a great idea, but sometimes it’s so perfect that the publication is already working on it. One of my favorite article ideas — craft beer at Disney World — was heading to the presses as I typed.

There’s no way I could have known. It’s disappointing, but at least I knew I was on the right track.

6. Send great clips

Why did this editor give me so many chances? In my initial pitch, I provided some relevant beer industry clips. Besides showing promise with my initial (though rejected) ideas, the editor said he would try to get me in the magazine based on my clips.

The lesson? Share clips whenever possible, even if they’re not the same niche. It’s the polished writing that counts.

Success

Ninth time’s the charm! I finally landed a feature article with the national craft beer magazine’s website, at a flat rate of $350, comparable to many other print magazines I write for.

Thanks to our back-and-forth emails, the editor and I established a solid working relationship. He invited me to write more pitches, and hopes to meet when he travels to a beer event in my hometown.

Plus, knowing how hard I tried to land that feature made seeing my byline that much sweeter.

How do you get your pitches in shape? Tell us in the comments below.

Carolyn Heneghan is a New Orleans-based freelance writer who contributes to national and regional magazines and company blogs in food and drink, travel, technology, business, healthcare and education. Check out her website or follow her on Twitter.

 

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35 comments on “6 Quick Ways to Tweak Your Pitches to Get More Article Writing Jobs
  1. Catherine says:

    Great post Carol,
    I just landed on it and I think this is what I need to get started. I wrote my first pitch recently and it was a flop. This article is a great guide for me. I feel encouraged never to give up.
    Thanks!

  2. A timely piece for me, as I’ve just had a second piece rejected by the same website (the first didn’t float their boat and the second was similar to an evergreen theme they’d run a couple of times in the past). Research is critical – yuu’re like the voice of my business conscience!
    Derek Thompson recently posted…The Yoga of WritingMy Profile

    • You never know when a blog post will speak to your present situation, Derek–it’s happened to me many times on this blog! Research is definitely the name of the game in the freelance world–it’s all we’ve got besides the words and ideas in our heads! Don’t let the rejections stop you from pitching again–they’re rejecting the original idea, not the writer behind them, so don’t hesitate to do a little more research, tweak that pitch and send it right in! I look forward to reading your first post on that site! 🙂
      Carolyn Heneghan recently posted…Welcome! And thanks for visiting!My Profile

  3. Cherese Cobb says:

    Carolyn,
    You crafted such an inspirational article that soothes my pitch-jitters.

    I’ve only stopped pitching to one editor because he told me his blog is for men. Plus, when he replies he just writes NO! I just view it as his loss.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Ewww — definitely time to move on when you get that sort of jerk, Cherese.

    • Cherese, please tell me you’re joking! That is an awful way to treat writers, and please don’t stand for it! There are many better publications out there who can’t wait to publish your writing–including blogs for men! (Who, by the way, often love to include articles with a woman’s touch and perspective!) It is most certainly his loss, and that is exactly the attitude I wish more writers were able to have.

      Thank you for the kind words! Best of luck with your pitching endeavors. 🙂
      Carolyn Heneghan recently posted…Welcome! And thanks for visiting!My Profile

  4. Nice article. Constructive tips.

    “And it’s so frustrating for all of us writers when editors are just crickets when it comes to our pitches.”

    I mentioned these points in one of Carol’s earlier posts: editors are overwhelmed–budget cuts, staff support cuts, “work faster/cheaper” mantra, spiraling circulation….

    Once more with feeling: I was a senior editor hit with 60 to 100 pitches per day for a national magazine–the one-and-only worker bee in my department. I responded when I could–as a human.

    1) Your email subject head needs to hook (40 characters or fewer)
    2) Your first paragraph/maybe second needs to hook
    3) The process is akin to a hiring manager skimming through a pile of resumes
    4) Carol et al covered research and strategy quite well
    5) I worked many late nights, trying to respond to smart pitches and produce content
    6) I received my share of berating phone calls from writers–I was always polite but firm because I represented a brand (For the record, do not call editors; meetings also chew up their days. Email.)
    7) Editors are not crickets. They are people who work hard for a living–many at stagnant wages unless they are on the staff of plum publications.
    8) I now freelance. Rejection does not faze me. I respect editors as business people. They create environments that serve readers while bolstering ad sales and circulation. As Carol says, pitch strategically.
    9) In addition, publications are not the only means to write. Carol reviews other freelance opportunities in numerous posts.
    Catherine Hamrick recently posted…“Song” by James JoyceMy Profile

    • Andrea Kluge says:

      How enlightening to hear from a former editor! Thanks, Catherine, for sharing.

    • Thank you, Catherine–it is always so refreshing to hear an opinion from the other side of the freelancing spectrum–our editors! 🙂 I certainly meant no ill will to editors, I actually just mentioned in a previous comment how busy I know they are, so it’s completely understandable that answering every single pitch isn’t always realistic. This is exactly why I appreciate the editor I worked with in this particular pitching experience, because he did take the time that so many editors are either unable or unwilling to take. Part of writers’ frustrations with editors comes from not understanding the role and responsibilities of editors to their fullest, so having writers like you who can straddle both sides of the issue is so valuable! Thank you so much for your insight!
      Carolyn Heneghan recently posted…Welcome! And thanks for visiting!My Profile

  5. Hi Carolyn,

    I’ve really been debating pitching some publications because I didn’t want to ‘ruin’ the opportunity to do so again, and I just read up in the comments someone else had a similar issue — this article helped massively with that!

    Thanks a ton.
    Jake Mcspirit recently posted…How to Take Charge of DiscomfortMy Profile

    • Debate no more, Jake–click Send! As we said in another comment, even if you face a rejection from an editor, most likely he or she will forget your name (and pitch) altogether while moving on to other pitches and day-to-day tasks (of which, editors have many!). Every time you pitch, it’s more than likely a clean slate. And should you have the experience I did with repeatedly pitching the same editor–an editor who continued to welcome said pitches–he or she just might appreciate your tenacity and ability to come up with so many ideas. Keep at it! 🙂
      Carolyn Heneghan recently posted…Welcome! And thanks for visiting!My Profile

  6. Researching the publication is the step I used to skip often. After many rejections, I noticed that if the editors see you interested in what they write about, they will consider you.

    Thanks for the advices!

  7. I was in the same boat, Timothy. My beginnings as a full-time freelancer were packed with gigs from low-balling clients. I thought I was making a pretty decent living, but when I saw the amount of work I had to do for such low rates, I immediately started taking the advice of writing blogs I was reading (including this one!) and sought out better clients and publications. And as soon as I embraced that new strategy and figured out how to perfect my pitches, the new better-paying opportunities came rolling in. I know it can be the same for you too! 🙂 Best of luck with it!
    Carolyn Heneghan recently posted…Welcome! And thanks for visiting!My Profile

  8. A great reminder to never give up — something I do way too easily. I’ll usually try more than once, but if I get a couple rejections, I usually move on. Congratulations on your perseverance and getting the assignment!
    Leslie Jordan Clary recently posted…HomeMy Profile

  9. These are some really solid tips! I’m just starting to learn how to send well-constructed pitches. In the past all my work would come from service marketplaces like Warrior Forum so I didn’t have to do much marketing work. Then I realized that I was missing out on a lot of awesome opportunities because I wasn’t pitching businesses directly. Once I started pitching, and raised my rates to what – at the time – I thought was a lot of cash, to my surprise a few people took the bait, and I have been getting work ever since. But I’m still trying to tap into higher paying markets. Thanks for all the help! If it weren’t for this website I would be waking WAY less than I do now from freelance writing!
    Timothy Torrents recently posted…The Differences Between Teaching English in Taiwan and Freelance WritingMy Profile

  10. I’m really glad you shared your experiences – I’ve been apprehensive about pitching to a couple of publications that I really enjoy, for the simple reason that I felt if I was rejected once, then any other pitches would go the same way. Your story definitely proves that perseverance does pay off! I guess I’ll just have to make sure the clips I send are polished to a high shine – and keep trying if I don’t succeed 🙂
    Steph Simpson recently posted…How to Avoid Becoming Overwhelmed as a FreelancerMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      You know, I hear that all the time — the fear that one bad pitch will ‘ruin’ your chances with a pub. Little do writers know that editors get so many pitches, they’ll likely never connect your first one to your fourth one. It’s all a blur!

    • Don’t hesitate a moment longer, Steph! You know your ideas and writing are great, all you have to do is demonstrate that to your prospective editor. Rejection is just a part of that process, and it should never keep you from pitching the pubs you’re interested in. In fact, if you are rejected by an editor, that demonstration might involve showing off your perseverance and creativity as you continue to send pitches until one hits the mark!

      I also have to agree wholeheartedly with Carol. Editors really do receive so, so many pitches that even if they reject your idea, they’re not rejecting you. They’ll remember your name best when it’s tied to a pitch they love, not when they’re narrowing down pitches and cutting the ones that aren’t a perfect fit.

      I can’t wait to hear how your pitching endeavors turn out! 🙂
      Carolyn Heneghan recently posted…Welcome! And thanks for visiting!My Profile

  11. Jules says:

    Wow. You really persevered with this one. I don’t mind getting rejected with a reason why. That gives me an idea of how to tweak my pitches. But when an editor doesn’t even respond after two emails and a quick phone call (maybe she didn’t like that), that’s just discouraging. I would much rather get a polite rejection than nothing at all. During the phone call she said “give me a few days” and she mentioned that she is looking for more writers. I gave her a couple of weeks before following up, gave her an update on one of my pitches and another idea and …nothing.

    • I definitely feel you there, Jules! Same thing has happened to me. One time, I thrice emailed a publication I had already written three articles for, following up on a batch of pitches I sent, with no response whatsoever. Months later, I sent the same pub one longer pitch on a different topic, and the editor got back to me the next day, saying that exact story was heading for the presses. So strange. And frustrating!

      And it’s so frustrating for all of us writers when editors are just crickets when it comes to our pitches. Luckily for me in this particular situation, this editor was one of the few who blew me away with how helpful and encouraging he was! I really lucked out, and he has been such a pleasure to work with ever since. If only there were more editors like that in the world, I think we’d have a pool of writers with even more refined pitches than ever before!

      But keep at it! Never let rejection stand in the way of getting your words and ideas out there. 🙂
      Carolyn Heneghan recently posted…Welcome! And thanks for visiting!My Profile

  12. 2 and 3 can be strengthened by linking your pitch to other articles that have been successful for the publication in the past. I find this works for me rather well when pitching guest posts to websites at least !
    Razwana Wahid recently posted…With branding and your writing voice, ‘just be yourself’? Is terrible business adviceMy Profile

    • What great insight! Thank you so much for sharing that, Razwana. It’s always great to pepper in unique details to make your pitch stand out, which links certainly would do. And a blog/publication always loves to know that you’ve read and appreciate their content and know what they’re all about! Best of luck with your pitching! 🙂
      Carolyn Heneghan recently posted…Welcome! And thanks for visiting!My Profile

  13. Amal says:

    Research, Unique Angle, Broaden! Roger that 🙂

    That sounds promising. Thanks a lot 🙂
    Amal recently posted…3 Ways To Overcome Introversion Like A FighterMy Profile

  14. Lois Harris says:

    Wow. Perseverance really does pay off. Good for you!

    • Perseverance is key in the writing world, isn’t it? I hope all of our fellow writers remember that and don’t let rejections get them down. It’s the nature of our business after all! 🙂 As Dory of Finding Nemo (sort of) says, “Just keep pitching!”
      Carolyn Heneghan recently posted…Welcome! And thanks for visiting!My Profile