What freelance writer doesn’t dream of snagging a magazine writing assignment for newsstand favorites such as Men’s Health, SELF, or GQ?
Heavyweight magazines may be hard to crack, but with smart, persistent strategy, it’s possible — even if you’ve never had a national magazine writing assignment before.
Here are the tips that helped me land a magazine writing assignment for Runner’s World.
Embrace the pre-interview
When I first started pitching, I tried to get by without doing any pre-interviews. Why spend my time finding an expert and interviewing them, if I’m not even sure the article idea will sell?
But I always ended up with anemic, generic query letters that didn’t get any traction. Once I started doing pre-interviews, I sold more articles — which means less of my pitching time is wasted on queries that don’t sell.
Pre-interviews make your pitches meaty. Not only can you include juicy, pithy expert quotes, but your pitch will come across as authoritative because you will be far more knowledgeable about the subject.
When you find someone you’d like to pre-interview, reach out with a simple, professional email. Through practice, I’ve come up with a successful formula:
[Email Subject Line:] Writer Inquiry: Nailing That First Pullup
Good afternoon Ms. Expert,
My name is Lauren Bedosky, and I’m a Minnesota-based health and fitness writer. I’m working on a pitch for Big Name Magazine that offers readers tips for nailing their first pullup. I read your great article on the subject on Health & Fitness website, and I’m hoping to have a short, 10-minute phone conversation with you.
Are you available sometime in the next couple of weeks?
Thanks for your time,
Hire a coach or find a writer buddy who can look over your pitches and give you feedback. A fresh pair of eyes can spot holes in your logic and tell you if your idea is compelling enough to catch an editor’s attention.
It’s way better to get that feedback early in the process, instead of further down the line when you’ve invested a great deal of time and energy.
Create a follow-up plan
Some writers don’t bother following up on pitches they send, but if I put a lot of work into a pitch, the last thing I want to do is give up on an editor after one go. In fact, most of the responses I get come from sending a quick follow-up email two weeks after the initial pitch.
It’s up to you how detailed you’d like to be. I keep a simple Google spreadsheet where I track pitches sent and responses received. Keeping a spreadsheet also helps me identify new markets to target if my pitch fails to land anywhere.
Once you hit “Send” on a pitch, it’s tempting to spend the rest of the day watching your inbox.
But trust me, your time is better spent working on the next pitch. The more solid ideas you have, the more chances of nabbing an assignment. I’ve kept busy pitching, which has lead to a second assignment from Runner’s World and one from Redbook.
In fact, I often respond to rejection emails by offering another idea. Doing so keeps the conversation going and helps build that critical editor-writer relationship.
How have you gotten assignments from editors? Tell us in the comments below.
Lauren Bedosky is a Minneapolis-based health and fitness writer who’s written for Runner’s World, Experience Life, and others.