How to Pitch Articles (and Get Published)

By the Fancy Comma, LLC Team

Are you a freelance writer or just a person with a story to tell?  Not sure how to submit articles for review by the media?  You’ll have to learn how to pitch your work directly to the editorial staff of various publications. The most common way to do this is to write what is called a “pitch” — a short email sent directly to the editors of a given publication. Sounds easy, right? But what exactly does it take to write a pitch that gets noticed?

The purpose of this blog post is to help you write the best pitch to get your content in the publication of your dreams (or any other publication — sometimes it’s good to start small).

Read on for a quick primer on how to write the most effective pitches.

What is a pitch?

A pitch is a short email written to the editor of a publication to inform them of an idea you have for a story, interview, or other article. 

What are the essential parts of a pitch?

Editors are busy people, so keep your pitch short — three paragraphs at most.

Editors are busy people, so write pitches that are no longer than 2-3 paragraphs that will capture their attention.

In the first paragraph, provide the editor with an overview of your proposed piece.  What makes this article new, different, and exciting for readers?  Make sure to communicate the main idea of your piece in a way that discusses how this article is relevant to both the publication’s editors and their audience. Remember the 5 Ws and include them as early on in the pitch as possible:

  • Who is the topic of your article? If your article is not about a person, who is affected by the focus of your article?
  • What is happening, and what’s in it for the reader (whether good or bad)?
  • When is this all happening? When can the readers expect to feel an impact in their own lives?
  • Where did this story happen? Is it ongoing?
  • Why is this story important? Make sure to mention the importance of this story not only for the reader but also in the grand scheme of things.
    (Source: Georgia Tech)

In the second paragraph, discuss how many words you will use to deliver this content, and how the content is aligned with the goals of the publication.  Where does this article fit in with the rest of the publication? Why is this publication the best outlet for this story?

Finally, in the last paragraph, be sure to mention relevant previous publications that you have authored. These are called clips. You can either offer to send clips by request, or include them with the pitch — which is probably easier for busy editors on a tight schedule who don’t have time to go back and forth on a lot of emails.

Conclude your pitch with a professional sign-off.  Remember to thank the editorial staff for their consideration!

To see some examples of successful journalism pitches, click here.

Which publications are accepting pitches from freelance writers?

Many publications have both an in-house staff and a system to recruit freelancers who pitch their work. You will want to look for publications which accept freelance work in your search to submit your content ideas.

On Twitter, @IamSciComm has posted an excellent thread on pitching freelance science writing:

Kathy Benjamin, in another Tweet thread, has posted a more general list of resources for places that accept unsolicited pitches and pay:

What is the pay like?

Pay is determined by each publication, and is typically a flat fee.  If it’s your first time pitching, you may wish to accept a lower amount, just to be able to get your work out there.  Consider that having a published article on a major site can be a great way to boost your personal website’s SEO if the publication links back to your personal website.  So, depending on your financial situation, being flexible on price in the early stages of your freelance career (even writing articles for free) may be beneficial in the long term, not only to establish a portfolio of published work, but to boost your web visibility.

Perhaps it should go without saying, but being published in a major outlet can be great news for your personal website’s SEO (not to mention your writing portfolio).

Helpful Resources for Science Writers

Science writing has unique challenges — many publications are not looking for science writers, but sometimes life and science intersect (as in the case of COVID-19) and science-themed articles may be specifically requested by mainstream publications. Other publications (e.g., Science or Scientific American) are dedicated exclusively to science and consistently publish science writing. The National Association of Science Writers has put together a helpful guide for anyone seeking to pitch their work to the media, whether to the general media or science-themed publications.

Conclusion

It may feel frustrating to have a good idea for a piece and know that it could have a larger readership than your own blog (or even your Facebook or Twitter account). The guidelines above should help you get started in pitching to media outlets.

pen and paper
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Don’t be discouraged by the inevitable rejections that will result from putting your work out there. Keep pitching and keep writing. Stay curious and prepared to learn. Don’t hesitate to ask people who have had their articles published about what it took to get there. Eventually, your efforts will pay off!

Don’t give up in the face of rejected pitches — stay curious and eager to learn from successful writers in your field.

Fancy Comma, LLC can help you with writing and editing to make your story (or even your pitch!) both better and easier to read. You can contact us here.

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