by Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
GardenComm members and others recently posted on The Business of Garden Writing Facebook page that they wanted to know more about pitching to editors. Here are some tips on pitching articles for magazines, newspapers, corporate blogs, newsletters and other publications.
- Make sure the publication accepts freelance articles, photos or artwork. Not all of them do. Check the publication’s website for guidelines on submissions. Some publications provide guidelines and some do not.
- In the publication’s staff box or on the website, try to identify to whom the submission should be sent. Avoid “to whom it may concern.” If it’s unclear, send the pitch to an editor and address him or her by name.
- Read the publication. I know this sounds really basic, but you’d be surprised how many freelance writers don’t do this. If you can’t get an actual copy, look at the website. Pay attention of the tone of articles, what kinds of information is generally included. Are articles reported or written from personal experience? Are articles illustrated with photography or other graphics? If there’s a pay wall, call or write the publication and ask for a sample copy.
- Articulate in the pitch how your article fits in the magazine, what news or information does it present? Does it advance a topic? Will it speak to a certain demographic or skill level?
- Include a brief bio that indicates where you’ve had articles, photos or artwork published. You want to reinforce that you are experienced and up to the job.
- Identify whom you would interview for the article and what information they would contribute.
- Submit a summary of what the article will say.
- Send a couple of examples of photos or graphics that could illustrate the article. These do not need to be extremely high res, but should be large enough that the editor can get a good sense of the quality of the image. Keep in mind that some publications will assign their own photographer and graphic artist.
- Does the publication use a particular style, such as Associated Press? If so, write your article in that style. Follow any guidelines provided. Editors appreciate not having to edit for style, do they can focus more on content, clarity, flow and other aspects of storytelling.
- Consider running the pitch by someone who has written for the publication for review.
- Most publications work with writers and photographers as work-for-hire, so make sure to understand what rights you retain, if any.
- Usually email is the best way to submit ideas. Follow up with a phone call or an email in a couple of weeks. I know it’s terribly unprofessional, but some editors do not respond at all.
- Submit a clean, well-written, error-free pitch. Good luck!
A recent experience
Someone recently pitched a story for one of the magazines I edit. The idea was a good one, but it was obvious that she’d not read the magazine. Still, I accepted the story idea, which had good photos. That and the fact that I actually needed an article like she pitched.
I sent her the guidelines for the article and she immediately sent back her piece, not written in the format required. In fact, there was no article, only photos. I emailed her back, suggesting that I had not been clear in what was needed and explained in more detail. I told her the info was in the guidelines. Her response was she had a creative brain and was not a detail person and had overlooked the instructions. She agreed to read the directions and resubmit the article.
So, once you get the job, follow the guidelines and meet the deadlines. The less work or worry you make for an editor, the more likely you’ll get more assignments.
Meet the Author
Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp, vice president of GardenComm, is editor of On the QT and the former editor of five magazines. This article recently appeared in On the QT, Jan-Feb 2018.
Baseball image courtesy of Worldsartsme.com