How to Pitch and Get Published, According to a Magazine Editor
Hey everyone, I hope you’re having an awesome week so far! Today’s post is something I’m really excited to share with you because I think it will help a lot of you out. If you’re an aspiring writer or editor, I believe the best thing you can do for yourself is get published in as many places as possible that align with a career you want to have. Getting your work published in different outlets gives you lots of credibility and you can build your network of writers and editors that you know. (In this tumultuous media age, trust me, that doesn’t hurt.)
While pitching can seem daunting, I promise you can do it, and I’ve got a few insider tips about how to help you not just write a pitch email but to actually see it published somewhere. As many of you know, I’m an editor at Interview Magazine and I was previously an editor at NYLON so I’ve had lots of experience both writing and reviewing pitches. I hope that this gives you the confidence to put your ideas out there and see them turn into stories. Here are my best tips about writing pitch emails to editors.
If you’ve never met the editor you’re pitching to in person, make sure you let them know who you are and what experiences you have that give you clout. I’d probably start with something along these lines:
Hi there! My name is Austen Tosone and I’m a writer and editor living in New York. My work has been published in Interview, NYLON, New York Magazine, Cosmopolitan, and Bustle, and I’m very interested in contributing to your publication.
Also, if someone referred you, state that in the first few sentences as well! I’m always more likely to respond if I see that a former colleague or a friend passed along my contact info along to you. Bonus points if they give me a heads up that someone will be reaching out.
Keep it short and sweet
Speaking from experience as a magazine editor, our schedules can get insanely busy. Sometimes I am so in over my head writing, editing, or trying to wrangle different parts of an upcoming photo shoot or interview, that I can’t constantly monitor my email for brilliant pitches. Realistically, I’m probably only going to spend a few seconds looking at an email from someone I don’t know, so if you’re cold-pitching an editor you’ve never met, let them know you respect their time by keeping it as concise and specific as possible. My favorite way to receive pitches is with a hed (headline) and a 2-3 sentence description of what the story will be about and how it will be reported.
Here’s an example of a pitch for a story I wrote for NYLON’s website:
Hed: How TK Designers Prepare for NYFW
I plan on reaching out to several New York-based designers and have them each provide a quote on what they do to get ready for the busiest week of the year. The piece will have a short 200 word intro, and be a slideshow of these anecdotes accompanied by a photograph of the designer.
TIP: TK is often used in the publishing world to be a placeholder, so the number of designers included in the post would depend on how many of them responded to my request and how many my editor and I thought would be a good amount (we ultimately settled on 10.)
An exercise I used to do in college for fun (seriously!!) was to come up with a story idea and think about how I would make it appealing to different kinds of publications. Say I was really interested in covering the release of some new unicorn makeup brushes. I would pitch that story to a publication like Seventeen or Cosmopolitan. If I wanted to write about an awesome undiscovered vintage shop in Brooklyn, I’d pitch an interview with the store owner to a publication like Man Repeller. If I wanted to write a story about women running for office, I’d probably hit up Glamour or Teen Vogue. This is not to say that these publications only cover these kind of stories, but it helps to know your audience. Do some digging through old issues or online to see if they’ve covered similar stories before to make sure you’re on the right path, and then figure out how to make yours stand out.
So let’s take a very general idea and create a headline for it to pitch to three different publications:
A guide to New York City food
For New York Magazine’s Grub Street pitch: The Best Dumplings in Chinatown, Ranked
For Interview Magazine pitch: Sarah Jessica Parker Reveals Her Favorite Manhattan Eateries
For Elle pitch: Eat (and Instagram) Your Way Through NYC’s Trendiest Desserts
See the difference? Interview’s pieces almost always have a celebrity tilt to them, and the New York Magazine reader likes to feel like an expert. Elle has readers who are probably just as interested in their Instagram feeds as they are in the actual food. Plus, a guide to NYC’s food would be massive, so by finding a niche idea that is also appealing to the publication you’re pitching to greatly increases your chances of it actually getting published.
Choose your clips wisely
In the beginning of this post when I introduced myself I also listed several publications where I’ve had works published. This is where you should attached some clips from the aforementioned publications that are most closely related to the kind of piece you’re trying to write. If you’re still in school and don’t have too many clips yet, don’t worry. Whether they were published on your own blog or in a college newspaper or in a national publication, the most important thing is that they showcase your skills as a writer.
TIP: Look and see if the editor you’re emailing has written similar stories before. Another great way to flatter an editor is if you let them know that you actually read their work!!! Once at NYLON, an intern applicant wrote me a cover letter where she referenced a recent article I’d written for the website and it was nice to know that she had gone out of her way to look for something I wrote so she’d have something unique to say in her cover letter. It stood out among a sea of others, and you can do the same thing with your pitches.
And there you go! I really hope this helps some of you out and answers some of the questions you wish you could ask an editor about pitching. If there’s anything else you want to know that I didn’t answer, leave me a note in the comments!
What’s your best pitching advice?