Whether you’re a freelance writer looking for new gigs, a startup founder hoping to get a guest post published in a major industry publication, or a creative soul yearning to tell your story to an engaged audience, learning how to write a pitch is an essential skill.
While it’s easy to reel off an email sharing your idea with an editor, if your pitch isn’t solid, it’s unlikely it will ever see the light of day.
That said, learning how to write a pitch is a fine art, and we’re going to tell you how it’s done.
The three key ingredients of writing a pitch
There are certain factors you need to consider when crafting a pitch that an editor will want to review, and these are the three fundamental elements you need to consider.
Many people have an excellent idea and a unique angle. The problem is when they write their pitch, they fail to communicate it correctly.
A great deal of writers use the word “explore” in their pitches. The problem here is that telling an editor that you’re going to explore a subject shows a lack of research, preparation, or sources.
Even if you don’t have any sources for your article lined up, you can show that you’ve already put some work in. By offering the editor direction, outlining possible outcomes, and drilling down into a particular area of your subject matter, you will show that you’ve moved past the exploration stage and have thought about your idea in great detail.
In the consumer world, 33 percent of email recipients open an email based on subject line alone. When you’re pitching your content idea to an editor, the same notion applies.
To ensure your email gets read in the first place, you should start your subject line with the word “PITCH:” to make it easier for your editor to spot. Your subject line should summarize your idea in 50 characters or less. You also should write it in the active tense for added power and punch.
Within the pitch itself, you should write in the active tense where possible. Write in short, digestible paragraphs and try not to exceed the 350-word mark. Editors want something engaging, informational, and concise — so that’s the aim of the game.
Write in the same tone of voice as you would in the article itself. This will showcase your skills and personality, and give your editor a taste of what’s to come if they commission your pitch.
We’ve covered the level of detail you need to include in our presentation, but in this instance, what we mean by detail is where you should end your pitch.
A host of hopefuls with stunning ideas get overlooked when they write a pitch because they stop where the story begins. While you don’t want to write a full-on essay, you do want to hook your editor in and make them say, “yes, we need to run this.”
It’s not enough to do a sterling job outlining the background of your idea in an engaging tone of voice and rounding it off with, “I would like to write a 1,000-word piece about what I’ve learned.” Instead, conclude with some anecdotal details that back up your article (if it’s a personal-style essay), or some of the headers and points you’re going to use to fortify your content (if you’re writing something more informational or product-based).
Pro tip: Don’t end your pitch where just when it starts to get really interesting. Add those extra few details, and you’ll get your editor’s attention.
4 mistakes to avoid when writing a pitch
To help you in your quest to write a pitch that gets the results you no doubt deserve, here are four particular blunders that you should avoid at all costs:
- Don’t use blanket flattery, such as, “I’m a big fan of your work,” without providing any details about specific campaigns or articles. Doing this to get on an editor’s good side — unless you really mean it and it’s relevant to your pitch — is transparent and will detract from your pitch.
- Don’t explain every single detail of your article. Editors don’t have time to read them. Remember, your pitch is a concise, flowing outline that communicates the core details of your idea. Nothing more, nothing less.
- Unless they’re 100-percent exclusive or completely pivotal to your pitch, don’t send attachments in the hope that an editor will check them out. Share your idea in the pitch email itself. If you need to, send links within the body of the email.
- Never pitch an idea that has already been covered and dress it up with a slightly different angle. Doing so will only show your lack of care, commitment, or research and ensure your pitch ends up in the virtual trash can. Know all you need to know about the editor and the publication before writing your pitch.
Checklist for how to write a pitch
Last, but certainly not least, here’s a checklist to help make sure you include all the essentials in your pitch:
- Have you read and understood the pitching guidelines of your target publication?
- Have you researched your editor and the articles currently published in your target publication?
- Have you worked on your email subject line?
- Have you researched and outlined your idea as a mini narrative?
- Have you made sure your pitch is written in the right tone for your article and includes all of the key info?
- Have you specified the type of piece you’d like to produce, for example, personal essay, how-to, or listicle?
- Have you edited your pitch as much as possible, keeping it short, concise, engaging, and informational?
Did you answer yes to all? Great, you’re good to go.
Writing the perfect pitch is a fine art, and while we can’t guarantee you results every time, following these tips will enhance your chances of pitching success, exponentially.