Ask a Freelancer: How Do I Handle These 3 Common Pitch Problems?By Nicole Dieker February 10th, 2015
There was a common theme with the batch of questions I received this week—a few had to do with the nuances of pitching ideas. So I’m going to switch up the format of the column this week and answer all three questions below.
Earlier this year I got into one of my favorite magazines. They ran the piece, I got great feedback, and my editor said to keep pitching. I pitched again over a month ago and got radio silence, even after my polite, well-timed follow-up email. Is there a way to get the attention of this editor back, and if not, is it appropriate to pitch another editor at the magazine?
One of the hard truths about writing is you can’t make someone pay attention to you. Especially when most communication takes places over email.
However, if you got great feedback and encouragement to keep pitching, chances are the editor’s radio silence has nothing to do with you.
There are plenty of reasons why an editor might not respond quickly: could be on vacation; could be experiencing health issues; could be transitioning into a new role at the magazine or getting a new job.
With that in mind, it is absolutely appropriate to pitch someone else at the publication. But make sure you are following any submission guidelines. If the guidelines advise sending all pitches to Editor A, don’t send a pitch to Editor B even if Editor A is not responding (that’s the publication’s issue to address, not yours).
When reaching out to the new editor, just mention some of the positive feedback you received and link to your published piece. With any luck, the second editor will quickly respond. If the editor does not, send one follow-up email and then start pitching other publications.
I’m getting back into freelancing. How many queries and pitches should I send out per week to get the ball rolling?
—Ready to Roll
Send out as many queries and pitches as you can effectively handle. Essentially, don’t pitch more work than you can deliver. A good rule of thumb is to imagine if everyone accepted all the pitches you sent—would you be able to write all of those drafts and meet your deadlines? It is unlikely that every pitch will get accepted, but be careful before sending out five queries per day.
Also, take time to research the publication’s target audience, recent popular articles, submission guidelines, and any available advice you can find online. I’ve spent anywhere from one afternoon to a few weeks getting to know a publication before pitching. It’s better to send out one quality pitch than three rushed ideas.
When I was trying to build my freelance career, there was a short period of time when I tried to send out one pitch per weekday. That’s a hard goal to meet if you are finding unique pitches meant for each prospective client. It took a significant amount of work to keep this up, and I wasn’t able to maintain the approach for very long.
As I started working with my client, I re-set my goal to one new pitch per week, which was much more manageable. You might want to consider something in between, such as two pitches per week or one pitch every other day. Adjust your pitch frequency as the ball continues to roll. Right now, for example, I rarely cold-pitch new publications because I have enough regular clients who are eager to publish my work. I hope the same thing happens to you!
I saw your advice column about securing sources before you pitch. What about the reverse? When securing an interview, is it wise to name the magazine you want to pitch in your initial email?
Early in my freelance career, when I contacted musician, author, and collaborator Alan Lastufka about an interview that was eventually published on The Billfold, I told Alan which publications I planned to pitch—and, because most places don’t like simultaneous submissions, the order in which I planned to pitch them.
This was a bad idea.
The first two publications I pitched turned me down, which meant instead of being able to send Alan an email that read, “Congratulations, your interview is going to run on The Billfold,” I had to tell him “These publications turned us down… but we’re running the interview on The Billfold!”
As much as you might like to impress a source by name-dropping Rolling Stone,don’t do it. Most people, especially creative people and entrepreneurs, don’t have much of a problem talking about themselves regardless of where an interview will be published. If you make promises you can’t keep, you’ll just end up disappointing your source and weakening your credibility, which is important if you plan on getting that source on the record in the future.
Your best bet is to stick to industries or genres: “I plan to pitch this to travel magazines” or “I’d like to write this for a personal finance publication.” That way, your source has a good sense of what types of publications you’re looking at without expecting you to land a print byline in a national magazine.
The next time you sit down to pitch a magazine, why not pitch Nicole Dieker an Ask A Freelancer question as well? She just might answer it in a future column, so send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.Image by zimmytws/Shutterstock; book:StillFx/Shutterstock