Amy Gray: Successful pitch examples and understanding editors
If I were Leslie Knope, I would constantly refer to Amy Gray as a generous, smart and genius-level ginger tabby cat. Her bylines are many, her game is strong, and she has kindly agreed to share some of her past successful pitches, with commentary. (And basically tips on everything else, too.) She has given us not one, not two, not three, but SIX WHOLE PITCHES to look at with wonder. We thank you, Amy. LAP IT UP, ALL! And follow Amy on Twitter.
I am a full time freelance writer. My time is spent either pitching or thinking about pitches. I aim for 3 to 5 articles per week, which can mean up to 7 pitches or more per week.
Most articles are an attempt to answer a question the writer is tumbling over in their head. The trick is to convince editors your question is an interesting one.
First up, you’re not just submitting work from a remote place to an organisation. You’re pitching to a person. You should be trying to develop a relationship with editors. Get to know them and how they work.
The more you write, the more your pitches will vary based on your relationship with the editor. You get to know them better and – through that constant agitation of acceptance and rejection – you learn what gets them interested, how they respond and how they work. Plus, they get to know you and will start contacting you with specific commissions.
Central to this is understanding that most editors are completely overworked and haven’t got time to hold anyone’s hands. Your job isn’t just to write, your job is to somehow make an editor’s job easier: your pitch needs to arrive in a format that suits them, at a time that suits them, and gives them the information they need to make a decision for an audience you had better understand.
Understand their schedules – when do they have their daily/weekly meeting to discuss stories? Get your pitches a minimum of two hours before (more applicable for print news op-ed).
Understand what they want – not only by reading their publications but, if possible, meeting or talking with them and finding out their interests. This is where you discover their pet interests and preferred working style, information that helps refine your pitch. Can’t talk or meet with them? Read their social media for clues.
Understand what you want to say – what is the topic and how will you answer it? Unless you have at least 3 months of regular writing with them under your belt, there should be no surprises between pitch and submitted piece. Tell them the issue, your argument and if there are particular elements you’re going to include.
The easier you make an editor’s life, the more likely you are to get published.