For freelance writers, pitching to editors and clients is a big part of the job. Often it’s a numbers game. The more pitches you send (here we’re talking about high-quality pitches, not mass emails where you throw spaghetti at a wall to see what sticks), the more work you land and the more money you can earn. In this instance, it’s useful to have a pitching email template handy.
But remember, pitches (or queries, as they’re sometimes called) need to be carefully thought out and tailored to each recipient. Copy and paste an old pitch for a new recipient and you risk mentioning the name of a column at a competing publication, including outdated information or missing the mark by not customizing the pitch to the right audience. Remember, queries are not one-size-fits-all!
That said, some aspects of a pitch can be reused or repurposed to save time and streamline the process. We rounded up several examples of successful pitching email templates that you can use as inspiration for crafting your own.
Tell a Story, Be Conversational
Successful Query Letter to Parenting Magazine: Veteran freelance writer Diana Burrell shares the pitch that landed her a $2,000 feature assignment with Parenting Magazine. She opens with an anecdote from her own family, then broadens the point-of-view to explain why other parents will learn from her article and how her article will be formatted. She ends with a short bio and closing. My hunch is that her creative formatting idea (a field guide for parents explaining the differences between “The Overstimulated Ogre” and the “Bedtime Beast”) made her pitch irresistible to the editor.
Query That Rocked: Health Magazine: In this detailed query for Health magazine, writer Alicia Potter describes bodily sounds and why they could be a symptom of bigger health issues. What made her pitch stand out was she began the query by telling a story, which gave the editor more emotion and perspective. Then, she included a full outline of her article idea to follow.
3 Guest Post Pitch Emails that Got the Gig: If you’re interested in guest blogging as a way to promote yourself or build links, this post is a must-read. It includes three examples of pitches for guests posts that Carol Tice of Make a Living Writing accepted, along with her comments on those messages. Note that these emails tend to be a little more casual than pitching a magazine or website but they still need to present their idea in a clear and concise manner.
The Open Notebook’s Pitch Database: If you’re interested in science journalism, you’ll want to bookmark this one. This database includes dozens of successful pitches for science stories to The Atlantic, Discover, The Economist, The Los Angeles Times and others, along with a link to the published story. You can search by publication or by writer.
Four Successful Pitches for This American Life: Radio programs follow a different format than written publications, so it’s super helpful that the popular public radio program published four examples of pitches for stories that eventually landed on the show.
Some Useful Checklists Before You Hit Send
All About Query Letters: WOW! Women on Writing editor Angela Miyuki Mackintosh offers a detailed dissection of queries to magazine editors and book publishers. She breaks down the query into four sections and discusses strategies for each one: 1) lead/hook and pitch 2) supporting material 3) bio 4) conclusion/closer.
Sample Query Letter to an Inflight Magazine: This query follows the format outlined above to pitch a feature story to Inflight Magazine on the farm-to-table trend. Ensure you don’t miss a step in your story pitch by completing all eight steps. Click the comments to view more insights into the writer’s thought process in different sections.
Templates for Other Communications to Complement Your Pitch
Editors Tell All: What Subject Lines Work Best?: Writers tend to labor over their pitches and leave the subject line as an afterthought. However, the subject line is a crucial piece to your pitch since it’s the first message an editor sees. At this point they can decide whether or not to give time to your idea.
A “Blind” LOI: Sometimes it makes more sense to pitch yourself rather than a specific story idea to an editor or potential client, and that’s where a letter of introduction (LOI for short) comes in. Veteran freelancer and ghostwriter Kelly James-Enger shares an example of a LOI she emailed in response to a craigslist ad.
How to Write a Steller Writer’s Bio: Unless you’ve worked with that editor or client before, your query should include a paragraph that answers the question “Why are you the one who should write this story?” This post explains how to write a bio and includes an example. Your writer bio is perfect for templatizing so you can reuse it, but be sure to tweak your bio as you break into new markets or want to emphasize certain credits over others depending on the target market.
The Most Effective Follow-up You Can Write: Editors are busy, so you won’t always get a response to every query. That’s why it’s so important to follow up after a few weeks. In this post, James-Enger shares an example of a follow-up email she sent to an editor who hadn’t responded to her pitch. This is another example of a communication that’s easy to repurpose. Follow-up messages should be brief, so you don’t need to spend nearly as much time as you would on an initial message.
About the Author: Freelance journalist Susan Johnston Taylor covers entrepreneurship, small business and lifestyle for publications including The Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur and FastCompany.com. Follow her on Twitter @UrbanMuseWriter.