This is pretty dweeby, but I’m doing a pitching workshop with the Walrus interns tomorrow and I thought I’d post a version of the handout I’ll give them. Although writing a magazine pitch seems pretty basic, I still get a lot that fall far short of what you’d expect from a simple query letter. These are guidelines, of course, not hard-and-fast rules, and a lot of great writers can churn out pitches that don’t check all of these boxes—but the thing is that they’re great writers. Anyway, curious freelancers, here you go:
What makes a good magazine pitch?
1. Solid, novel angle
Why is this story unique? Has it been written before? What’s the takeaway for the reader?
2. Thorough research
Can the editor tell that you’ve done your groundwork, or are you just saying what you “hope to” discover? Do the sources, subjects, and data to back up your story even exist, or are you just assuming that they do?
3. Sense of writing style and quality
Is your pitch elegant and well-written (without being flowery or showy)? Does it give the editor a chance to figure out whether you’re even capable of writing the piece?
4. The elements of a good story
Does your pitch introduce the editor to the necessary elements of the piece? Does your story have a narrative? Characters? Colour? Conflict?
5. Confident but polite
Why are you the person to write this story? Why is this outlet the best place to tell this story? What are your qualifications and experience? Is your pitch confident without being presumptuous?
- Greet editor and introduce yourself
- Anecdotal lede that doubles as possible first graf of story
- Expository graf: context, numbers, etc.
- Expansion on 2 and 3
- Practical info: your qualifications, when this piece could run, etc.
- “Thanks for your time. Please let me know what you think.”
Fundamentally: you need a story, not a subject.