11 Mistakes You Are Making When Pitching a Story

The only reason your content isn’t out there is: You.

Orge Castellano
Feb 7, 2018 · 5 min read
Photo by Patrick Fore

Just wrapped up your story? What’s next? Well, it is time to sell it, my friend. Your voice and ideas won’t reach the world if you don’t master the art of pitching. Luckily, I’m here to save you from making the same mistakes over and over again. Ready? Let’s do this.

Enlisted below are some of the reasons why your pitches keep getting into an abyss of silence and rejection:

1. You are not pitching

Number one crime. It sounds so simple, yet many talented writers are not doing it. If you want your story to be picked up and published, you just have to go ahead and ask for it, literally. Editors rarely come knocking at your door. Steve Jobs once famously said:

2. Not following the guidelines

They exist for a reason. To guide you. So, adhere to them. Submission guidelines help you understand what a publication wants from you. Every single publisher has one, usually, they are available on their websites. If they are not, then this might mean that they are not accepting ideas at the moment. But then again, how would you know if they are not if you don’t ask?

3. Copy is not clean enough

Editors have a keen eye for detail. An article that is filled with typos or grammatical errors is a huge red flag for them. Your work is also your presentation card. If you’re not being clean or clear enough, an editor might think you’re not adequate for publication just yet. You can always ask someone who’s great at grammar and language to proofread your material for you.

4. The story has been covered

Propose ideas that are original and haven’t yet be covered by the publication. Sometimes the problem is not that your idea is bad. It’s just that in some cases, it has already been done or they are currently working on a piece similar to yours.

Ask yourself: Has this story been published before? Why would their readers care about it?

In a world so full of ideas, don’t think you’re the only one who came up with a single one in particular. Instead, reframe your story, change the angle, and go back and re-pitch it again.

5. Not knowing their audience

Pitches have to be tailored in order to get to that intended audience. If you are writing about, let’s say: sex and alcohol, then you have to send it to an edgy publication that might want to publish it. E.g., HuffPost or Vice.

Writers often make the mistake of sending articles to sites that are not appropriate for their pieces. Don’t send an article on “Christian values” to a satirical or scientific outlet. Do your homework, and become familiarized with the publication beforehand.

6. Too lengthy

I can’t stress this enough. Do some research first. Don’t send a 10,000-word feature to a publication that only publishes material no longer than 600-words on their website. Keep your pitch brief and clear. Long-winded pitches are at risk of ending up in the trash folder. Explain your idea, what is compelling, and why they should publish it.

7. Sending the ‘entire’ thing

Bear in mind that editors might get easily discouraged if they see the whole article attached. Maybe because they are hoping to discuss the idea further with you or they don’t have enough time to read it. I would recommend not to give them the “whole thing”. Instead, write a short abstract or include a pair of excerpts from your piece. You want to leave them yearning for more.

8. Writing the same message

Every publication has its own philosophy, style — motto if you will. If the same generic message is copied to every editor, it will show, and believe me they will notice it. If you want to sell your story, be sure to personalize each pitch with some context and background.

9. You are committing spam

As a writer, you don’t want to overdo it. Keep it casual. If you haven’t heard from the editor in a week, send them a follow-up email. Be wary and try not to be too pushy or persistent because this might result in your pitch ending up in the spam folder or worse, you being blacklisted, and you don’t want that to happen.

10. You are boring them

Imagine the number of pitches editors receive every single day. Your job is to impress them, to stand out from the rest. If you want to get published, you might as well want to catch their attention. You can do this by being relatively short and quick-witted in your introduction.

E.g.: “Time magazine just rejected an article I wrote titled: ‘Getting high at work: America’s newest pastime’ Are you sure you want to pass on it as well?”

11. You forgot to follow up

Journalists are busy. Glitches happen. Pitches get lost sometimes in the information superhighway. Whatever the reason is, don’t just sit there and wait. Make sure to follow up.

Stories rarely get picked on the first contact. If you believe in your idea and you think is a good fit, go ahead and write them again. However, try not to be too persistent though. That’s annoying. Give it time. I’d say a week is a good amount of time to do a follow-up.

Treat your pitch as a piece of art and try to build a relationship with the editor/journalist you contact at the same time. Make every word count, you don’t have enough time to catch their attention so you make it a meaningful one.

Never give up and don’t ever let rejection get you down because you’re trying and you if you are committed then don’t fret, success awaits you.

Don’t lose faith and keep submitting. Good Luck!

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