For those without access to mentors, MFA programs or an established community
I posted a thread about some basic pitching practices on Twitter the other day and the response was incredible. That’s why I’ve decided to flesh out this guide and give my readers something they can really werk with.
I covered All Of Da Tings #1–5 in Part 1 so be sure to check that! Let’s go!
DaTings #6: Link Up.
If you already have other publications that are similar to the pitch you are submitting, awesome. If you don’t, that’s okay too.
Publications will let you know what they need or require when you check their pitch guidelines. The pitch guidelines can serve two purposes.
- Helping the editor evaluate a pitch quickly and easily. Each publication has a different way of evaluating the effectiveness of a pitch and will require different elements in the pitch. Editors get thousands of emails every week and a pitch that doesn’t adhere to their guidelines is one that is likely to be rejected.
- It could help you get your pitch across clearly. A number of publications break down what they are looking for, even providing samples of pitches or essays they’ve accepted. Take these seriously. They could help you edit your pitch and cater it successfully to the publication.
A lot of publications strongly suggest links to previous publications — but do not require them. This is great news for fresh freelancers.
It means that you don’t have to even have a big long resume to get started! #YasQween
Read every publication’s pitching guidelines carefully and thoroughly. If your dream pubs guidelines require a link to previous publications BUT you don’t currently have any other links because you’re brand spankin’ new — consider submitting your pitch to a different publication.
I definitely believe you should go for the big pubs. But only submitting to big pubs, without any previous professional work to show, can lead to a ton of rejections.
If they don’t ask for links, just act like you pitch all the time and leave any reference to links out of the email. Don’t burn yourself early by telling them I’ve never been published before or this is my first time pitching. Confidence is key here. DON’T let your fear keep you from pressing send.
And remember, your favorite writer had to start somewhere!
DaTings #7: Sit Down.
This is one of the hardest parts of this whole process. After you’ve finally pressed the send button and overcome your greatest fear — rejection — you now have to wait, hoping to hear back from your dream publication that the editor loved your pitch and wants to give you money for your words!
The truth is — it could take anywhere from one day to three months to hear back from some publications.
The bigger and more popular the publication, the longer it takes to hear back. Several publications take up to as much as six months to respond.
Pro-tip: Don’t rush them. In most of their pitch guidelines, they will let you know their regular turn-around time. Only query your pitch after that specified time. You want to be on the editor’s good side when they read your pitch, so don’t push it.
Feel free to submit your pitch (adjusted to fit the tone and style of each individual publication) to several magazines or journals simultaneously. Unless a journal or magazine clearly states that they do not accept simultaneous submissions, give yourself your best shot. But be careful!
Pro-Tip: Your dope idea could be at risk if it’s shared with too many people. Choose who you send your work to wisely and regularly check with the writing community to get feedback about experiences with a questionable publication.
DaTings #8: This is a marathon. Lace up.
Freelancing can be super life-affirming.
You could literally have your work featured in a magazine you’ve read since you were a kid. Or you could interview stars you’ve only seen on TV. Yooooo! You could get a press pass at Essence Fest 2020! You could get an all-expense paid trip around the world and eat free at a five-star Michelin restaurant for one of your coveted reviews! (Okay, that last one is my personal dream.) The point is, a lot of great things can come with freelance writing.
You could have more time and flexibility to take care of yourself or your fam or whatever it is that moves you. You could work for yourself, picking and choosing where you want your writing to live.
It can be incredibly freeing to work for yourself — but you need to make sure you prepare mentally and professionally for the move. It could take months to build up the skills you need to pitch and receive clients regularly, so make a plan and stick to it. Here are a few tips.
- Research your pitch before sending it to anyone. Double check to make sure the publication you’re interested in has not covered your topic already. They will reject a good pitch if they have already covered it a lot.
- Set a schedule for pitching. Sending out one pitch a week will not bring in a steady income. If you want to make freelancing your full-time job, you will have to be pitching a lot more. Look at your personal budget and look at your bandwidth for pitches. Set a goal that matches your needs and stick to it.
- Make it easy for publications to find you and your previous work. That could mean building a website, cleaning up your social media sites, or establishing a new presence online. It makes you look more professional and gives the editor more confidence in you overall.
It does take consistency and ingenuity to really see a stable income.
Da Tings #9: #PitchThisLit
Below are social media accounts to follow if you are looking to pitch magazines, journals, or papers that are open to voices from underrepresented backgrounds such as women, people of color, LGBTQIA+, and more. If you want to get an article or essay published in the next six months — follow these guys and check in regularly for updates.
Writers of Color
They post new writing opportunities from around the country every 1–3 days. They require that most retweeted opps list the pay with the position, which means you’ll know up front if a pitch is worth your time. Also — sassiest pro-account in the Twitter lit game.
@Writers of Color on Twitter.
Poets and Writers Inc
They post for primarily academic or traditional publishing opportunities. This is a great resource for people interested in traditional publishing opportunities or applying to grants and awards later in their career.
@poetswritersinc on Twitter.
The Write Life
Tons of articles telling you who pays and what to do about writer’s block. A great resource for any new writer.
@thewritelife on Twitter
They are actually great for all freelancers, not just writers. They drop knowledge daily and highlight #blkcreatives making moves. Definitely a mood.
@blkcreatives on Twitter.
I hope this Hood Chick’s Guide to Pitching gives you the confidence you need to get started with your own freelance writing career AND I hope these resources help you find the perfect opportunity. Up next is the Hood Chick’s Guide to Poetry Publication!
If any of these tips helped you, let me know in the comments below!