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Pitching Major Publications

Mary Cantando

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I write for two national women's business magazines, but I never pitched them; they approached me, so I don't know how to do this. I want to pitch an article to more generic publications, such as USA Today or Business Week. How do I do this? If you have had success doing this, will you share your process?

-- Fern Reiss

Pitching articles to major magazines is similar to pitching literary agents on books. These are the essential components:

First paragraph: The hook. Imagine the one-line description of the article as a TV Guide show. What is the one sentence? What makes your article unique? Who is the audience, and why will they want to read it? Consider starting with an intriguing question -- and make sure it *is* intriguing: ("Wouldn't you like to be paid to shop?" is intriguing; "Have you ever wondered about gastritis?" is not intriguing.) Even if it's a straight, factual article, consider starting with a dramatic anecdote: "Barbara Smith didn't realize that her decision to undergo liposuction would cause her to shed not only pounds -- but also brain cells." Or start with a success story: "Fern Reiss, CEO of Expertizing.com/PublishingGame.com, has been quoted in over 100 US publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Fortune Magazine." Or the risks of *not* reading the article: "Diabetes is a time bomb waiting to go off in 50% of Americans." The more interesting facts and figures in your lead, the better: "Over 58,000 small publishers generate an estimated $14 billion in book sales annually." Make the editor sit up and say, "Wow, I didn't know that -- and that's interesting!"

Second paragraph: Why are you writing to this particular editor and magazine? ("Because of Redbook's appeal to 30-something career women with families, etc.")

Third paragraph: The bio. Parade your credentials *for this particular piece.* In one sentence, explain why you are the best person to be writing this article: "As someone who has both successfully self-published and successfully worked with a literary agent, my article on "The Publishing Game" etc. Include prior writing credits -- the more impressive, and more similar to this publication, the better. If you have a national following on this topic (for your articles, speeches, website) mention that. If your educational background is relevant (or prestigious) mention that. (If an editor for another magazine with whom you've worked suggested you contact this editor, definitely mention that!)

Fourth paragraph: The close. Offer to send the complete article. And then ask for the sale -- say something like, "I look forward to hearing from you soon." (Remember to include complete contact details.)

If you mention that you're already a regular columnist for two national women's business magazines, you probably won't have any trouble pitching a third!

-- Robert Skoglund

I've written to people I've seen on TV or have read in newspapers. Most get back to me. Last week one guy I watched for an hour on CSpan called me in response to my email. (Admittedly, they see Maine Public Radio in my signature and figure it is a chance to hawk their books.) I would write to the people with bylines and ask them how they squeezed in.

Editors also read mail. Two of the three letters I sent to USA Today were published, so I know someone there has an eye out for clever stuff. Should work the same for a monthly column.

-- Dr. Doris Jeanette

It took me years to pitch with confidence. I found a mechanical, quick, hard pitch was not effective, at least for me, in my area of expertise. When I relaxed, as with most relationships in life, added a little heart and flavor to the interaction, then I started to get results. Caring about the editor and what she needs goes a long way toward success.

SpeakerNet News is produced by Rebecca Morgan and Ken Braly. It is not affiliated with the National Speakers Association. Send comments or suggestions