An effective pitch is a crucial ability for freelance writers in any field. Before publishing your article, editors and other content producers require an idea of what it is about.
By mastering the art of pitching stories and articles, you might enhance your professional connections with editors and producers and consequently have your work published.
We define what a story pitch is, describe why it’s critical, list the steps to pitching a story, and provide an example and template for a story pitch.
What Exactly is a story pitch?
A writer may use a pitch to entice a publisher to buy a story by summarizing the plot in a brief, engaging manner (up to 500 words or two paragraphs). A pitch is used to convince an editor, producer, or publisher to commission a piece.
An effective pitch is a crucial ability for freelance writers in any field. Before publishing your article, editors and other content producers require an idea of what it is about. By mastering the art of pitching stories and articles, you might enhance your professional connections with editors and producers and consequently have your work published.
For example, a journalist may email the editor of a newspaper or magazine to explain an idea for an article. The editor decides if the article idea fits their publication and if the journalist has the right qualifications to produce the piece. Similarly, a scriptwriter may pitch a screenplay to a movie producer, or an author might pitch an idea for a novel to their publisher. Though the exact content included in a pitch depends on what kind of industry you work in, many pitches have:
- An introduction that describes your story and its perspective
- An explanation of what differentiates your story from others and makes it important or interesting
- An expected deadline for the piece
- Your contact information
- A sample of your work
Why is it important to know how to pitch a story?
For professional writers, knowing how to pitch a story is helpful for getting their work published and developing professional relationships with publishers, editors and producers. Understanding the fundamentals and expectations of pitching a story may help you feel more confident when approaching publishers. It may help you become more successful at getting your ideas accepted.
It is also important to know the different ways to pitch a story. For freelance journalists, it is common to email editors with your story pitch. Authors or scriptwriters may pitch their work personally at writer conferences or to network producers or directors. Some publishers may require authors to pitch their work with a query letter.
How to pitch a story
Here are the steps to pitching your story:
1. Know the story you want to tell
No matter what industry you work in, the first step to pitching your story is knowing the story you want to tell. Identify the main narrative elements such as who the story is about, what the subjects do in the story, where the story takes place, why the action of the story takes place and how the events of the story happen. Knowing the story you want to tell may make it easier to summarize the most significant points in your pitch.
2. Research publications
Different publications produce content for various audiences. Before submitting your pitch, do your research to make sure the content you write is a good fit for the type of stories the publication produces. Some things to note in your research include the audience the publication targets, the genre of the stories they produce and whether they have already published any stories either on the same topic or a similar topic. By doing your research, you ensure you only pitch to publications that publish the content you want to write.
3. Follow the submission guidelines
The guidelines for submitting a pitch may vary depending on the industry in which you work. As part of doing your research, look for any submission guidelines specified by the publication and follow them. Most publishers include their submission guidelines on their website, but if no instructions are available, then you may consider contacting the publisher to ask for clarification. Following the submission guidelines may help you show professionalism, attention to detail and consideration for the expectations of the publisher.
4. Write a clear subject line for an email pitch
It is vital to use an eye-catching subject line when pitching over email, as many writers do. Unless specified otherwise, include the word ‘pitch’ in your subject line to notify the publisher that you are sending them an email.
You may include your proposed article title or a brief description of the subject in your subject line. If you write an engaging subject line, you can help ensure that the publisher does not miss your email.
5. Introduce your story with an engaging opening line
Though there are different ways to start your pitch, it is important to engage your reader’s attention with the first line. You might begin your pitch by writing a sentence that summarizes the main idea of your story, by asking a rhetorical question related to the piece or by describing a scene or action. Be straightforward in explaining what the story is about and what perspective you plan to take with it. Try to explain what actually happens in the story rather than the themes or ideas it wants to express.
6. Explain why they should publish your story
After describing the story you want to tell, explain why the story is urgent, interesting or meaningful for the publication’s target audience. Keep your explanation brief, but inform the publisher why their audience may be interested in your story. You may outline the primary sources or evidence you plan to use in the story or the key plot points that may engage the reader.
7. Include your credentials or qualifications
As a freelance writer, editors and publishers may not be familiar with your work. By including a few sentences about yourself near the end of your pitch, you can explain your credentials and relevant work experience to inform editors of your qualifications. In an email pitch, you might also include links to your portfolio or professional website so publishers can learn more about your work.
8. Thank them for their time
After presenting your pitch, thank the editor for their time and consideration. Even if they choose not to accept your pitch, it is important to acknowledge the value of the time they spent reading or listening to your ideas. As a freelance writer, establishing professional connections with publishers and editors may be helpful for developing relationships with others in the industry, which benefits your career over time.
Story pitch email template
Here is a template for pitching a story in an email:
To: [recipient’s name]
RE: PITCH: [concise subject line]
Hi, [first name of recipient],
[One to two paragraphs introducing the subject of your story and explaining why it is a good fit for the publication. The first sentence summarizes the main idea of the story and attracts the reader’s attention.]
[A few brief sentences introducing yourself or your credentials. You might include your contact information and links to your portfolio or professional website.]
[A brief statement to thank the recipient for their time.]