I have wanted to see my writing published since I was in middle school, writing a story in my notebook when I should have been working on the math problems in front of me. I would hear about undiscovered writers shooting to the top of the New York Times Bestseller list and about brave journalists uncovering schemes and stories, and I wanted to be them. It wasn’t until the end of college when I took a class dedicated to the freelance writer that I learned you could pitch ideas, put yourself out there, and see your name in print. It is possible. Below are a few tips to help you turn those pages into articles and stories.
Whether you would like to work on articles, short stories, or poetry, research is always the first step. Editors hate nothing more than time wasted, which includes reading a pitch or story that does not fit the description of what they are looking for. Rest assured that there is a home out there for your writing. Sometimes all it takes is a Google search.
Once you’ve found some places you’d like to submit to, be sure to take the research further. Read the submissions page carefully. Some places prefer that your manuscript include certain information, such as word count, name of author, and address. Others merely want a word document of your work containing nothing but the title. Many times an editor or submissions reader will see a manuscript sent in incorrectly and deem it a waste of their time. Don’t see your writing in the discard pile for something as simple as incorrect formatting.
How to Pitch
You have your article typed up and ready to go, you have a detailed list of magazines you would like to submit to, and now the next step is reaching out. I know from experience that this can sometimes be the hardest step in the process. Essentially, you need to sell not only your writing but you as an author as well. What makes your article stand out? What makes you the best person to write on this topic? Why should they chose you? Intimidating, isn’t it? While there is no sure-fire recipe for pitches, here are some tips to help you stand out:
- Research comes in handy yet again! If possible, find the name of the editor in charge of the magazine section you would like to submit to. By using their name in the pitch, it adds a personal touch and shows that you care enough about the magazine to look through it before submitting.
- Be very clear when writing your pitch. Explain who you are, the name of your article, the word count, and the subject. Explain why you think your article would be a good fit for the magazine. Use examples of articles they’ve published in the past that are similar to yours (NOT EXACT, but similar).
- If possible, cite examples of your past writing experience. Have you written on the subject before? If you are short on published examples, another tip is to convey why you are so enthusiastic about the subject. What made you want to write the subject in the first place?
- While it’s important to be clear in your pitch, you also must keep it brief. Chances are that whoever is reading your pitch is very busy. A decent pitch can be as short as two paragraphs and never longer than a page.
Yes, you heard me correctly. In many interviews famous writers have talked about their failures and the times they were rejected. It’s happened to the best of them and is merely a part of being a writer. While you should embrace the constructive criticism, never take it completely to heart. You can either edit your piece or submit it to another magazine and keep going.
Put Yourself Out There
I see author biographies in magazines from high school freshman, and I marvel at their bravery. I wish I had the knowledge and confidence to submit my work out sooner; after all, practice can only help you improve. So have faith in your craft and in the writing you’ve spent hours constructing. On the other hand, it is never too late to start writing and pitching. Even if you have only one story or article you want to see out there, make it happen.
Like most things, there are no guarantees that these tips will lead to published work, but if they help get you started, that’s good enough for me!