A guest post by Karen Andrews
Like many who work in the creative fields, I’ve worn many hats over my career: writer, blogger, editor, arts worker, publisher, teacher, mentor . . . the list goes on. I’ve navigated the digital space and the opportunities it provides while also working with (sometimes for) more traditional publications. I’ve talked with countless people about getting started with their writing, and one of the biggest issues I’ve encountered is that many writers either avoid or stop submitting their work due to fear of rejection. This is understandable.
In my book, Trust the Process: 101 Tips on Writing and Creativity I am as open and transparent as possible about my successes (and failures) in my own journey and share my knowledge, including giving specific, helpful tips. For instance, here’s an example of the kind of pitch email I send to editors.
I’m writing to submit the [proposed article idea], which is about [topic]. I feel this would be an excellent fit for your publication because [give a point of difference]. It will be [x] words in length and ready by [date]. I would be happy to send it along if you think it might be suitable. I’ve included a brief biography below which talks more about my work.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
[Brief thirty-word biography]
This pitch is the kind I send to editors who I haven’t worked with before and have had no prior connection with. This is why I included a very brief biography at the end of the email, to give a snapshot of my credentials and previous bylines.
There are two main ways you can pitch an article: you can pitch the idea of it (like I did above) or you can go the extra step and provide the piece ‘on spec’ (‘on speculation’). This means you are pitching an already-written article.
I usually recommend early-stage writers pitch ‘on spec’ for a couple of reasons. First, it requires commitment. You will have had to sit down and do the work. Second, some editors prefer to see the work of unfamiliar writers before making a decision; in some cases, this is the only way they’ll do so. My feeling is that you should take pains to make that editor’s ‘yes’ much easier to say.
What happens when you pitch a piece ‘on spec’ and it gets rejected? You try to find another home for it. What if it’s rejected again? And again? It can be frustrating, because you have invested the time without seeing any results. This is when having a blog can be handy, as the piece could conceivably find a home there, if it fits your niche.
This problem is why some writers prefer to go down the alternate route of pitching an idea first and only writing it once it’s been accepted. Established freelancers prefer to work this way, and it’s my preference, too – but I don’t dismiss supplying ‘on spec’. The world of online publishing can be fast-moving; staff turnovers happen. One month you might be talking to someone you know, and the next there’s a new editor in the seat. It really isn’t personal if they are unfamiliar with you or your work.
Also, writing ‘on spec’ allows me to decide whether I’m equipped to tackle a subject or not. I’ve pitched a piece on occasion and its rejection has been a relief because I’ve subsequently realised that it either wasn’t what I wanted to do or required more research than I initially thought.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: effective pitches are those that present a problem alongside its solution.
I hope that this tip will help anyone out there thinking about pitching their work to a publication. It’s not always easy, but it is rewarding. I wish you luck!
This article is an edited extract from Trust the Process: 101 Tips on Writing and Creativity, published this week by Miscellaneous Press. Trust the Process is available via Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and Booktopia.
Karen Andrews is an award-winning writer, author, editor, poet and publisher. Her work has appeared in journals and publications throughout Australia. She has blogged at karenandrews.com.au since 2006 and is one of the most established and popular parenting/personal bloggers in the country.