Back when I was a baby freelancer, pitching felt like a mystery. I knew in theory how to write an article pitch, sure, but they were usually half-baked. I usually didn’t know what the what was yet and wanted an editor to tell me what to do.
In the last nearly two years as a full-time freelancer I’ve come to appreciate how much research and tailoring needs to go into a pitch if you want to place an article in a major magazine. Not only do you need to know why you’re pitching the story to a particular editor at a particular magazine, but you need to have a convincing case as to why they should care. This takes a ton of time to prepare, but when all those elements align, you’ll have a much better success rate.
When you’re just starting out as a journalist, it’s also hard to find good examples of successful pitches. So I thought I’d share this recent successful magazine article pitch of mine:
Hi, [editor’s name],
I’m a freelancer here in Cincinnati, and [mutual acquaintance] suggested I get in touch with you about this story I’m working on.
A man trained as a kosher butcher emigrated from Lithuania in 1886 to serve an orthodox Jewish congregation in Cincinnati. Behr Manischewitz eventually became the patriarch of a mechanized matzo empire that led the world in matzo production — and ruffled rabbinical feathers. The family’s history illustrates the story of Jewish life in Cincinnati: Like many Jews, they settled in the West End in the late 1880s and moved to Avondale as they became more affluent in the 20th century. Eventually, the Manischewitz headquarters moved to New Jersey in 1930, and Cincinnati’s matzo fame waned. But Behr and his wife remain buried in Covedale.
I’ve done extensive research on the family in local archives and would love to tell the Manischewitz story for Cincinnati Magazine. There’s a wealth of interesting historical imagery and maps to go with the story, and I have a few ideas for interview subjects.
My writing credits include Wired, HOW, Family Tree Magazine and other national publications. This story could be great for April 2014 to coincide with Passover. What do you think?
- I had already done about three months of research by the time I wrote my pitch.
- This was a cold pitch — I had never worked with Cincinnati Magazine before.
- I sent this pitch in June 2013, proposing it for the April 2014 issue. That might seem excessively early, but I got a call back within a week and sold the story. It was due in January 2014, which gave me even more time to research.
You can read my piece about the Manischewitz family in Cincinnati Magazine’s April 2014 issue.
Another great suggestion, Grace; thanks for pointing this one out as well! It can be hard to know exactly what you need to do behind the scenes to score a win, especially if you haven’t yet got one!