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Monday, March 17, 2014

Why Your Pitch Didn't Sell

Pitching and getting rejected is part of freelancing. But wouldn't you rather pitch more effectively--and sell more of your ideas from the outset?

As writers, we sometimes get caught up with what our own great ideas. I've been guilty of this, too. I come up with an idea that I think is compelling, and I write the pitch. I craft a strong lead, give plenty of detail about how I plan to approach the piece, and highlight my unique qualifications. Then it doesn't sell, and afterwards, I realize I neglected an essential element--why readers of the publication I pitched will care about the story.  

In fact, you must demonstrate this in every pitch, especially markets that are new to you. Remember that a solid query has four elements: 

  • A lead to catch the editor's attention; 
  • More detail about the topic to prove that the topic will work for this market, what I call the "why-write-it" section;
  • The "nuts and bolts," where you explain how you plan to approach the topic; and
  • The ISG, or "I'm-so-great," where you highlight your unique qualifications to write the piece. 

You make your case for the story in the "why write it" section. Here are some examples of how I've demonstrated why readers will care about a topic: 

  • When pitching a woman's magazine a health feature on the surprising causes of fatigue, I cited a recent survey that stated that "fatigue" was in the top ten health complaints for women. I was assigned a 1,800-word piece at $2,5000. 
  • When pitching a true life feature about a woman who had a mysterious disease, I highlighted the inherent drama of the story, including the fact that she had sought treatment from the world-renowned Mayo Clinic--and the doctors there had told her she wasn't sick. (She in fact was very ill.) I was assigned a 1,000-word story for $500.  
  •  When pitching a piece on heart rate training for a men's body building magazine, I pointed out that most men who lift hate doing cardio (they'd much rather pump iron) but that my article would show them how to do it more effectively and efficiently. I was assigned a 1,200-word piece for $1,200. 
  • When pitching a health website about the connection between religious weight loss programs, I cited both their growing popularity posture and the fact that one of the program directors had a current, best-selling book. I was assigned a 700-word piece for $700. 
Get the idea? Look at your idea and make sure you can demonstrate to the editor why her readers will be interested in the topic. You'll boost your chance of getting the assignment! 

**Today is one of my favorites holidays--St. Patrick's Day. In honor of my Irish grandmother, Colleen, and my daughter's Irish "first mom," Chaleigh, I'm offering a special offer on my Improvise Press titles. For a limited time, you'll get 25 percent off of the cover price of Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money, Second Edition, and Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets, when you use the discount code SHAMROCK (all caps). 


  1. Kelly, this is great, thanks!
    I've been a freelancer for a couple of years now, and while queries no longer freak me out (most of the time), I realize sometimes I do forget about pointing out why my story will resonate with the readers. Bookmarked as a checklist:)