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3 Ways to Make Your Non-Fiction Article Pitch Stand Out
By: Robert Lee Brewer, Writer’s Digest
Here are three ways to make your nonfiction article pitch stand out and find more success as a freelance writer for magazines, websites, and other media that uses shorter nonfiction writing from an editor who’s assigned articles in various media.
“Always end your pitch with one last idea.”
Robert Lee Brewer
Writing nonfiction articles for magazines, websites, and other media is unlike nearly any other form of writing. That’s because so much of a writer’s success and failure is determined at the pitching stage. This can be both a good and bad thing. Good because you don’t have to start writing until it’s already been accepted or assigned; bad because many writers would rather write than pitch their writing.
Regardless of where you fall on the pitching/writing spectrum, it’s a fact that writers who can pitch well and write well are the ones that editors (like myself) turn to over and over again for new articles. Eventually, some writers begin to find that editors are pitching them (the writers!) on ideas, because they’ve become such a trusted part of the team.
It’s a great time to be a writer – because there are more places to tell stories, and more ways of telling them, than ever before. With print and online publications covering virtually every subject area today, and editors constantly seeking stories to run, along with dependable writers to write them, anyone with the right combination of skill, creativity and diligence can become a valued ongoing contributor and generate a reliable income stream from writing articles.
In online lectures, supplemental readings, and written assignments and exercises, we’ll talk about how to source, prioritize and develop topic ideas; compose and refine pitches to multiple outlets; stay tightly organized about submissions, follow-ups and correspondence; and execute assignments brilliantly – as well as why writers who query well, deliver on time and prove easy to work are gold to editors everywhere.
While there are several ways to pitch nonfiction articles for magazines and websites, here are three I know stand out.
- Get specific in your pitch. Imagine you’re pitching an article to a running magazine. If you pitch an article titled “5 Ways to Relieve Pain After a Run,” it might get accepted. But it could also be considered to broad a topic. A better one might be “5 Ways to Relieve Foot Pain After a Run” or even “5 Ways to Relieve Plantar Fasciitis After a Run.” Specific pitches make it easier for editors to visualize the article and how it fits with their other content.
- Offer up sources. For nonfiction, sources can help add authority to articles and pitches. Maybe you have access to some incredible expert on child psychology or money management (or whatever your article is covering). That could grab an editor’s attention. Likewise, you may have access to a new report or study that is of interest to the magazine’s target audience. If so, highlight that in your query.
- Unique story that resonates with many. Specificity tends to win the day, not only because it’s compelling for that one person, but it makes it easier to universalize truths from that one story. If you want to humanize homelessness, don’t pitch an article on how there are a bunch of homeless people. Instead, find a unique story that is tied to homelessness and let the story lead the way. Many healthy eating documentaries (like What the Health and Forks Over Knives) do this by following a few unique people and their stories which resonate with many.
One last tip: Always end your pitch with one last idea. Just include a sentence at the end that reads something like, “If that idea isn’t a fit at the moment, you might be interested in (headline of another article) that covers (whatever the article covers).” Sometimes, these one-line pitches are the ones that get me to say yes—or, at least, ask for more information.
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