Once you know the publication, section, editor and story idea you want to pitch, you're ready to send a pitch email! If you want the nitty gritty details about what exactly to put in a pitch email, this episode is for you.
I break it down specifically with all of the nerdy minutiae:
1. "To" address: Make sure you have an editor's email here. Unless the publication instructs otherwise, as Quartz Ideas does with its [email protected] address or the New York Times Opinions section does with its [email protected] that all the section editors can access, make sure you have a specific email for a specific editor so your email doesn't disappear into the void with thousands of other pitches.
2. Subject line: This one of the most important sections of your email because editors will see this before anything else, and it'll encourage them to click (or not). First and foremost, indicate that you're a writer sending a pitch by starting with something like "Writer pitch: xx." This will set you apart from PR people emailing the editor, as well as any other random emails they may receive. After the colon, type out a headline or news hook that includes specifics to catch the editor's eye. For instance, someone is far more likely to click on "Writer pitch: Angles that make your selfie look better" than "Writer pitch: Story idea about selfies." Go ahead and give them the good stuff.
3. Salutation: Keep this professional, and make sure you use a specific name, which shouldn't be an issue if you used a specific email. NEVER use "To Whom It May Concern," which I've caught students doing before. Don't do it! That's a surefire way to get your email deleted. Also, check your spelling. I'm sure you have similar stories — I've been called "Carole," "Caroline," "Christy" and "Christie" more times than I care to count. Guess which ones don't get responses (or get sarcastic responses) right off the bat?
4. First sentence/paragraph: If the editor has opened your email, this is the moment to hook them or lose them, so start with the most interesting or important fact of your piece. If you've done enough reporting or are quite familiar with the topic, this is a good place to try your "lede" or intro sentence. DON'T talk about yourself first — editors want to know about the story first.
5. Second sentence/paragraph: Now that you've wooed 'em, give 'em the "so what." Why this story? Why now? What's the point here in a local or national context? For experienced journalists, this is the place to put your "nut graf."
6. Nuts and bolts sentence/paragraph: You got 'em, so now it's time to impress and show you've done your homework. What section of the publication would this piece appear in? How long would it be? What sources do you intend to use or have you already nailed down? Do you have an interesting quote you can already share? Any details here can seal the deal, especially if you mention "extras" such as sidebar content, graphics or web-only content.
7. Why you?: Now the final sentence/paragraph should talk about who you are and why you're covering this piece. Do you have experience or expertise with this topic? Do you have previous writing clips? (If so, link them here. NO attachments.) Do you have a connection to a source that will make you an obvious choice for this piece over someone else? If you feel lacking here, don't stress and don't downplay yourself. Just briefly say why you're a fit for this story and move on. Don't give them any room to guess or hesitate by hearing Imposter Syndrome symptoms from you.
8. Closing: As with the salutation, keep this professional and don't belabor it or sound desperate. A brief "Thank you for considering it" or "I look forward to hearing back from you" or the call-to-action "Would this be a good fit for Runner's World?" is just fine.
9. Signature and signature line: Whether you have an auto-signature set in your email client or type it in specifically for this pitch, make sure you include contact info, your website and other relevant details for your expertise.
And that's it! More details in the episode, of course, so tune in. And, as always, let me know if you have any questions.