Today’s post is written by Lisa Kilian, of What Not To Do as a Writer. Thanks, Lisa!
When I was younger and dumber than I am now, I decided to make some fast cash by pitching paying publications. I had never pitched before, but how hard could it be? People were doing it all the time!
So I came up with some fantastic ideas, looked up which publications were most likely to take my ideas, and then sat down at my computer to type up a pitch.
Nothing came out. I sat for hours trying to come up with witty phrases to match my soon-to-be witty headline (as soon as I thought of it) but it was no use. With a blank email open, the knowledge that the editor in question had seen tons of emails from better writers than me, and the fact that I just didn’t know what I was doing yet stopped me from continuing. I closed the email and decided to get an extra job.
Luckily, I didn’t give up on writing and it wasn’t until I wrote my first guest post that I finally gave pitching a second chance.
Pitching is an Essential Skill
Whether you want to be a freelancer or you want to write your own novels, pitching is an essential skill every writer must possess. One day you are going to have to write a log line, proposal, or query letter to a Very Important Person and knowing how to squish your fantastic idea into 200 words or less and still make it sound fantastic may be the difference between a yes and a no.
The fact that your ability to sell your writing (something of which many writers are not fans) could be the difference between success and failure stops many writers from even attempting a pitch. Worse, when they do finally write a pitch or query, their writing comes out stilted and stiff—a clear indicator that fear is present.
And the last thing you want is an editor thinking you’re scared.
So, try to think of it this way: Pitching is a lot like riding a bike. The first time is tough, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll never forget how to ride. And of course, when you take your first ride, only an absentminded father or bratty brother would think riding on the pavement is a good idea. No! Everyone tries riding a bike in the grass first.
Start where the road is smooth and soft—practice your pitching with a guest blog.
There are blogs we bookmark and blogs we read religiously. Your first pitch should go to the blog you love best, the one you’re constantly tweeting, commenting on, linking to—the blog that would break your heart if it ever closed up shop.
You know this blog and you know it well. And chances are, the author knows you too— even if you’re never said a word to each other.
Be a Socialite
Of course, if you have spoken to the author before, then you’re on even better ground. Leave comments—better yet, leave replies to other comments. Start discussions with other readers and the blog author. Get her eyes on you, not because you’re trying to be an attention-grabbing rabble rouser, but because you’re genuinely interested in what she and her readers have to say.
Friend her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. Join in on the conversations there (as long as the conversation is open.) Whatever you do, just be yourself. You’re here first to make friends and grow as a professional. Networking is purely a by-product of that.
Keep it real.
Once you’ve found a blog you love, have conversed with the author once or twice, and have come up with an idea that is perfect and has not been done before, you can consider pitching. Actually, don’t think of it as pitching. Think of it as just another email to a colleague. After all, you’ve already had conversations with this person! She knows you! She likes you! You’re not pitching an unsolicited manuscript—you’re sharing an idea with a friend. And your email should reflect that.
Just state the facts: I have this extremely interesting idea, I know you haven’t covered it yet on your blog—would you be interested in seeing the article?
Compliment the blog if you want, just don’t go gushy. If you have a blog, provide a link to it in your email signature or bio. And then, that’s it. You’re cut off. Proofread, press send, and move on.
And take comfort in this fact—the first pitch is always the hardest. But once you’ve done it, it can become quite addictive.
Lisa Kilian’s first guest post was with her most favorite blog, Beyond the Margins. Since then, her essays have appeared on Best Damn Creative Writing Blog, Fear of Writing and she has work forthcoming from Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds. Read more of her work at What Not To Do as a Writer and follow her @LisaKilian.