So you’ve finished writing your essay or article. You’ve read it over a thousand times and now you’re ready to send it to an editor. As writers, we’re told we really need to sell or “pitch” our pieces, but is it always necessary?
Every editor is different
I know. We’ve all been told a million times over that each editor is completely different from the next. Well, it’s true. Some editors want to get to know you, they want you to include something personal in your submission, but some editors will read your work regardless, whether you include your cat’s name in your submission email or not.
I submitted my Globe and Mail first-person essay shortly after I shotgun blasted queries for my first picture book to numerous publishers. (More on this later). I was “pitched” out. So when I sent my essay off, I decided to make my email brief. It worked.
Here’s my exact pitch.
Dear Submissions Editor,
Please accept my submission below for the Globe and Mail’s Daily First-Person Essay.
After spending the last several years developing corporate messaging and communication strategies, I left my position to pursue a freelance writing career while raising my two children.
If you should accept my essay for publication, I can be reached at xxxxxxx.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Why do I think this worked well? This was a personal essay about the way I felt my children changed my life. I didn’t need to sell her on the fact that I had all this writing experience. She was going to find that out when she read the article. I didn’t have to convince her why this piece is a great fit for their publication either because it was specifically for a first-person column. Everyone has an opinion, and that’s what they are looking for — variety.
- In my submission I did include one sentence that was personal but relevant to the essay (it was about my children).
- I read the submission guidelines and made sure to follow them all.
- I did try every avenue to find the submission editor’s name. This is something I think is important to include. I searched their website, LinkedIn, etc.) but went with the next best thing.
Every online magazine, just like every editor, is going to be different from the next when it comes to submitting your work. HuffPost for example, had a contributor platform (now defunct) to submit your work on. An editor would decide if it was good enough to post and edit it. You never “spoke” to anyone directly.
On the other hand, Motherly, a mom-to-mom parenting site, receives a ton of inspiring stories each day. I knew I was going to have to sell mine a bit.
Here’s my first submission:
We see it all the time at the mommy-and-me drop-in classes, on the playground, or during preschool pickups — a mom struggling.
Exhaustion written across her face as she hauls her crying child to her hip for the millionth time. All while attempting to reason with her other child, who’s red faced and thrashing on the ground. It’s an intimately familiar scene for most moms.
The attached article shares a quick story of the importance of picking up another mom when she is down, and will hopefully inspire other moms to step in during a challenging moment of child rearing, if only for a quick sideline chat.
As for myself, I’m a freelance writer, blogger at rocknrattle.ca, and mom of two under three. In addition to being a regular contributor for Vancouver Mom, I’ve also been published on the Huffington Post, and in parenting and health magazines in Vancouver and Toronto. These articles can be found on my site at angelarobertson.net.
Thank you for your consideration,
By “sell” I mean “pitch.” Because Motherly receives so many submissions, I wanted mine to stand out. The first two paragraphs are straight out of my article. I think it’s important to grab the reader’s attention right away. I wanted her to feel like she could really relate to the piece, and that it would be enough to read the rest.
I also included more of my writing experience in this email. Again, I wanted Liz to read my entire article, so I mentioned my previous writing experience because I wanted her to consider me a professional.
So between essays and articles, you’re going to have to determine how much you need to sell your submission. If you’re submitting a personal essay, you may not need to sell yourself as an expert in what the publication is looking for, but your writing needs to be strong. For articles, keep in mind popular online magazines receive a TON of submissions, so you’ll need to stand out.
No matter what type of submission you have, always keep these things in mind:
- Keep your email as relevant as possible. You don’t need to throw in that you got an A+ in your Grade 10 creative writing class. If you don’t have anything previous published, say it. “This is my first submission…”
- Do your best to address your email to an actual person. This shows you took the time to get to know their publication and publishing process.
- Keep it to a few short paragraphs. Your writing should speak for itself.
- Test you email first by sending it to yourself.
- Be patient. It could take weeks or months to hear back.