Writing Tip: How to write a pitch letter to the editor

A pitch letter is a simple letter convincing the editor of a publication to carry or publish your story. It’s not rocket science, but it’s not a stroll in the park either. Think of the pitch letter as the cover letter of your resume or CV. You’re applying for a writing job and the editor is the prospective employer.

Here are some tips.

*Write the gist of the story idea or concept in the subject header of the email.

*Address a specific editor and identify the publication. Indicate the section of the publication that the story will be appropriate for.

*The pitch letter itself should be the text that is the body of the email. The letter, regardless of whether it’s in doc, txt, rtf format, should not be attached to the email. Editors don’t have time to open attachments and read.

*Write the pitch proper:

1. INTRODUCE YOURSELF. Mention something about your writing experience.

2. State your STORY CONCEPT. This should be a one-liner. Remember, this should fit in the subject header of the email.

Example (for the food and dining section of a travel magazine): “A foodie’s cooking class adventures in Bangkok”

3. Identify the STORY RELEVANCE. You should be able to tell the editor WHY you are pitching the story and why it should be written and read by others NOW. Contextualize. Make the story fresh and current.

Example: Cooking classes are a dime a dozen in Metro Manila and most of these are conducted in the confines of spanking, state-of-the-art kitchens. This story is about a cooking class that offers something new, something that combines culinary lessons and travel. The best and most fun way to get to know a country’s culture is through its cuisine and this story aims to do just that.

 4. Identify a new ANGLE or SLANT. What makes your story new or unique?

Example: The story will be told from the perspective of a foodie who doesn’t know how to cook but enjoys Thai cuisine enough to attempt cooking. The cooking class itself is unique because unlike other lessons conducted solely in the kitchen, this one includes a market tour and a primer on where and how to get the freshest ingredients for the recipes to be made.

*If you have appropriate photos that will support the story pitch, attach these to the email. Go easy on the photo attachments. Even with the humongous inbox space offered by Yahoo and Gmail, no one would be happy with 10MB+ attachments. Certainly, not editors.

*Keep the pitch letter short and straight to the point. They say around three (3) paragraphs would be fine. And when spoken, the pitch is supposed to not take more than two (2) minutes.

*A pitch letter gives the editor an idea of the writer’s style. Make it sound like you, but by all means, sound professional. It’s not the time to be cute.

*Avoid hardsell pitching (as in one which sounds like a press release). Editors say it’s a major turn-off.

*End the pitch letter with your contact details. “Should you wish to pursue this story, I may be reached at…”

*Wait for the reply of the editor. If after a considerable amount of time, you still do not hear anything from the editor, relax. It’s just one pitch letter to one editor of one publication. You can make dozens more. Try and try until you succeed…or until you find another outlet for your creative juices. How about creating your own travel blog? 😉

 (Learned from Writer’s Block Philippines. For workshop schedules and other useful resources for writers, please visit WBP’s website.)



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