Hey fellow Edsters!
Another day at the magazine, another few lessons in pitching story ideas! Basically today, one of the EAs asked us to help her pitch story ideas for the “news-y” section of the January Issue. While she prefaced that it was rare for interns to write for the print edition of The Mag so early on, she did say that if our ideas impressed the Editor-At-Large, we’d have a shot. Too cool, right!?
And so the heat was on, and for the entire day I sifted through almost every newspaper website (both American and international) on the hunt for the best ideas ever. Ha. Wayyyy easier said than done. Especially when pitching for print, which (unlike a quick web story) would need to be relevant, interesting and totally new — 3 months from now!! Ugh.
So I started up a list of ideas that I thought were interesting and after four or five hours of researching, I met with my editor, enthusiastic about what I’d found and hoping for the best.
So here’s some advice for pitching story ideas that I gathered today:
1. Pitching takes practice, so don’t get discouraged
My EA admitted that every month she pitches TONS of story ideas for this particular section, and each time, only one (maybe two) will make it into print! She also assured me that it really does take time and practice to figure out exactly what the top editors are looking for. Eventually we should be able to sift through our suggestions all on our own!
2. Make sure your ideas are tailored to this specific section
If an editor requests stories for a particular section, make sure your pitches are relevant and viable options for that part of the mag. Otherwise, you just look unprepared and unfamiliar with the magazine. You’ll have a chance to pitch your other ideas elsewhere. Also make sure your suggestions match the existing writing style of the mag — aka don’t pitch a story type that isn’t typically used in the magazine and make sure your pitches match your mag’s “voice.”
3. Don’t just pitch new studies or facts, pitch with an angle
Finding an interesting new study is great, and so often stories take off from these new stats, but when pitching ideas, a new fact isn’t enough. Make sure you find an interesting approach that is both timely and relevant to the readers of your magazine.
4. Don’t pitch with hyperlinks. Instead, submit a short write-up.
Editors have no interest in clicking through links to past articles and finding the story and facts themselves — that’s your job. This doesn’t mean go all out with interviews and elaborate writing, but present about 150 words outlining all the key information your article will include and propose a fun angle for your story.
5. Make sure your idea hasn’t been done before! Especially not by your magazine!
This may sound totally obvious, but articles aren’t limited to what you read in the print edition of the magazine — there are tons of smaller pieces published daily online and on your mag’s social media tools. Also, the mag has probably been around a bit longer than you’ve been reading it, so do a quick Google search of your magazine name and keywords from your story idea, just to double or triple check.
Hopefully I won’t lose any of my street cred by admitting I made a couple of these mistakes myself — but hey, now none of us will ever make them again!!
Until next time,
Your (always learning and improving) Features Intern
P.S. If you have any pitching tips or tricks, hope you’ll share them in comments!