Spoiler alert: if you hadn’t guessed it from the title, here comes the first of my media-related posts on the blog to tackle writing and pitching head-on. In my author bio I had promised to give you some tactics about pitching, but I have actually been a bit busy writing smug posts about where I’ve travelled to in the past, or where I’d like to go next (sorry). Well, now’s the time to start redressing the balance.
Whether you’re looking to guest post on a blog or you’re tackling big-gun newspaper supplement/magazine editors or legendary website creators, the challenges ahead are the same – how do you get them to believe in your idea? Why are you the one person who can write it? What on earth is going to make you stand out in their inbox? Instead of giving you a step-by-step guide, which can feel too prescriptive, I thought I’d turn the whole thing on its head. Let’s get out the wrecking ball and screw up some pitches.
Abuse the subject line
Start as you mean to go on by ruining the first point of communication: the subject line of the email. You could go for the utterly vague and pointless, such as ‘Just getting in touch’ or ‘Travel writing’, or you could write it all in capital letters to emphasise how annoying you’re going to be, perhaps adding ‘URGENT’, to give the impression that you’re mentally sounding a klaxon at the same time. Whatever your tactic, don’t miss the chance to mess up your pitch at the first hurdle.
Pretend that they already know you – over-familiarity breeds contempt
These big-name editors must meet so many people that they surely will assume you’ve bumped into them before. Launch into a bit of banter (urgh) and call them by a shortened version of their name or, even better, the wrong name entirely, then finish your email with some casual comment like ‘Let’s talk about this soon???’ and maybe sign off with a kiss. They’re sure to be totally unfazed and not at all freaked out by your behaviour.
Make it clear that you’re dumping an unwanted feature on them
It’s bloody annoying when you’ve written something that an editor no longer wants, but why waste precious words? Drop other editors a line, explaining the feature in such great detail that they’re under no impression that you’d be tailoring a piece to their readers. It needs to be unmistakably clear that you’ve got this ruddy great piece to shift and they’d be doing you a massive favour if they’d just take it off your hands.
Suggest that they recycle one of your old blog posts
Web editors like nothing more than being pitched old content from bloggers. Not only will this demonstrate your sheer laziness, but it also shows that you know very little about SEO. Maybe the editor will jump at the chance to give your blog post a second airing and boost your social media fans in the process… or maybe they’d rather be sent something unique and original.
Do as little research as possible
Don’t read the media pack or the ‘About Us’ section of the website, as this wastes valuable time. Prove that you’ve never read an issue of their magazine or a post on their blog – hey, you’ve got a hefty pitching list to get through, as demonstrated by the fact that you are emailing multiple contacts using the BCC function. Time is money, people. You get extra bonus points for later realising that they’ve recently published an entire series on your proposed topic, thereby rendering it useless.
Ensure that the feature would be completely inappropriate for their target audience
Say something nice and vague, like ‘I just love your website’ or ‘I love reading travel magazines, so it’s no surprise I’ve come across yours’ (really? Really?!), then launch into your irrelevant idea, such as ‘Hottest clubbing destinations’ for the Lady or ‘The backpacker’s guide to Australia’ for a Europe-only blog. Maybe they will love your idea so much that they’ll change their entire demographic just to suit you.
Add some attachments and generic and unnecessary sentences to bulk out the email
Add random, perhaps scary-looking attachments, to ensure that your email either goes straight to the junk folder or is incredibly difficult to open on a mobile phone. Also, keep your automated signature really long and make sure it has loads of pictures, too. Once you’re nearly ready to hit the send button, chuck in an extra paragraph for no apparent reason, repeating the main points of your pitch ad nauseum and hinting that you’d need a heavy edit if you were to be published.
Follow all of these points and, hey presto, you will be on the path to plenty of radio silence or awkward responses. If you’re not sure that sabotaging is the right thing to do, now you have to put in the hard work…
Don’t go into this halfheartedly. Know the sites or publications that would love your topic, then explain briefly what your idea is and why it would stop their readers in their tracks. Tailor each pitch individually, summarising how you think your idea could work as a great piece, in line with their existing content (which you have genuinely read and enjoyed). Hopefully, your passion for travel and your creativity will shine through in your pitch but, if it doesn’t, you can dust yourself off and try again. Good luck!