Kristen Kemp

How to Pitch a Story Idea

“Every writer I know has trouble writing.”
~Joseph Heller via Lisa Romeo

I recently received an email from a woman who pays me to edit her pitches and articles. Side note: I love to advise, edit and teach writers, so if your work needs help, encouragement or vodka, I’m your girl. A huge bonus is that I work for cheap! Anyway, she was freaking out after submitting three respectable story ideas to a website she had written for. Two weeks had passed, and she’d heard nothing back. The silence was distressing, disturbing and disheartening.

In her frantic email filled with run-on sentences and void of paragraph breaks, my client wrote to me: “I thought since I’d written 4 articles for them without incident that my editor contact would at least get back to me either way. I don’t know if my article ideas were too long or serious or what…Maybe my queries were just lousy.”

Lousy! No way! When McDonald’s forgets your fries, now that’s lousy.

Pitching Rule #1
: Never put down your own writing because in this business there are plenty of people who will do that for you. Stand up and defend your hard work. In this case, one of my client’s unique ideas had just sold to a different website–proof positive that she’s good.

Pitching Rule #2
: Follow up with your editor in two week’s time or less. Email to say, “I know you’re busy but I just wanted to make sure you received my pitches, which I’ve re-attached here. I’d love to hear from you.”

Pitching Rule #3
: You’ve sent the follow up email. You’ve waited a week. Still nada. Don’t waste another second wondering what you did wrong, instead acknowledge that the editor is an unorganized evil dictator. Then revise your pitches for another publication–online or in print–and hit the send button ASAP.

Pitching Rule #4
: If you still can’t sell those ideas, scrap them or save them for later. Write three new ones.

Pitching Rule #5
: Even though you won’t want to, pitch the silent editor three new story ideas. Maybe she’ll warm up to you again when she sees that you’re enthusiastic and determined. If she doesn’t, and you don’t hear back after another follow up, send those pitches somewhere else and forget about her. Did she ever exist? No, of course not.

Pitching Rule #6
: As I often remind myself, rejection is the name of the game in freelance writing. Do not be discouraged and do not take anything personally. Whatever you do, don’t give up. Once you give up, your chances of getting published go down to zero.

Lucky Rule #7
: Remind yourself that you try; you rock, and you totally don’t suck. Do that right now.
My client picked her chin up off her keyboard and started typing. She’s good, and she’s motivated, so something’s going to sell. I mean, have you seen some of the crap that gets published? Click on over to Rainbow Primates, and give yourself a self-confidence boost. Now even a monkey can write better than that.
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4 Responses

  1. Suzanah says:

    Thanks so much for these encouraging words. Great advice!

  2. Melody says:

    Your words are always kind and supportive. Thank you!!

  3. Really solid advice for sure. One thing I will often do is to just follow up with a phone call to the editor. Sometimes I will simply call right off the bat, introduce myself, and then ask if they have any particular needs right now.

    Not only does this give me some info to work with, it also gets my submission to stand out from the crowd. Once I started doing that, my acceptances went way up.

    This is off the immediate topic, but one thing I think is really hard for we writers is working in isolation. Back in the late 90s, a groups of us here in Saratoga Springs formed The Creative Bloc. There were about 8 of us in 3 rooms, with a lobby, and it definitely created this synergy and was a great way to get much needed support.

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