Ask Neelima : How to pitch to get published in a newspaper/magazine?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Every Thursday, one question answered!
And you can find all answers here - Answers to Questions

Arshad asks: I want one of my article to get published in a newspaper/magazine but not sure how to approach them.  Someone suggested I should pitch my article to editor but not sure what details to put in that.

Travel Writing, How to Pitch

Whoever that someone is, he/she pointed you in the right direction. Yes, you should always pitch the story idea to the editor. Unless the story/section you are targeting for is so small that with the effort to write the pitch, you might as well write the whole piece. In that case, you write the story on spec, i.e. you are sending the article for consideration and the editor may or may not use the story. 

So what should you put in the pitch?
I'm sure most of us must've heard the phrase "Sales pitch" where you are selling your product/idea to the consumer. Same with writing, you are selling your story idea to the editor. 

Getting to the details, a pitch should have these three things -

  1. A concise story idea with a unique angle. It doesn't help to say I went to Rajasthan, I did this, I went to that place, I want to write a story for your magazine. You should think of an angle. Think about it, have you ever read a piece which talks about where all the writer went and what all he saw? No, right? Read the publication, target the section you want to write for and think of a story idea that matches that particular section. If it's a newspaper with no particular sections, think of a clear and unique angle to write the story.
  2. You will need to prove your writing skills to a large extent through the pitch itself if you are just getting into publishing because you'll have no previously published stories to substantiate your claim that you can write a story well. 
  3. Lastly, you should end the pitch with your qualifications, where you say why you are the right person to do this story. You can tell what other publications you have written for. It is alright if you never written for any publication before. You can say I worked in so and so field, which makes me an expert to write this story or anything else that might work in your favor in convincing the editor to assign you the story.
Can you give me an example of a pitch that worked?
Sure, here you go. This was the pitch that was accepted and the story was out last month. I was targeting a particular section which talks about active holidays(I was pitching about mountain biking). My unique angle was exploring the other side of Goa(the story talks about the forests and hinterlands of Goa as opposed to the well known image of beaches and parties).

Dear [Editor's Name],

Rarely does Goa conjure images of pristine greenery, dense forests and hidden waterfalls. Goa has been always known for its beaches, parties and Portugese colonies. But my first foray into the beach paradise shattered this image as I cycled my way through the charming interiors of the tiny state. Over a week, we covered 250kms through the forests and hills discovering hidden gems along the way. Hidden gems such as Budbudetari Lake, a tiny temple pond where bubbles come from the bottom of the lake every time you clap, beautiful waterfalls such as the two tiered Savri Falls and the oldest temple in Goa, Tambdisurla of 12th Century. Being first timers on the geared mountain bikes, the rides used to be a struggle and took us a while to learn the tricks but a fun experience nonetheless. It was a delight to pass by quaint villages where there was neither a crowd of half naked tourists nor the loud chatter of the bustling party scene. Until this ride happened, I had never imagined that Goa sheltered such dense and abundant forests, just 40kms off the coast.

Of the many interesting things that happened on the ride, there were few things that left an indelible impression such as -
  • Hearing the song of a Whistling Thrush for the first time who's call is an eerily accurate rendition of a person whistling. 
  • Offroading on jungle trails in Bhagwan Mahavir and Molem National Parks where we pushed cycles through knee deep waters and roughed it out on uneven mud paths full of stone and gravel. 
  • Camping at a huge football field in a small village called Assolna, we learned about the ubiquity of soccer love in Goa.
  • Sneaking out of the camp to enjoy the local delicacies, to gorge on rice with fried fish and Kokum curry along with a gulp of the local liqour, feny. 
I propose to do a story describing the above incidents, the mountain biking experience, the struggle and the completely new facet of Goa as we discovered along the way. 

Neelima Vallangi.

If I'm pitching the editor the first time, I would also add this - 

I’m a freelance travel writer and photographer covering stories from India. My stories have appeared in several leading publications such as ​xxx, yyy, zzz and www. You can find a selection of my published stories here –​ ​ [Link to my stories]. I am happy to send some samples of my recent work. 

However, you should keep in mind that what works for me might not work for you. I keep tweaking the style and contents to suit the publication/Story I'm targeting for. And writer's being good at writing, have flooded the internet with the entire How-To of freelance journalism. A quick but dedicated search should tell you everything you need to know about pitching, having stories commissioned, working with editors and everything else under the sun. If you are really serious about getting into freelance writing, google is your best friend. Really! That's how I learned everything I know about freelance Travel writing.

I hope this answers your question, Arshad. For the rest of you, have a question? You know what to do. Ask Neelima!

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  1. Personally I want to thank you for answering all my are a star..keep rocking

  2. Such an interesting post! I would share it with friends who always wonder how to start.

  3. Possibly the simpler way to put it across. Am sure its gonna provide a heap of help for the beginners :) :)

  4. Very useful tips and to the point. Sharing an example was a great idea… thanks for sharing this.

  5. Thanks Neelima! It's really helpful.

  6. Super good post Neelima! I will keep looking out for your weekly posts...

  7. Very useful post Neelima.. Thanks.

  8. is rare to see anyone provide concrete have set the bar, Neelima..

  9. Thank you Neelima for giving this example. I am starting as a traveller, blogger. After searching through several stories, i found an example of pitch perfectly illustrated by you.


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