Being an editor for a blog can be a thankless and frustrating job. Aside from the usual electronic banter, you end up reading submissions from writers that think just because they interact with you on Twitter or Facebook, or because it’s a “blog” and not a “magazine,” they can skate with poor form. I’m here to tell you this is not the case. Being cool with an editor on social media doesn’t increase the likelihood of him or her running your post. It just means they’ll know your name when they see it, which means they’ll open your email — unless you just annoy the hell out of them in general. If you’re pitching to a blog known for an informal tone, that doesn’t mean you should pitch like you’re talking to one of the homies.
Over the last month, I’ve read a good number of pitches. Some were great. Some were not so great. Some would have been great had they not faltered in their approach. Because I know what it’s like to come up the ranks, I want to share with you five fatal flaws that will get your pitch ignored … or if you’re lucky, rejected.
1. Shoddy Subject Lines
Picking a subject line for an email is no different than picking a title for an article. You will win and lose based on what words you use to capture your audience’s attention. “Article submission” is not an appropriate subject line. Neither is “Dat Post.” If you want an editor to optimistically open your email (and there aren’t any stated standards), you need to choose a subject line that quickly conveys why you’re sending the message. Here are a couple examples:
- Time-Sensitive Guest Submission (Don’t use if your content could be run in 2020 and still be relevant.)
- Guest Submission: *Insert Article Title*
Note: These are two examples that have worked for me. Every editor and business relationship is different. Please use these as a starting point if there are no guest submission instructions. I’m not trying to be responsible for your article on the Unicorn Apocalypse not getting picked up.
2. Not Opening the Email with Pleasantries
While you may think it’s understood, you need to be thankful. It’s no different than writing a cover letter for a job. We (HR folks and editors) get a ton of email everyday from people trying to get down with the team. Your pitch should open thanking the editor for taking the time to review it, and briefly explain why you’re contacting them. It’s not about bowing in their presence or propping them up on a pedestal. It’s about understanding their day-to-day struggle. Here’s a sample:
Thanks for taking the time to read my message and I hope all is well. I’m reaching out because I have an awesome article idea that I believe will fetch a great response from your readers.
Appreciation, humility, value. They’re all there.
3. Not Following Instructions
If an editor responds to your article asking for something, give them what they asked for! It’s not time to ask questions and start an email debate about why your article is the turtle’s shell or bee’s knees! If you need to ask questions, they should clarify a point so you can deliver exactly what the editor requested. Besides, who wants to work with someone who can’t follow directions? How does that make the editor’s job easier?
4. Big Blocks of Text
When I read a pitch, I’m not trying to read The Great Gatsby. I have a day job and run my website when I get home. You probably do other stuff too, but I’m not the one trying to get exposure.
I don’t have time to discern what value you’ll bring to the reader. You need to tell me who, what, when where, why, and how it’s gonna be. No excuses. If I have to use a highlighter to mark your key pitch points, I will shine a light on the trashcan so I can toss your pitch in it. If you can’t accept this perspective, you don’t want to be a writer.
Use bullet points to cover the five W’s and the H. You don’t need to have a bullet point for each, but I should be able to skim and get the gist of what you’re talking about. If I like what I see, I’ll go back and read your note in more detail.
5. Typos and Shenanigans
If you send me an article with typos, that means you don’t take me or my website seriously. That’s offensive. When I get offended, I levitate and make the ground shake. Do you wanna fall through a crack in the earth?
Even if your article is time-sensitive, you need to proofread it at least two times. Get someone else to read it for you if you have to. One typo could be the difference between “I saw your article on X site” and “so whatever happened with that article you wrote for X?”
In my best Juicy J voice: Typos will get you dinged. Typos will get you dinged. Yadda yadda yadda, typos will get you dinged.
Pitching can be a daunting task, but don’t make it more stressful than it needs to be. Even if your idea gets rejected, you’ll see an increase in responses from editors if you follow these steps. Good luck in your pitches, and may the pen (or keyboard) be with you.