How to Successfully Pitch an Article to a Magazine (and Get Published)

How to Successfully Pitch an Article to a Magazine (and Get Published)

Jessica Michael
Published on
Learn how to pitch articles to magazines, impress editors, and get your writing published.

So you think you have a great idea for an article, but you're not sure what to do next? In this article, we'll teach you top tips and tricks for how to pitch your story idea to a magazine and get your piece published.

Why pitch an article to a magazine?

There are many reasons to pitch an article, essay, or story idea to a media outlet.

If you're a writer, getting your stories published may be part of your income. It can help you get exposure for your work, and it can build out your writing credentials.

But even if you aren't a professional writer, getting an article in a magazine can have important benefits. It can be a great way to market your business if you write for a magazine in your industry. If you have a particular area of expertise, writing articles about your subject matter can boost your professional profile.

In addition, Some degree programs or job positions (such as those in the sciences) require or strongly encourage publication.

You may also find yourself writing an article simply because you have a good story to tell or because the subject matter is important to you, and you think people could benefit from knowing about it.

Finding the right outlet

Regardless of why you want to get an article published, the first step is figuring out which media outlets are most likely to publish your piece.

A great way to start researching what outlets to pitch is to do a Google search on your subject matter. See what media outlets have been covering it or if there are outlets specifically dedicated to the topic. You can do the same on social media by searching relevant hashtags.

Obviously, you don't want to pitch an article about baking sourdough to a hard-hitting news journal, or a lighthearted travel piece to an arts magazine. Larger outlets will cover multiple verticals (think Conde Nast, New York Magazine, etc.), so you'll want to make sure you are pitching to the right editor for that heading.

You'll want to read some sample articles to get a sense of voice, content, and style. Even if a media outlet hasn't covered what you're writing about, if it falls underneath the general umbrella of topics they like to cover, and your writing is a good fit for their style, you may find a match.

Make sure they haven't already published a similar piece. A quick Google search of the topic plus magazine title should help with this. You may also be able to do a site search using keywords.

In addition, there are a multitude of databases and free newsletters that collate media outlets to pitch and submit to, depending on the type of writing you do. Duotrope, The Open Notebook, and Kavyar are only some of the many resources you can subscribe to in order to track the latest calls for submissions.

Print magazines

Print magazines are often considered prestige media, especially these days when most content is online. If you are able to get published in a well-regarded print publication, it can go a long way to establishing your reputation.

However, there are much fewer print magazines than there used to be which means they are often significantly harder to get accepted into. They also tend to favor staff writers, columnists, and journalists that they work with frequently. The good news is that many print publications also have an online presence, so when you submit, you will be considered for both their print edition and their online platform.

Online magazines, news outlets, and blogs

Most content is now found online, which means there is a good chance that you will be pitching to online press platforms and blogs as part of your process. Online outlets have the benefit of being numerous, so it's more likely you'll be able to find one that fits your writing and your topic. It can also be easier to get picked up as a new writer since there are more online opportunities available, which can help you build your writing credentials and have a chance to be published in bigger outlets down the line.

The downside is that they vary tremendously in quality and reputation. You'll need to do some homework to verify the legitimacy of any online platforms that you pitch to. 

Writing a Pitch

Once you've figured out the magazines you'd like to pitch, you'll need to craft a convincing pitch that catches the editors' interest and paves the way for your piece to be picked up for publication.

Most pitches are done via email, so the first thing a submissions editor is going to see is your subject line. You'll want a subject line that clearly states the topic and story angle. Many publications also require you to state that the email is a story pitch in the subject line. Check their pitch guidelines to be sure.

Once you've created an interesting and informative subject line, you'll want to write an email that keeps an editor's interest. Remember, they may receive hundreds of pitches a day, so be sure to keep it short, concise, and clear. State the bottom line and any sources or research you plan to include, and why you are qualified to write the piece.

Ultimately, you need to be able to present a unique angle--why is this interesting? Who will read it? Why are you qualified to write about it? --and to do so with as few words as possible while still explaining the gist of the article.

Be sure to begin the email with the name of the editor or editors that will be reading it. Sometimes, an outlet will have a submissions editor specifically for pitches and will include that editor's name in their submissions and pitching guidelines. If not, check the masthead or the staff list to find out which editor oversees the media vertical that you are pitching to.

Some pitches require a bio. Focus on your expertise in the subject matter and/or your writing experience. Make sure to mention any larger publications your work has been featured in (a general rule of thumb is to list no more than 3), and keep it under 150 words. If a bio isn't specifically required, you can include this information at the end of your pitch.

Make sure you end the pitch politely and with an offer to share more information if they are interested.

Figuring out a magazine's pitch guidelines

Every media outlet has its own pitch guidelines. Some magazines want you to include the entire article in the body of the email or as an attachment. Some magazines specifically ask that you don't include the completed work. In addition, some magazines work with submission websites where you input or upload your information, and others want you to pitch the editor of the vertical you are submitting to. They may also have different requirements in terms of what to include in a pitch and how long the pitch should be.

You'll need to research each magazine's pitch guidelines, and tailor your pitch accordingly. You can often find submission or pitching guidelines on a magazine's website. Another trick is to Google "[magazine name] + pitching guidelines". Submission and pitching guidelines are different but are often included under the same banner, so check both.

Should you send the whole article?

Some editors, journals, and magazines want you to have a finished product when you send a pitch their way. This can be especially true if they've never worked with you before or if you are a relatively unknown writer. However, many magazines want to hear your pitch before they give you the ok to write the article.

If the article you want to write is relatively short, we recommend going ahead and writing it out before you pitch. That makes it easy to send the finished product if your story does get the thumbs up. It can also help you refine your pitch because you know exactly what the article will consist of. That being said, it's important not to send the full article unless it's asked for.

If what you are pitching is complex, lengthy, has multiple sources and so on, sending a pitch before you write your piece can be important. First of all, it lets you know if anyone will pick up the story before you put all of the effort into writing it. It also allows the editor you're working with to give you guidelines on how they want the article written and the story angles they're most interested in. This gives you a chance to craft the piece in a way that fits best with the media outlet.

If it's an editor or an outlet you've worked with previously, getting approval for your pitch before you write it can also be a great way to make sure you write it with the magazine in mind and makes it more likely they'll publish it once it's finished.

Simultaneous pitching

Many publications allow you to pitch to more than one magazine at a time, as long as you withdraw your pitch via email or submissions manager ASAP if it gets accepted elsewhere. However, higher prestige magazines such as The New Yorker, GQ, Elle, etc. want you to pitch them exclusively.

When that's the case, they will usually provide a timeframe within which you should expect to hear from them if your pitch is accepted. If you don't hear anything within their defined timeframe, you can feel free to pitch elsewhere. 

Pitching versus submission guidelines

Pitching is basically an enquiry asking an outlet if they are interested in hearing more about your idea. It's short and informative, explaining the story angle clearly but without going into a full summary. Pitch guidelines are the guidelines an individual media outlet provides that tells you the nuts and bolts of how to pitch them.

Submission guidelines deal with how to send a completed article, including length and formatting requirements. While in this article, we're not focused primarily on how to submit a piece, we recommend that you familiarize yourself with the submission guidelines of the outlets you pitch. Particularly, some outlets prefer that you submit a completed piece per their submissions guidelines rather than sending a pitch first.

Getting Paid

Generally speaking, op-eds or guest essays are usually unpaid. Print articles are usually paid. Online articles can vary tremendously. The larger and more well-known the magazine, the more likely that they pay their writers.

Unfortunately, there isn't really a standard pay rate these days, and many outlets don't pay at all or pay very little. That may not matter if what you are looking for is exposure, but if you only want to publish paid pieces, make sure you check the fine print on what the going rate is for that particular publication.

How to pitch if you have no publishing experience

Making the transition from writer to published writer can be challenging sometimes, but everyone who is a published writer started out as a writer with no publishing credentials.

When you pitch as an unpublished writer, focus more on the power of the story and your unique ability to tell it. If you've got special expertise in the subject, make sure to highlight that. Many writers have had their first piece accepted in a large publication because their story and writing style was interesting and engaging to the editors.

In addition, it may be beneficial to pitch smaller publications, local media outlets, and blogs where you can write guest posts. These can be a bit easier to get accepted into and are a great way to build out your writing credentials over time.

Realistic expectations

It can take a while to get a piece published, even if it's excellent, so don't give up. Pitch often and widely. A good rule of thumb is to pitch a story to 25 to 100 outlets before putting it aside.

If you are having trouble landing it, ask for feedback from other writers and readers you know who would be willing to give your piece a readthrough. You can even work with professional editors and writing coaches to refine your craft and make it more likely you'll get published.

Creating a writing portfolio for your published articles

Once you've been published, you'll want to create an online writing portfolio that showcases your articles. Journo Portfolio is a great option, with features like automatic article backups and auto importing. Learn more here.