Thursday, November 15, 2012

Is pitching pointless?

Give me a P
Give me an I
Give me a T C H!

How not to land an assignment: the pitch letter
Take any magazine writing class, and you’ll be drilled on how to write the perfect pitch letter. You’ll be told how the perfect pitch is crucial to scoring an assignment. And you’ll get all pumped up about pitching and how it’s going to change your writing life.

Writer Abroad would love to go to bat for pitching. But the reality is, she is a strike out.

Her big pitching effort began in 2008, three years after she began her newspaper and magazine writing career. She took a $400 travel writing course with Mediabistro hoping it would help her take her writing to the next level, publication-wise. She spent hours of time (not to mention money—buying English-language pubs when living abroad is expensive, think $15 for one copy of NG’s Traveler) researching publications, perfecting her pitches, and tracking down emails of appropriate editors. Then she proofread her pitches at least 100 times, sent out the suckers like fly balls, and waited for her home run.

But she heard nothing.


Silence. Maybe a rejection here and there, three months after sending the pitch.

Fair enough. Rejection is a part of the writing process. Writer Abroad was not naïve. And she was not going to give up easily. So she pitched other publications...reworking the same idea two or three times. And...


Well, once, a bite. An assignment. And then, a month later, an un-assignment...

So, let’s see here. After 100+ hours with a batting score of .001, Writer Abroad learned something maybe some of you already know: pitching is a gigantic waste of time and money (especially considering the rates magazines pay these days).

So now, Writer Abroad has a new approach to landing assignments.

She does (insert drum roll here)…

And she’s much more successful.

How is this possible?

Ok, well, maybe she doesn't exactly do nothing. But she sure does a heck of lot less work that she was doing before.

Instead of spending 10 hours a week perfecting magazine and newspaper pitches, Writer Abroad spends one or two hours a week blogging and about twice a year she updates her personal writing website.

As it turns out, this is the 21st century. So editors have something they didn’t have before: an easy way to find writers living abroad.

Here’s the thing. As a writer abroad, your location sets you apart. In fact, editors are probably searching right now for a writer in your very location. Make sure they can find you. Fast.

How? Have a blog. Have a website. Have a tweet worth a re-tweet. Have something smart Writer Abroad hasn’t even thought of yet. Then pretend you’re an editor searching Google for a writer. Do you show up in the search results?

If not, take a course on SEO. But heaven forbid, do not take a course on how to pitch.

Unless…we can find writers out there who can prove Writer Abroad wrong.

So let’s hear it.

Are there still writers out there with respectable batting averages? If you pitch, do you score magazine and newspaper assignments? (Excluding personal essays—Writer Abroad still is able to place personal essays through pitching completed pieces). Or do you think pitching is pointless? 


  1. I think pitching is more successful for very established writers, and I know quite a few who make a good living that way. The few times I have pitched recently I was told it was an excellent pitch but not quite right for them or they had just booked someone else to do the idea. Pah!
    I agree that it's better to establish your platform, write well and get yourself found though. Two of my most recent writing gigs were people who found me and came knocking, which is always nice!

  2. Hi Expat mum,
    Thanks for your input. Good to hear pitching doesn't have to be pointless. In my case, at this point in my career, I have also decided to spend most of my limited new-mom writing energy actually writing books rather than seeking out article assignments. But when an editor comes my way for an article, it's always a bonus.

  3. It also pays to keep blogging and otherwise putting your stuff out there as it gives people a chance to see your style, and who knows...

  4. I completly agree with you, Chantal and Expat Mum. That is why now I give priority to my own writing projects, i.e. my blog and my books (just published one)that I promote on internet (on my blog, my website, and social networks, online magazines, etc ...). It is much more efficient.

  5. Congrats on your book! Would be interested to hear how your promotion is going!

  6. Not sure whether "pitching" would work on assignments because I have tried and failed.

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