A chance to write for AskMen.com about Medellin fell into my lap this past Spring, wholly the result of building a noticeable web presence through Medellin Living about what it's like to live in Colombia as a foreigner. When I delivered, in spite of a very tight deadline, the managing editor suggested I pitch a few additional ideas. I knew I had a golden opportunity.
Of course, I had no clue as to how to pitch editors at the time. No…clue. So I shot from the hip, and fired off a few sentences on a variety of ideas. Perhaps I was already a proven entity by then, or perhaps they just needed content. Either way, they gave me two more stories – one of my ideas and one of theirs. I was lucky.
A few weeks ago, I attended my first Mediabistro seminar on the topic of pitching editors. It was held in a very small theater in Georgetown, with about 15 people in attendance.
Carl Hoffman, a contributing editor with National Geographic Traveler and Wired magazines, gave the class. Prior to class, I had already read through the 17-page outline (twice). In and of itself, it was worth the price of admission.
Carl brought the outline to life over the next two hours, finished with a Q & A, and stuck around to let a few of us talk his ear off while we had the chance. Also, he opened himself up to letting us send him pitches for feedback in the future, which I believe is incredibly generous.
To give you a feel for the material we covered, here are a few quotes from the outline:
Generally, only amateurs write articles without assignments, because professionals don't want to chance wasting their time writing stories that may not be purchased or published.
Question is always what is the story, and then why you?
You don't just pitch to publication. You pitch to a particular section of a publication, and ideally to the editor in charge of it.
Socialize. No question that it's easier to sell work to editors you know personally.
I left the seminar feeling empowered. I had already gained a 1,001 stories from my travels, and now I had a blueprint for submitting professional pitches to editors.
Carl Hoffman has a blog at The Lunatic Express, which is also the title of his new book due out March 16, 2010.