You've got a fantastic idea for an article. You even know which publication or website to target with your winning prose, but there's a problem.
Who should you pitch to? How can you get in touch with them? Figuring out who to contact, and finding that editor's contact details, can be the most frustrating and time-consuming part of the pitching process.
Don't despair: there are a handful of tricks to help this process. You just need to do a little detective work.
Pitching is one of the major components of my daily life as a freelance writer. I'm not claiming to be an expert - but here are a few tips to figure out which editor to pitch to and how to find the relevant contact details so you can place and get paid for more articles.
1. Be specific
Don't pitch to the editor-in-chief, unless you're targeting a really small publication. Your email will probably just get deleted.
Try to find the editor that oversees your story's beat. If this isn't obvious on the publication's website do a little digging around the site at past stories on your topic and see which name pops up regularly. If you can't find that information, go for the associate, deputy or senior editor. They will usually forward your query to the correct person.
And don't waste time bothering contributing editors or copyeditors - they are unlikely to be responsible for assigning stories.
2. Pick up the phone
I was unsure whether I should include this point. When I worked as a technology journalist and then science writer, I was constantly picking up the phone to PRs with "the best story since sliced bread". Some pitches were great, but most were just irritating noise.
So, if you're convinced your article is the perfect fit for a publication, then give them a ring. If they don't sound keen, try to get an email address and contact name to pitch to the right person in the future. But don't ring a publication constantly with "the perfect article" - they'll be blacklisting your number before you know it.
3. Ask your contacts
Try to source information from fellow writers. Facebook or LinkedIn groups can be a great resource here, as can old writing colleagues. If they're familiar with your work, they may even give you an introduction over email. They can also give pointers for other publications to target. Get involved in the wider writer community, we're very nice!
4. Use Twitter
Twitter has been a great, and somewhat surprising, pitching resource. If you're trying to find an unlisted editor, Twitter can be a good place to look as many users list their place of employment in their bios. In the Twitter search tool, type in the word "editor" plus the @handle of the targeted publication.
Some editors prefer Twitter - it cuts down the waffle and produces quick pitches. If your idea is good, an editor will continue the conversation via email.
5. Google it
It's an obvious one but try searching “John Smith email address” and it could pop right up. You could also try searching “email@example.com” to see if you get any hits. If you want to further exploit Google, don't forget to use the advanced search tools. These advanced tips for using Google search from Lifehacker offer further advice.
I'm not entirely pro this tip - but many hacks I know swear by it. I'm worried I may be encroaching into stalker territory here - and if an editor doesn't have their contact details readily available, then it may be best to leave them alone.
And this leads me onto my final tip...
6. Network, don't pester
There are various other practices I've heard of to find an editor's email address. They're sneaky and they don't sit right with me. I'd much rather approach an editor face-to-face, build a relationship and have a chat than hunt for hours to find their email address.
Freelancing and networking go hand-in-hand. My most successful pitches are thanks to a human relationship and conversation with an editor, not a shifty dig to find their email address. So network within an inch of your life, be friendly, be professional and listen to any feedback an editor gives you.
And remember this key point: editors are a freelancer's lifeline - don't piss them off with pointless pitches.
If you have any other tips for figuring out which editor to pitch to, please share them in the comments below!
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I'm the freelance writer who gets tech. So, I blog on three core topics:
Science and Technology