But what do I say?

Say focuses on the words someone said and tell focuses more on the content or message of what someone said: 'Hello,' she said. Not: 'Hello,' she told. She told him they were going on holiday.

Brevity is better than bravery, a wise editor once said. Allow editors to read your content without having to scroll or skim. And keep in mind to pitch stories, not concepts, to focus.

Do your homework as well. You must be aware of previous coverage of your topic by the outlet you are approaching and present a novel perspective. Find a way to move the plot along. Editors consider this to be a typical mistake, as Meg Guroff stated to The Open Notebook:

“Another (common mistake) is presenting a story as something you’re dying to write, rather than as something our reader would be dying to read. Successful pitchers don’t lead with their own desires or credentials. Instead, they focus on what’s amazing about a story and how the story would fit into what the publication is trying to do.”

Instead, they concentrate on a story's fantastic aspects and how they connect with what the publication is attempting to accomplish. The optimum time to approach editors is once you've done enough research to be certain that you can deliver on your thesis, but before you've uncovered every last detail or even started writing the piece. This is significant since early in the process, editors will frequently assist in improving your proposal.

Editors detest having to click through to an attachment just to read your suggestion, so keep that in mind. Include it in the email's body. For easier reading, choose plain text. Additionally, send emails; editors much prefer written proposals versus cold calls.

Sending an inquiry to one location at a time is recommended, so pace yourself carefully and ask editors what works best for their timetable.


Be persistent, but not excessively so. While politely reminding editors you haven't heard from after a week or two is a good idea, you don't want them to feel harassed. Try to always have a new idea ready so that you won't be stuck if one pitch doesn't work.