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Pitch Perfect: Learn What Editors Like (and Don't Like)
Wednesday, May 20, 2015 (All day)

Pitching magazine articles is a topic that PWAC Toronto Chapter covers nearly every year in our seminar series. Writers are hungry for tips on generating ideas, crafting query letters and developing relationships with editors.

I’ve worked on both sides of the desk, and as a prelude to our May 28 seminar on pitching, I’m sharing my top five tips.

1. Get to know the magazine. And I mean get to know it really, really well. Read at least six months of back issues, paying attention to details like article subjects, tone and length. Each magazine has a unique personality and approach. If you think your story idea could fit in both Canadian Living and Chatelaine, you haven’t tailored the pitch well enough for either one.

2. Pitch well in advance. Did you know that monthly magazines have a “lead time” of four to six months? That means they could be looking at Christmas stories as early as June.

3. Think like an editor. Magazine layouts are “packaged” a certain way, with extra features like sidebars, text boxes and web throws (inviting readers to view online bonuses) woven around the main article. If it suits your story idea, pitch a sidebar or two. Help the editor envision how your article could work in the magazine. (Tip #1 will come in handy here.)

4. Proofread your pitch. Nothing makes a bad first impression like a query letter with errors in spelling, grammar or punctuation. If you can’t get the details right in your pitch, how can an editor trust you with the whole story? If editing isn’t your strong suit, exchange your pitch with another writer for some proofreading.

5. Don’t submit an idea to more than one magazine at a time. “Simultaneous submissions” have their supporters and detractors. I see both sides, but I still say, “Just don’t do it.”

As editor Jessica Ross explained at a PWAC seminar, if an editor likes your idea, she puts time and effort into it: figuring out where it might fit in the story lineup, defending it at story meetings with her colleagues, and allocating a budget for illustrations or photos. If she finds out you’ve sold the story elsewhere…consider that bridge vaporized.

Jaclyn Law is president of PWAC Toronto Chapter.

- Jaclyn Law

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