How to Pitch to Get Published–Pro-Tips from an Editor - America's Future

October 7, 2019

Professional Development

How to Pitch to Get Published–Pro-Tips from an Editor

By: John Dale Grover

When trying to pitch your work for publication, there are certain best practices that might seem obvious to some. However, as an editor myself, I’ve seen op-ed writers often make simple mistakes that can create headaches for the very editors they’re trying to win over. 

To help make the pitching process easier, here are four friendly suggestions for aspiring writers. These will come in handy and will raise your chances of successfully getting published.

1. Don’t go over the word limit
I know, I know. It’s easy to go over. You’ve got so many important things to say. I get it and have struggled with that too. But really there are few things more annoying than going through a ton of submissions and seeing 1000-2000 word pieces. 750 words is the standard op-ed length for a reason. 

There’s just not enough time in the day to edit long-form pieces, and they get in the way of other authors who also need their pieces published. Although you can stretch the word limit sometimes to 800 or more depending on the outlet, don’t be the person who thinks they are so special that they’re the exception to the rule.

2. Don’t forget about self-editing
Editing your articles should be a part of your process before you click send on your pitching email. Always, always run your pieces through Word or preferably Grammarly. In addition, do a line-by-line read through to catch things the spell checkers don’t. Yes, it is the editor’s job to edit, and we’ll happily do that. But it doesn’t look good on you and your reputation if you submit what is clearly a draft. 

Don’t get sloppy—you want to send a piece that impresses and that makes life easier for the editors who determine what gets published. When there’s a rush during a busy news day, and outlets just need to get pieces out the door, knowing you are an author whose articles don’t need a lot of work is a godsend. Your editors will thank you and will be eager to take your work.

3. Don’t use a ton of jargon
This isn’t a college paper. There’s no need to prove your expertise with insider lingo that only people in your field or geographical area would know. It’s not clever to wax ad nauseam in Latin or French just to prove you can. It doesn’t matter what your raison d’ être is, you’ll sound pretentious. The educated, but general, audience you are trying to reach shouldn’t have to reach for a dictionary.

You and I know that we join the slug line to get into the beltway every morning, but that’s not something your brother in Santa Fe, New Mexico, or your grandmother in Lewiston, Maine, would automatically know about. Neither are terms like deadweight loss, choice architecture, the third offset, or counter-value doctrine going to be common knowledge. Heck, you could do a full Ginsburg to explain them, but how many people know what that even means?

Your job is to connect with your audience and to get across what you are saying. Explain what jargon you need to include, but don’t waste your readers’ time by using and defining a lot of terms. People are smart and knowledgeable. You’ll be more effective if you treat readers with respect and communicate well. (Also, your editors won’t roll their eyes out of their sockets when editing your piece.)

4. Do try to make a friendly connection
Finally, it pays to be friendly and easy to deal with. If you are constantly picky or demanding, then your editors will take notice and will be unenthusiastic about accepting your pieces. You don’t want to be a pain in anyone’s side. Understand that editors are often busy and working with a bunch of other articles and deadlines too. 

Please and thank you still go both ways and help to keep things going. You don’t have to be stiff and formal—far from it. Be yourself and try to make a personal connection. If a holiday is near, ask how they are doing and about their plans. You might share a moment over similar vacation spots or the annoyance of flight delays. Being a human and expressing genuine gratitude for working together helps make pitching more than just an exchange of emails. Such relationships make you stand out from the crowd of busy, impatient career-climbers who otherwise make each other miserable. Both you and your editors will be better off for it.