So you've put the finishing touches on your op-ed and are ready to see your name in lights -- or at least on the back page of the newspaper. How do you get editors to consider your piece for publication? You simply ask them. And...
Last week, I was in Napa Valley at the Wine Writers Symposium, an annual gathering of some of the nation’s top wine writers.
While there, I spoke to attendees about how to write better pitches and get their stories placed. I was paired with Alison Clare Steingold, a senior editor at C Magazine. Drawing on my experience at Keybridge Communications and as a wine writer, I also coached attendees on query writing in a series of one-on-one sessions.
The pitching process changes depending on your goals, of course. Op-Eds, for example, are almost always written before they’re pitched. With magazine articles, writers should pitch editors before they put pen to paper. These lessons also work for conventional PR – there’s no better way to get a reporter interested in your story than teeing it up for her.
Just about everyone is familiar with the advice, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” It's true: A product’s packaging isn’t always a fair representation of what’s actually inside. In general, making an informed decision requires more than a cursory review of the options.
In the media world, however, that quick blurb – “the cover” – might be the only thing an editor looks at when deciding what to publish.
Editors at the major daily newspapers – and large online publications – receive thousands of pitches every week. Somehow they must choose a few each day. When pitching an editor, it’s best to start with a query – an enticing synopsis of your event, argument or story.
A query is essentially your sales pitch, whether you’re promoting an oped, article idea, or media event. The query lays our why an editor (or reporter) should accept your submission for publication, cover your event, or write on your issue. It's therefore critically important for the query to be polished and engaging. Here are a couple of tips to make sure your query stands out:
1. Keep it quick. Your query shouldn't be more than a couple hundred words. Remember, you only need to convey the main point of the piece.
2. Make every word count. With so few words to work with, each one should pack a punch. Leave out unnecessary clauses or explanations and stick to the bold or controversial points that will grab an editor's attention.