What’s in a pitch?

What’s in a pitch?

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 you do so with a query letter.

You could just email your op-ed to an editor with a polite request that he or she consider it for publication. But imagine applying for a job by just asking politely that an employer hire you.

“Please consider me for your open position. Thanks, Robby.” Probably not an effective strategy.

Just as you have to sell yourself to potential employers, you need to sell your op-ed to editors. So think of your query letter as a sales pitch for your op-ed.

You don’t have much time — or many words — to convince the editor to run your piece. He or she likely receives hundreds of submissions a day. So don’t summarize. Don’t dwell on the nuances of your argument. Grab the editor’s attention by relating the most compelling portion or angle of your op-ed — and don’t let go.

A few rules of thumb. First, your query should never be longer than four paragraphs — and never more than 200 words. A word count of 150 or less is even better.

Then, highlight the pieces of your argument that are most interesting, timely, and relevant. And don’t be afraid to be sensational. If you’ve written a good opener and have a compelling thesis, the first few paragraphs of your op-ed can be a good starting point from which to whittle a query.

Two additional tips for the conclusion of your query: close out with a question, and emphasize why your piece is a great fit for the outlet you’re pitching.

Questions expect responses — a “No thanks” from an editor is more helpful than no response at all.

And editors can benefit from a final reminder in your query that your piece features information that’s relevant to their readers — perhaps local or state data that substantiate your argument.


Robby Schrum