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How to find editors to pitch
The best of all the bad methods
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Hello friends! Today we’re gonna talk about finding editors you can potentially pitch.
But first, let’s get this out of the way: There aren’t any good ways to go about this; there are only bad ways. Of the half-dozen years I’ve been working with freelancers I’ve never come across a truly good strategy. Sure, there are spreadsheets that list commissioning editors, and sometimes you’ll strike gold and a publication will have a current masthead listing editors you can pitch, but neither of those are overall good strategies, as they’re often out-of-date or incomplete. This is a sad reality of the freelance life that has plagued the industry forever, and tbh I don’t really see how it can be fixed. :(
So! That’s the bad news. What is the best technique of the bad techniques? As with many things in journalism, it comes down to your network and to Twitter (*tugs collar*). Through a combination of scouring your network and scouring Twitter, you should be able to cobble together something of a general guide to point you in the right direction when you’re trying to find the right editor at the publication you want to pitch.
First, the easy part: Just ask other freelancers! The freelance community is so incredibly open and willing to help, so don’t be shy about reaching out. When you see someone you know — even if you don’t really know them and they’re just a casual acquaintance — publish a story in an outlet you want to pitch, shoot them a DM and ask who their editor was! It’s only weird if you make it weird, and most folks I know are unbelievably willing and ready to help out with stuff like that. You can be totally low-key about it: “Hi, I loved that story you published in Elle! I’ve been wanting to pitch them but I’m not sure which editor there commissions — if you don’t mind, can I ask who you worked with on your story?” That’s it! Nothing more, nothing less. This is the easiest and, by far, most effective strategy to find editors you can pitch. Build that network!
Now, what about Twitter? It’s a lot less precise, but it can give you a wider view of a publication’s staff.
Want to take your freelance game to the next level? I have a ton of skills-based workshops coming up over the next few weeks! Register for as many as you’d like, see you in there! (All times Eastern.)
Tomorrow, Nov. 4 @ 4 pm: How to write better service journalism. Want to write stories that help people live better lives? Join me and a seasoned service reporter Anna Goldfarb for a workshop on finding, reporting, and pitching great service stories.
Nov. 7 @ 4 p.m.: How to write better personal essays. Not sure how to turn a personal story into an essay you can sell? Wondering how to structure a personal essay? How do you even pitch one? We’ll cover all those questions and more in this workshop featuring some brilliant essayists.
Nov. 9 @ 4 p.m.: How to use social media to find freelance work. Confused on how to get work using Twitter? Curious about the secrets of LinkedIn? This workshop is all about using social media to find work as a freelancer and how social can help you build a sustainable — and profitable! — business.
Nov. 11 @ 3 p.m.: Personalized pitch feedback roundtable led by Tim. Bring a pitch or two you want feedback on to this 8-person roundtable, which will be structured as a grad-school level class in which everyone is expected to participate. I’ll do a short bit at the top focused on expert tips for pitching, followed by a roundtable discussion where your fellow attendees and I will offer you feedback on your pitch(es).
First, go to twitter.com/search-advanced. This will present you with a pop-up screen with a whole bunch of text fields, but you only need to worry about two of them: 1. The second text field down that says, “This exact phrase.” Type in the word “editor” here. 2. Under the heading “Accounts,” in the third text field that says, “Mentioning these accounts,” type in the username for the publication you want to pitch, e.g. “@gqmagazine.” Now hit search in the upper-right corner.
On the results page, filter by People — that’s it! This will return a laundry list of every account on Twitter that has the word “editor” plus the publication’s username in their bio. There’s a ton of stuff here that won’t matter for your search — former employees, people who are editors elsewhere but may have freelanced at the publication you’re searching, etc. — but if you scroll through enough, these results can at least give you a starting point. It’s very imprecise, but it’s the best of the bad methods I know of.
Got any better strategies? I would love to hear them! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Editors” in the subject line, and I’ll round up some of your best methods in a future newsletter.
Good luck out there!
Oh, a few other things …
• I am now offering one-on-one coaching and personal pitch reviews! Coaching sessions can include anything you need help with: writing and/or editing coaching, story development, story editing, social strategy, and anything else. And pitch reviews are exactly what you’d think: Let’s review a pitch of yours together! Book a timeslot for either session here.
• Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram!
Okay bye ily!