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Freelance pitches

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Story_Idea, Feb 20, 2012.

  1. Story_Idea

    Story_Idea New Member

    Hello. I have a pretty good feature idea that I want to pitch to some major magazines, but after reading the GQ-Esquire discussion on the Zanesville story thread, I am curious about the protocol when pitching major magazines that are competitors. For example, if I pitch to Sports Illustrated, should I not pitch to ESPN: The Magazine, as well? I wouldn't want to tip off a competitor, in the event one of the magazines decides to take my story. (Obviously there are competitors on a lower scale, as well).

    I know that the Writer's Market has some guidelines about simultaneous submissions to magazines, but I can't tell you how many times I have pitched to a magazine or newspaper, and then never heard the first word back. It's like my query just disappeared into the ether!

    So: Can you pitch to competitors? And, if you don't, how long should you wait before pitching to a competitor, i.e. after how long shouldl you assume that magazine No. 1 just isn't interested?

    Thank you so much.
  2. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    Re: Freelance pitches: Pitching to competitors?

    Pitch to anyone you want to. Unless you have a regular business relationship with a magazine, your only obligation is to look out for yourself.
  3. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    Re: Freelance pitches: Pitching to competitors?

    Be aware that if you don't have any particular inside access or half the reporting done when you make a pitch, that publication may very well take your idea and give it to a staff writer anyway. If you're making a pitch to a publication you haven't written for in the past, you better feel very confident you can do that story better (or easier) than their staff writers, and you should make that clear to the publication.
  4. Story_Idea

    Story_Idea New Member

    Re: Freelance pitches: Pitching to competitors?

    So what magazines do you guys think might be receptive to a good human interest sports feature? Sports Illustrated and ESPN are the only ones that leap to mind, along with perhaps a regional or city magazine?
  5. mocheeks10

    mocheeks10 Member

    Re: Freelance pitches: Pitching to competitors?

    I would echo what Versatile said -- outlets are very apt to take your idea and hand it off to a full-timer. It's happened to me on more than one occasion. It's frustrating, but they do have the right to do that.
  6. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    Re: Freelance pitches: Pitching to competitors?

    My wife was an editor at a regional magazine and often said there were never enough good pitches. Plenty of writers who wanted to write, plenty of "meh" ideas, but not many focused, solid pitches. If you've got one that's perfect for a regional mag, go after it. Regional mags usually have limited staffs, meaning there's decent-sized freelance budgets and room in every issue for freelance work.

    I'm not sure pitching to the likes of SI and ESPN is good business sense for a freelancer, unless you've got a strong "in" there that can get your story into the right hands. Otherwise the fail rate is pretty much 100 percent.
  7. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    It's impossible to make that list without knowing the pitch (which you probably would be better off not posting on a journalism forum). But don't limit yourself to just the biggest magazines. If it's an idea that you think is good enough that SI or ESPN would consider it, you could also try Grantland or Yahoo's The Post Game. Don't forget specialty magazines, either, depending on the sport. SI picks up maybe five freelance articles a year for the print product, so you'd also have better luck there pitching to the Web editors as well. ESPN: The Magazine is a bit more liberal in hiring freelancers.

    I should add that, if you haven't seen it, this thread has tons of resources and information: http://www.sportsjournalists.com/forum/threads/62679/
  8. ringer

    ringer Active Member

    No crime in aiming high.

    But I'd advise against pitching a unique idea to several publications at once.

    If you're trying to build trust somewhere, you should at least let an editor get first right of refusal. If he or she doesn't respond within a reasonable time (and you can decide when that is based on the time hook of the story) you can write again to say you're going to move on if you don't hear back by a certain day. You gave them a fair opportunity.

    Then pitch you second choice, and keep doing down till you get a "yes."

    It's not as slow as it sounds. Sometimes multiple rejections come very quickly. haha (Just be ready for it and move on)

    Good luck!
  9. flexmaster33

    flexmaster33 Well-Known Member

    Yes, better off finding a publication with a smaller niche or less staff...look locally/regionally first if you want to build some regular contacts.
  10. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    Re: Freelance pitches: Pitching to competitors?

    One of the best things I have read about pitching is here:


    She has pitched successfully to Wired, Sports Illustrated, the New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker.

    Here is the rub:

    One technique she employs, which I think is a good idea, is sending a "pre-pitch e-mail." It's an introduction e-mail, with the two sentence idea and asking for an e-mail back if they would like a full pitch. It puts them in the position of having asked you to send it, rather than it showing up unsolicited.
  11. Story_Idea

    Story_Idea New Member

    Wow, Ragu. Thank you for that link. I don't mind doing the 25 percent of reporting ahead of time, personally. I would just feel bad for taking up my subject's time if the story didn't work out. It's - in my opinion - a really compelling human-interest story that just needs to find a home.
  12. Ben_Hecht

    Ben_Hecht Active Member

    Great thread. Keep going.
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