Freelance Secret #2: Find a Friend on the Masthead
NOTE: This column is the second in the series “Freelance Secrets”
By Calvin Hennick
If you have a fantastic, sure-sale, can’t-say-no story pitch and you want it to go unread, here are three great places to send it:
These general pitch inboxes might get read at some magazines, but I’m guessing it doesn’t happen a lot. And when they are read, it’s probably by an intern or a junior editor, rather than someone authorized to make decisions about assignments.
You know those coupon booklets that you get in the mail addressed to “Current Occupant”? Yeah, that’s the equivalent of a pitch sent to one of these no-name address. It’s just too easier for the recipient to ignore.
If you want to make sure your pitch is seen by a pair of actual human eyes, you need to send it to a real person.
I always start with Mediabistro.com, a subscription service whose “How to Pitch” articles provide invaluable information about which editors are looking for what type of pitches, and how to contact them. But sometimes the magazine I want to pitch isn’t covered, and in these instances, I turn to the masthead.
Here’s what you want to do: Find someone low enough that they might actually have time to respond to you, but high enough that they have the authority to make the assignment. This part is really crucial. The editors-in-chief of big magazines like GQ, Glamour, and Entertainment Weekly earn millions of dollars and direct the long-term vision of their publications. They don’t have time to field “10 Ways to Lose Belly Fat” pitches. But at the same time, don’t shoot too low. If your cousin’s friend’s cousin is an editorial assistant at your dream publication, I’m sorry to tell you that you still don’t have an in. Someone that low on the masthead would be lucky to get her own byline in the magazine. She isn’t going to be able to fight for you, too.
And the truth is, you don’t need an in. You just need a name, and some persistence.
At a big magazine, I look to the masthead for senior editors, and sometimes features editors or articles editors. At most places, these are the people who – if they like your story – will be able to advocate for it in assignment meetings. At a small niche publication, I might email the managing editor or even the editor-in-chief. But again, don’t try this with Anna Wintour or Jann Wenner.
Anyone can find a name on a masthead, of course. The trickier part is finding an email address. But the truth is, this part’s really not that hard, either.
I’m looking right now at the masthead to Wired, a magazine that I subscribe to but have never pitched. We’ll say the features editor is named John Doe (if you really want to pitch them, the real name will take you ten seconds to find). Now, I Google “John Doe Wired email address.” (Really savvy, right?) Immediately, I see a result for [email protected] Boom! Even if this hadn’t worked, there are other ways. When I Google the phrase “Wired email address,” I get a listing of the magazine’s ad sales people, and I see that all their email addresses follow the [email protected] format. Not too much of a stretch to figure out how to contact John Doe.
And if all else fails, you can just call the magazine and say, “Hi, I’m a freelance writer, and I wanted to pitch John Doe. Can you give me his email address?”
In reality, your pitch will still probably get ignored at first. Even middle-of-the-masthead editors are busy, and your email will get buried under more pressing matters. You’ll have to be persistent and follow up. But now, when you follow up, you’ll at least have a real person to contact. And, unlike [email protected], that person might eventually give you an assignment.
Calvin Hennick’s travel writing has been published in The Boston Globe, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Club Traveler, Budget Travel, SmarterTravel.com, Yahoo Travel, Northshore, WestJet, Cape Cod Travel Guide, and elsewhere. Recent assignments have taken him to Costa Rica, Tuscany, Iceland, Barbados, and Curacao. He prefers aisle seatsSee other articles by Calvin Hennick