Publish Your Stories … And Get Paid for It
Many writers are curious on how to pitch their articles to magazines and how to submit their short stories and poems to publications for pay. Pitching to magazines is a bit of a mystery to those on the outside. Submitting to publications is pretty much the same. How are writers to make their first or second or third sale when they’re struggling to figure out how it all works and what a successful pitch looks like.
I recently released a course in teaching writers of all genres how to sell their writing to top publications. While talking with other writers—beginners and professionals—to help inform the curriculum, I realized that there was a distinction in how writers who sold a lot of pieces to publications worked versus how writers who are struggling to sell even one or two stories to an editor work and view pitching or submitting their stories for publication.
It frequently came down to how they sent out stories. While writers who find themselves scratching their heads at the whole submitting and pitching game of writing, successful writers have templates and schedules based around tried and true methods, not always their own.
Essentially, the writers I spoke with who were trying to break down the walls to publication spent a lot of energy on thinking about what they did wrong and not what they did right and how to simplify it.
While a lot of the successful writers who I work with and spoke to about pitching didn’t so much as think about their weak spots as learn from and strengthen them.
One of the biggest issues for writers starting out at pitching is in their actual pitch or introductory email. They have no idea how to craft an idea, write a pitch, or even where to find the guidelines to do so. While my course goes into all that and more, I wanted to share something that is not in my course.
Examples of Successful Pitches
Howdy EDITOR FIRST NAME,
I'm a writer or editor for Tordotcom, Rue Morgue, and a few other places. I'm a fan of your publication and the content y'all put out. I especially love the in-depth and thoughtful coverage on games and player culture.
I've got some pitches that have been rattling around in my head that your readers will love because of their close connection to gamer culture and how it reflects and resonates with people and speaks on issues or deficits in our own communities.
'Cozy Management Games Remind Us How to Care': games like Animal Crossing and Spritfarer offer players a stress-free way to connect and interact with people while caring in a low-stakes way. This article will take readers through a cozy journey of the lessons taken from cozy management games that can lead to people living better and fuller lives. Sparsed with interviews from fans and players of the games, to content creators within the community, and my own personal experiences with these games during quarantine and stressful times, this features article will show people that gamers are more than just fun, but that they are lifeboats during difficult times.
Let me know your thoughts. Thanks again for the great content!
Howdy EDITOR FIRST NAME,
My name is Aigner Loren Wilson, I'm a writer or editor with work appearing in The Writing Cooperative, SFWA blog, Tordotcom, and more. I’m a fan and long-time subscriber of your publication. It’s helped me grow as a writer over the past few years in more ways than I can count, which is why I want to return the favor to other readers of the magazine.
Here are some pitches that have been rattling around in my head:
'What I Learned About Story Writing My First Game': this off-the-cuff article will show writers my journey learning how to code through taking classes, playtesting, personal study, and how I came to understand game mechanics and their role in storytelling when it comes to reader engagement, expectations, and creating a work that resonates. estimated word count: 1,200-words
My name's Aigner, I'm a professional editor and writer. I came across your job and wanted to offer my expertise.
Everything you have outlined in your project is right up my alley. With my years of editing experience with various publications and companies, I'm great at handling multiple pressing deadlines and getting back to each department and team in a timely manner. Working on a development team takes great team work and communication skills all things I hold close due to my past working on teams with game developers and other writers to produce a published work.
Based on what you've listed in your project for pay and time wanted, it seems best to do the milestones by monthly pay out instead of weekly or projected based. In my experience, doing it this way has been a smooth way to handle payment of multiple projects. I'm very open to hearing your thoughts on this matter, and am open to doing weekly or biweekly payments as well.
I've included my official resume with links to live works that I have edited and written, along with samples of unpublished editing projects. Please let me know if you have a page sample that you would like me to edit as a part of the selection process. If there are any other materials that you would like to see, please feel free to ask. I'll get them to you ASAP.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
Where to Send Your Stories
There are tons of ways to find places to pitch and submit, too. The most common one is searching out a huge list of publications and whittling through them. I go over a bunch more in the course to help writers never run out of places hungry for their stories.
Here’s another area I find quite a lot of writers floundering in.
In the example pitches above, I use my expertise in various niches to show the editors that I know what I’m talking about and have worked with other professional publications within their niche. A lot of first-time writers whose pitches I’ve examined are all over the place. They are linking to random blog posts they wrote on dog diabetes while pitching a humor piece to The New Yorker, gushing about how they’re a jack-of-all-trades, and on and on.
There’s nothing in their pitches that tells the editor that the writer knows what they are doing and has experience writing the topic they are pitching. Or worse yet, they write their pitch in the style of how they plan on writing the article. It’ll stand out, right? Yes, but not in a good way.
Determine three or five subjects you’re passionate about, have lived experience in or can get lived experience in, and are knowledgeable in, use those to guide where you send pitches and story submissions. Want to write about race, baking, pets, and hiking? Find the magazines that serve those niches and begin pitching or sending them stories that show your talent, style, and uniqueness. Want to be a horror poet or science fiction writer? Read the markets that publish those stories and poems and write within your genre.
Pro Tips for Submitting and Pitching
- Always address the editor by their name and avoid honorifics like (Mr., Ms., Mrs., etc.) unless you know what their gender is without assuming
- Keep track of where you send your pitches and submissions through your own managed system other than Submission Grinder, Duotrope, or another such site
- Read the publication guidelines and don’t go off of what a website or another author says
- Build a bank of markets/publications to submit to within your niche
- Learn ways to blend your niches and expertise to craft unique experiences and stories for your readers
- Though an editor may take weeks to get back to you, take 2 days tops to return their emails
- Keep the pitch under 500 words
- Never do simultaneous or multiple submissions unless the publication specifically states they are okay with it in their guidelines
- Make sure the editor knows how you’re going to tell your story in a pitch
- Make sure your submission has emotional beats mixed in with the telling
- Know which markets accept pitches or full story submissions and don’t mix the two up
Aigner Loren Wilson’s work has appeared in Better Humans, Tordotcom, The Writing Cooperative, and more. Subscribe for access to her novel writing masterclass course that teaches writers how to write a novel without getting lost in the weeds.