You’ve got a damn good story idea. You found the perfect publication for it.
But, there is one problem. You have absolutely no idea who you should pitch. Or how.
With there being multiple types of editors, it can be hard to figure out which one to get in touch with. Then there’s the whole issue of finding their email address. To call it “frustrating” would be a bit of an understatement at times. Unfortunately, this is just part of becoming a freelance writer.
If you’re not sure who to contact, or how to contact them, then this post is for you. There are few steps you can take to make the whole process easier, and I’m happy to share those steps with you. So, grab a cup of coffee and don your best sleuthing hat. It’s time to play Detective.
These are the steps I take when figuring out the right editor to pitch, and then figuring out how to actually contact them.
Figuring Out Who to Pitch
Step 1: Narrow It Down
With the exception of pitching to a really small trade publication, you want to avoid pitching to the editor-in-chief. They’re probably just going to delete your email without giving you a response, or giving your pitch any further thought. You’ll just be waiting for a response that won’t come.
Instead, you want to look for the editor who is in charge of your story’s topic or beat. For example, if you’re writing about the latest tech trends, look for the technology editor.
You can look for the masthead within the magazine itself, either digital or print, or you can turn to Google. I tend to use the latter, since I don’t always have print copies of magazines available. Just Google “[name of magazine] editor” or [name of magazine] masthead.”
If you still can’t find what you’re looking for, do a Google search for “[name of magazine] senior editor”, “[name of magazine] associate editor,” or “[name of magazine] deputy.” Even if you don’t pick the right editor on the first try, those people would be the most likely to send your query to the correct editor. Contributing editors and copyeditors don’t assign stories, so don’t waste your time pitching to them. (It took me a bit before I learned this!)
2: Get Them on the Phone
This may sound a bit overkill, but it actually works really well. As someone with a speech impediment, I absolutely hate talking on the phone. However, this really is one of the most effective ways to find out who to contact, and how to contact them.
Look up the number for your target trade publication, call them, and ask to speak to someone from the relevant department. Once you are in connected to someone, ask, “Who should I contact with a pitch about startup tech trends?” It can be a bit daunting, but it really works.
The first time I did this, I was pretty freaked out. One of the best things about freelancing was not being forced to speak to people. I have pretty bad anxiety and a speech impediment, so I really dislike having to talk to people I don’t know. I also absolutely abhor phone calls.
There is always going to be something about a job you don’t like. Making phone calls is actually just part of being a freelance writer.
3: Use Social Media
Social media, with its networking and search capabilities, lends itself well to using it as a tool for finding which editor to contact, as well as how to do so.
Go into one of the groups you belong to, and ask if they have a contact at your target trade publication. If they like your work, they may even go so far as introduce you via email. When you do reach out to the group, leave your email address or ask them to send you a private message. That way, the information stays secret.
Not part of a Facebook group? Check out this great groups for writers/bloggers:
There is always the chance that your targeted trade publication didn’t publish a masthead anywhere online. While this makes your job a bit more difficult, it’s not time to give up!
Twitter is one of the best options for finding an otherwise-unlisted (or totally hidden) editor, since people on Twitter generally list their place of business in the bio section of their profile.
Click on the search tool, type in “editor” along with the @handle of the trade publication you’re going after.
It never hurts to send a direct message on Twitter, and may actually even help you stand out from the other writers trying to contact that editor.
Getting in Contact
So, now you’ve (hopefully!) figured out which editor to contact. The only problem? You don’t know how to go about doing that.
These are the steps I take for finding an editor’s email address:
1: Turn to Google
Once again, Google is your friend.
Simply search for “[Editor’s name] email address,” and it should show up. You can also search for “[editor’s name] [trade publication] email address,” or try your luck with “firstname.lastname@example.org.”
2: Look at the Other Editors
If you’re still unable to find this pesky email address, it’s time to be extra stealthy.
Check out the other editors at the trade publication, and look for their email addresses. If most of theirs follows the basic format of email@example.com, then you can probably take a leap of faith and guess that your target editor’s address would follow the same format.
How do YOU figure out which editor to pitch? How do YOU find their email address? Share your tips in the comments!