Part I: How to Pitch and Sell Writing Projects that Really Matter to You
By Ann Douglas
Your enthusiasm and passion for a particular project are your best selling tools as a writer.
Ever tried to pitch a project that didn’t matter to you at all, but that you pitched anyway because your bank account balance urged you on?
How did that work out for you?
Odds are your pitch was half-hearted at best—and unlikely to inspire an editor.
And even if you did manage to land the assignment, you then found yourself in the unenviable position of having to research and write something that you couldn’t have cared less about.
Jane Langille has been there, lived through that, and she’s not eager to end up in pitching purgatory again. “I find that when it’s not something I’m passionate about, it’s way easier to get distracted,” the Toronto-area health writer admits. “When it’s something I’m passionate about, it’s easier to get into a flow state and lose track of time. I love it when that happens.”
Finding your passion
Life is too short to get bogged down with boring and meaningless writing projects—particularly boring and meaningless writing projects of your own making. So how do you come up with ideas for projects that really matter to you?
Tap into your passions and interests. Think about the types of projects (both paid and volunteer) that have proven to be the most satisfying and why. Author and journalist Lisa Collier Cool gravitates toward projects that allow her to share important health information with others. “I have actually received letters from people stating that medical articles I wrote helped to save lives. That means everything to me.”
For tech writer Gordon Graham, it’s the creative challenge of trying to translate complex technical information into something readable and persuasive that he enjoys: “Every project is like solving a puzzle.“
Crafting the pitch
You’ve identified your dream project. Now, how do you go about selling that project to an editor?
By writing the most persuasive pitch possible—one that allows your personality and your passion to shine through.
You don’t want your pitch to read like something that could have been written by anyone else. You want it to zing with the essence of you.
But remember that passion isn’t everything. You also need to include enough specific detail to paint a clear picture in a prospective editor’s head of what both you and the project have to offer. Be sure to flesh out your pitch with enough supporting evidence to make the case for your project and to wrap up your pitch with a call to action.
Taking time to research potential writing markets thoroughly before you make the pitch will help to reduce the number of rejections you experience (the most disheartening part of being a writer). Ditto for conducting a post-game analysis of pitches that didn’t quite make the mark. As any baseball pitcher can tell you, you learn at least as much from the misses as the hits—information that will help you to improve the quality and accuracy of your pitches over time and to zero in on the projects that are the best fit for you, both personally and professionally.
This is the first in a series of occasional blog posts by creative nonfiction writer Ann Douglas about how to have a happy and fulfilling career as a writer. Ann Douglas hosts How to Be a Happy Writer on Trent Radio in Peterborough, Ontario, and is the author of numerous books about parenting and health including, most recently, Parenting Through the Storm: Handling the Highs, the Lows, and Everything in Between (HarperCollins Canada, January 2015). Her website is anndouglas.net and she is @anndouglas on Twitter.[Photo: Rainer Ebert]