I started pitching to publications without having any idea how it was supposed to work. I familiarized myself with what I should include in a pitch but it was mostly a learn-as-you-go process.
After a while I figured out the elements of a pitch. Of course, I always read the submission guidelines and customized every pitch to fit the publication I wanted to be featured on. I introduced myself and my blog, described my idea in a few sentences and explained why I was the best person to write the article.
I hoped my excitement about pitching this specific publication would show but I also wanted to sound professional and easy to work with.
That’s why, with every pitch I would add something in the lines of: “I’ll be happy to make edits if necessary.” I hoped that the editors would feel how keen I was to work with them. I included these few lines to prove that I’m really committed to this magazine and to show the willingness to edit my work until they were happy with it.
But then I read Daniel Jones’ submission tips on how to be published in the NYT Modern Love column. He says: “…this approach sends the message that although the story didn’t naturally turn out to be long enough for the column, the writer would be open to “padding it” if necessary. Better to convey, through a slightly overlong submission, that your story is so meaty and jam-packed and full of life that you just couldn’t get it down to the right length, but you tried and got it close!”
KJ Dell’Antonia mirrors the same sentiment in the #AmWriting podcast which she co-hosts with bestselling author Jessica Lahey: “Someone has said that editors are looking for a reason to delete your email without reading and I can say that this is sadly true.” She then adds: “Count words. Don’t submit something that is 1500 words if their regular post is 800 words and say ‘I’ll be happy to cut this down if you like it.’ Bing! It’s out of the inbox!”
While these comments are focused more on word count, the offending writers made the same mistake I made: By adding that seemingly innocent little phrase, they may have conveyed the feeling that what they’re sending is not their best work.
Maybe at the beginning, when you’re pitching to “easy” publications, these little things may not matter, however, the higher you aim, the more they begin to matter. Remember, editors at top magazines are very busy. While they’re probably excited to work with writers, they receive an incredible number of pitches every day. For example, Daniel Jones gets 100 pitches a week for Modern Love – and only one makes it into the column!
The truth is that these editors don’t want you to submit something that you’d have to tweak. They want you to send in your very best, something they can publish immediately. Of course, some editors prefer to work with writers on their submissions, but most would probably prefer a turnkey essay that is ready to go.
Since I realized this, I stopped using the phrase “I’ll be happy to make the necessary edits” in my pitches.Eliminate “I’ll be happy to make the necessary edits” from pitches! Click To Tweet
This may or may not increase my chance of getting published, because in the end, it all depends on the writing and whether the particular idea fits the publication at a given time. But it will definitely decrease the risk of having my email deleted.
If you find yourself adding that seemingly innocent little phrase or something like it when you pitch, please stop. Instead, learn from my mistakes. Work on your article until it’s the best it can be, and only then send it to your editor.
While it may seem this makes you difficult to work with, the truth is that it makes you a better writer. Because when you cut this phrase from your pitches, you can be sure that the work you’re sending requires no or very few “necessary edits.”