Today, we’re proud to share with you another GUEST POST! Please read up, and take some hints about avoiding simple mistakes from Yael Grauer, as she has excellent advice about making the most of your pitches. Please share your thoughts below in the comments section.
Put your best foot forward when pitching editors, agents, and corporate clients
by Yael Grauer
When communicating with potential clients, we all strive to put our best foot forward. And yet editors, agents, and corporate clients are often quick to advise aspiring writers to avoid what seem like glaringly obvious errors.
“You’d be surprised,” they all say, recounting dozens of stories of misspellings, inappropriate inquiries, and instances of bizarre behavior.
We all laugh at these amateur mistakes when they’re made by others, but I’ll reluctantly admit that I once noticed I’d sent an e-mail to a dream client with “copywriter posiion” written as the subject line. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.
How do we avoid these embarrassing errors? Here are five tips to keep in mind.
- Check your spelling. This includes that of the person you’re addressing your inquiry to, the company they work for, and the entire text of your e-mail or letter. And not all of these mistakes are easily caught by spellcheck, either. Businesses often have non-standard capitalization, spaces where you wouldn’t think there’d be any, or other unexpected oddities. Being oblivious to these idiosyncrasies makes you seem inattentive to detail, so take the time to show that you’re paying attention.
- Double-check the addressee of your inquiry. “This article would be perfect for Woman’s Day,” an editor of a different women’s magazine recalled reading in a query. Her knee-jerk reaction: “Then why don’t you send it to them?” Although the time-consuming process of personalizing each and every pitch isn’t always feasible, at least tailor the addressees of your query letters.
- Make sure your pitch is appropriate. So you know how to spell the name of the person you’re trying to reach and the name of their business or publication. Now, make sure the idea you’re pitching them is actually something that will interest them. That means that you don’t want to send a pitch about Android apps to Macworld, or a kid’s story to AARP, or something about making ham for Easter to Tikkun Magazine. It means you’re not going to send a proposal for young adult fiction to an agent who only represents biographies, or poetry to a magazine that only publishes articles. Not sure? Check the FAQ section of their website, or any back issues (if appropriate). If it’s not immediately obvious, check with someone in the know or consider picking up the phone to contact the company in question directly.
- Don’t be a stalker. Following up a couple of weeks after you’ve made an inquiry is acceptable. Following up the next day (and the next day and the next day) is not. Sending a holiday card to someone you’ve worked with is a nice touch. Mailing a gift to someone you’ve never worked with is not.
- Don’t argue. If someone chooses not to use your services and you’re lucky enough to get an explanation, say thank you and move on. Bickering with the decision-maker about why they’re wrong isn’t only unhelpful, it’s also obnoxious. Try to learn from the feedback, using it to restructure future pitches to either avoid the error you might have made or to avoid the misperception of one. If you suspect you’re not getting the whole story, it’s possible that there’s actually a different, more complicated, or political explanation the person you’re communicating with chose not to share with you. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again. You’ll be better for it.
What seemingly obvious errors have you seen people make, and what steps could they have taken to avoid them? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.
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