Whether we like it or not, when we have something to sell, be it our books, our services or a licence to publish, then we are going to have to send or deliver a pitch. Which is why today, the Alliance of Independent Authors AskALLi team is talking all about how to pitch blogs, podcasts and traditional media.
Pitching is something every indie author needs to learn and something every indie author can get better at, with practice. It's also something most of us dread, especially at first. The hurdles faced by women, those with disabilities, and other under-represented groups when drawing attention to their achievements and accomplishments mean such groups are more likely to find pitching a challenge.
Yet we are the stories we tell, to ourselves and to others. Learning to pitch well, in writing or when speaking, is a skill that serves indie authors well.
Common Pitching Mistakes
The biggest mistake people make when pitching is thinking it's about them. It's not. It's about the person you're pitching. If you want to be on someone's blog, podcast, website or in their magazine then you want something from them. That means you need to make what you're pitching about them.
- Starting your pitch with something along the lines of “I'm releasing a new book and I'd love to be on your show to talk about it.”
- Not considering what you can offer them (see below for more tips on this)
- Not making it easy for the recipient or not providing all the information they'd need in one email (see below for tips on what to include)
- Not providing a clear topic or breakdown of the content you'd like them to share either in blog or episode format
There's one other action you can take before pitching that may be helpful to you. Check the site your pitching (be that a podcast or website) to establish whether they have a set of requirements they expect you to meet. For example, you can find ALLi's requirements here. You don't want to submit a 2000 word article if the person you're pitching actually requires 800 word pieces.
How Not to Pitch
There are a lot of ways to pitch badly. But here is a classic example of the type of pitch we at ALLi see regularly.
I love your website and everything you're doing over at selfpublishingadvice.org I've got a new book launching called How Frogs Rule the World. I think it would make an awesome episode for your podcast “The Writing Show”.
Please let me know how I can book in with you.
This is bad for so many reasons. Firstly, the pitch is all about the pitcher. It tells the recipient absolutely nothing about the content or angle that the pitcher wants to discuss. There's nothing to go on to make a decision. No links with helpful information, no information about the book or the pitcher. The majority of recipients would just delete a pitch like this.
(And we've had worse!)
How to Offer Something of Value
There are some key questions you can ask yourself to help you pull together a pitch that will deliver value.
How do you meet their audience?
When you run a content heavy site, it's important you stay on brand. If your site is all about dogs and dog walking, you're not going to want a hairdresser posting. Your audience won't care, it's not relevant and including content is only going to alienate your readers/listeners etc.
If you constantly pitch people that aren't relevant to you and your book or service all you're going to do is fill your inbox with a lot of “no” responses.
So ask yourself how do you meet the audience. It's not to say you can't secure left field pitches. For example, let's say you run wellbeing retreats that are dog friendly – while you're not going to write about dog content specifically, an owner of a dog-content website might be interested in your content because their readers will be dog owners, who I'm sure would be interested in breaks, retreats and holidays that allow dogs onsite. Kennels are expensive and this would be a welcome alternative.
What are you offering them?
If you're going to write an article for their audience, why should they accept you? What angle are you going to write that's new or fresh? How will your information help the readers of their blog, or listeners of their show? Could you create a bonus checklist for their audience to download, perhaps a sneak peek, could you provide some bonus addition, a list of resources? None of those things are compulsory, but they do go to show you're making the effort for the person you're pitching.
How will you promote the thing you're pitching?
Yes, you want to tap into their audience, but remember this is about them as the owner of the website or podcast you're pitching. They're much more likely to accept your pitch if you are willing to help them too.
Even if you have a small audience, showing you're willing to share on your socials and to your newsletter will immediately win you points.
What to Include in a Pitch
Pitches should be succinct. Usually you're pitching someone who's busy and will receive a lot of pitches on a regular basis. Below is a template to help you create a concise pitch that will provide the recipient what they need to assess whether or not you're a good fit for them.
- A short sentence about you and why you're pitching
- A short sentence about why you fit their audience
- A short sentence about what you're offering their audience
- A short sentence about how you can help promote / share
- A link to where they can find out more about you
For podcasts or articles, you should also include a list of topic areas you'd like to cover in the episode or blog. For example, if you wrote writing craft books and you were going to pitch a book on character creation your pitch could look like this:
I've been following your (blog/podcast) for some time and particularly enjoy the posts you do on (XYZ). I'd love to write an article for your audience on character creation. I recently launched a book on character creation and I think some of the tips I share would be useful to your writing audience. Specifically, I'd like to write an article entitled: “Mistakes to Avoid When Writing Characters”. I'd cover the following areas in the article:
- Why your villain needs a wound
- Why you need to forget character archetypes and use side character importance instead
- Why you should focus on developing the hero lens
- Three mistakes to avoid which will help bring depth to all of your characters
If this might be of interest, I'm happy to send a digital copy of the book to you, or you can see other articles I've written along similar lines [here, here and here (put links in)].
Please do let me know whether you'd like the article and any requirements you might have for your blog specifically.
Giving the person your pitching this level of detail means they can assess whether or not your content fits their audience and their content plan. It also shows you know what you're talking about and that you've thought through what you want to offer them.
- A link to the book (or thing you're promoting) so the recipient can read / check it out for free
- A link to one or two social media sites
- A link or two to examples of where you've been published before
Pitching Traditional Media
Again remember, journalists need your pitch. When it comes to traditional media, you'll have competition from PR firms but journalists are looking for something fresh, creative and interesting. If you can give them that, you’ll get that trade media coverage you’ve been hoping for.
Research, research, research. We've said it already above but with trad media pitches, this is utterly essential. Pitching irrelevant information may cause any future relevant pitches to be ignored. Do the work upfront.
News or Features? Traditional media organizes itself around news and features. Industry trends, innovative new products, new technology are newsworthy. New books, awards or outstanding achievements are feature-worthy. Pitching any product as a desperate attempt to gain some form of coverage isn't how it's done. You need to tell a story to engage the journalist first, and then their audiences.
Don't send mass pitches or use those press websites that promise to do that for you. Media want exclusives and definitely don't want to be last to cover news or features that everyone else in their industry has already covered.. Make it clear you are offering them the chance to be the first outlet to cover your story.
Be remarkable. If it’s not remarkable, no one cares. Only the unusual, the special, and the surprising are coverage worthy. So what makes you and your books remarkable? If you struggle with this, check out #IamRemarkable, founded in 2017 by Anna Vainer at Google, as she kept on noticing that many people struggle when it comes to talking about their own accomplishments. Incorporate your personal story into your pitch and tell people why it's key to what you do and what you're pitching now.
Be clear. A journalist needs to be able to see in a matter of minutes the five Ws: who you are, what you are pitching, where you see yourself fitting into their editorial options, when your book or other offering launches, and how you'll deliver for them.
You're indie, go indie. Don't try to be “bigger” or “better” or hide behind a publication imprint name. Journalists see through such subterfuge. Be a proud indie author. Say “I” not “We” and go out as the courageous creative that you are.
Want to pitch for film and TV specifically? ALLi has a great blog on the topic here.
Over to you! Tell us about your stories about pitches you've given or received.