Freelance journos: is it ok to follow up unanswered pitch emails with a phone call to the editor?

(40 Posts)
Bitzer Tue 02-Oct-12 11:05:29

I've been writing and editing for years but mostly working for contract agencies and publications and almost never pitching ideas to editors. (In fact for years I was on the receiving end of pitches, wish I'd appreciated then how much guts it takes to keep sending ideas out into the ether...)

Anyway, have decided to try and branch out into newsstand but with v little experience of pitching to newspapers and mainstream mags I've no idea what the protocol is.

I'm putting together a really great feature, have written a tight pitch for it and emailed it to about 8 people e.g. at environment Guardian, Indi, DT & Times, but no-one has bitten. Do I:
(a) call up each of the editors I've emailed and ask if they've had a chance to think about whether they'd like to run the piece (or will that just piss them off because they're busy?
(b) try different publications?
(c) cut my losses and find a new story (v reluctant to do this because I'm confident it's a winner and I've spent a lot of time researching it).

Would really appreciate any guidance from those in the know. Thanks v much

FriendlyLadybird Fri 16-Nov-12 14:51:47

Interesting -- I've been pitching as a PR for years, and ALWAYS phone first, following up with an email when they ask for it.

allinagoodcause Thu 15-Nov-12 12:35:25

Hi, I've not read all the replies here but I would suggest the reason you haven't had any bites is because you haven't made it clear who your target audience is for your article. You name a lot of papers but you don't mention if this is a feature or a news story? Is it a Sunday supplement piece or a product feature etc etc. You might have more luck if you know where the article should appear and why and then target the appropriate editor. just a thought

PermaShattered Tue 23-Oct-12 22:27:49

Be heartened - don't give up! I have a second article for the Guardian hopefully going online tomorrow smile

Thanks for posting Amnew. Again, can't decide whether to be heartened or dispirited by that...

Amnewtoallthis Tue 16-Oct-12 10:47:13

Have to say I've been on both sides, and am now freelance again. Luckily I've got a bunch of work this week but I'm going to have to go on the pitch-fest again. At 10 weeks pregnant with morning sickness - aargh.

BTW - I was a very successful freelance journalist 2005-2009 (when I had my first daughter and it went a bit pear shaped and still hasn't recovered; took staff jobs as editor until made redundant last September) and I drew up a strategy of editors to contact and story ideas (which I checked had not been published) and would do a ring round of calls each week.
Even though I was known it still took a while to get things going, but keep at it.

Nancy66 Sat 06-Oct-12 16:09:59

i would rather writers didn't call me about ideas they've pitched but, then again, I am very good and quick at getting back to people.

If you don't already then always check whether the publication you are pitching to has run anything similar to your idea in recent times.

It can be annoying to be offered features that you have already covered. If you are pitching to a national newspaper this is very quick and easy to check beforehand.

Your pitches need to be detailed but not overly long. I can't be arsed to read two-page long pitches.

If you are going to follow up with a phone call - pick your moment! Calls at 6pm deadline times never go down well.

Totobear Fri 05-Oct-12 14:52:36

Hi, use whatever means. Sometimes you can find the info online, sometimes when I have my first interaction with a journo I ask them when they like to be approached with new ideas, and they are often pleased that you have taken the time to consider when is best for them.

It's all about fitting round them and making it as easy as possible to run with your pitch. They are the customer, so to speak.

scootle Fri 05-Oct-12 14:00:08

This is the trouble with giving newspapers ideas - it is very easy for them to use it but get someone else to write it. It's odd to get your to mail another reporter - because she is not in a position to commission you.

Bitzer Fri 05-Oct-12 13:02:27

DT editor was interested and suggested I email someone else who is moving out to said country. I've done so but now slightly concerned that, as she is listed on their site as a reporter rather than an editor, she might just take the story and run with it herself. How common is that? And is there anything you can do about it?

Bitzer Fri 05-Oct-12 12:12:21

Totobear v interested in your comments - how do you know when their deadline day or time is? Do you ring the paper to ask?

scootle I know what you mean but they have someone based in the country that the story's about. They said he/she was currently researching a story and there would be some overlap, so I don't think they're planning to nick it but if the exact same story were to turn up in the Guardian I'll realise I was being a bit naive. Going to chase DT today.

scootle Thu 04-Oct-12 22:26:18

Hmmm the 'clashes with another idea we are already running' might mean they are going to run your idea without paying you. Just a thought!

Sounds like you do have a good idea though - so ring the Trlegraph quick.

Totobear Thu 04-Oct-12 21:40:50

Yes, because firstly you know that the journalist has listened to your pitch and secondly you have the opportunity to build a relationship which is like gold dust when it comes to successful PR.

You don't need to chat for long, but make your call short and sweet. The journo will be direct if not interested and it saves you hanging in limbo and clogging up their inbox.

Do make sure you don't call on deadline day or time!

Thanks Toto, I get the impression a few of us are still at the 'first approach' stage, would you still suggest calling first?

And yay for Guardian editors who show courtesy and respect!

Totobear Thu 04-Oct-12 19:30:13

Hi, I do things the other way round. I call and pitch first, with the email drafted and ready to go and then without a doubt the conversations end with a request to send further info by email, at which point I send and then either things progress by email and phone, or, you can send a further email the following week, depending upon your relationship with the journalist.

lalalonglegs Thu 04-Oct-12 19:23:54

Yay for nice people at the Guardian!

PermaShattered Thu 04-Oct-12 19:18:56

I think that's really encouraging. Build on that and pitch other ideas to her smile

Bitzer Thu 04-Oct-12 14:51:20

OK - useful update for those wondering about whether it is still worth pitching ideas. I spoke to the second editor who was lovely. She said it's probably not right for them because it clashes with another feature they're thinking of running but was really nice and thanked me for sending in the idea. She said they do love getting ideas from people. So, I still haven't got a commission out of it, but there is hope...

Bitzer Thu 04-Oct-12 12:31:10

well - he did get back to me as promised. Said he was going to pass on it but suggested contacting the editor of another section, which I did. Nice to have at least had a response

PermaShattered Wed 03-Oct-12 16:13:01

Bitzer - keep up updated!

scootle Wed 03-Oct-12 13:29:39

Great! There's just nothing to lose by calling really.

Bitzer Wed 03-Oct-12 12:58:15

Update – I finally plucked up the courage to call the relevant Guardian section editor. He'd been away but was very friendly, seemed interested in the article and said he'd take a look and get back to me today. So, whatever the outcome, in this instance calling was a good call, so to speak.

This is such an informative and simultaneously inspiring/depressing thread! Thank you all for sharing your wisdom. Good to know that if the answer is yes, it tends to be NOW, so I will hold off from pitching any ideas until I'm in a position to follow them up instantly.

Bitzer Wed 03-Oct-12 10:00:57

Perma - yes you're right of course and thanks for the nudge.

PermaShattered Wed 03-Oct-12 09:42:50

Twelve - virtually a cold call. I had a little interaction via Twitter but nothing else.
Scootle - not since i was at journo college!
Whilst i know experience reaps confidence (I've been doing this for 12 odd years now), having self confidence makes all the difference. Why NOT pick up the phone to chase it up? You have a job to do - just as the editors too. You're not inferior smile

Bitzer Wed 03-Oct-12 09:27:15

Perma that's great - well done! How exciting. I know my emails aren't being spammed because I'm getting out of office messages when they aren't about. I feel I should pick up the phone but want to avoid stressing out an overworked editor and thereby putting them off commissioning me.

scootle Good advice all round. I must just pick up the phone, got a really snooty woman on the phone from the Times yesterday and it put me off but I suppose there's nothing to lose. Out of interest, have any of you written for/worked for local newspapers?

lalalonglegs depressing but insightful, thanks!

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