Despite all the lessons we have on pitching, sometimes, we just want to get inside an editor’s head to find out exactly what they’re looking for. A features list in a magazine obviously varies from month to month, but the quality of the pitches a glossy editor looks for, is usually the same. I chatted to Cosmopolitan‘s Acting Editor (and regular Deputy Editor) Jessica Parry to find out what makes a perfect glossy pitch…
– How long have you been comissioning for (not just at Cosmo)? About 10 years.
– What are the biggest pitching mistakes that freelancers make? Not knowing the product. If I was to give one piece of advice it would be to thoroughly read the magazine. You may have read it a year or so ago but a lot can change in that time – such as section headers and even sometimes the tone. Cosmo is never going to run a story on the experience of parents dealing with teenagers, for example, but yes I have been pitched that as a story idea. I’ve also had freelancers pitch ideas that are in the current issue of the magazine – which shows they are not reading it. Another important point is that the freelancer must have experience. While we are all for giving someone a go, it just makes more work for us if the writer does not have the skills to structure a story or “get” the Cosmo tone.
– What do you look for in a pitch? / What makes a great pitch? It relates to my point above but it’s when someone really gets the magazine. A good freelancer will start their pitch with a suggested headline, sell and then a synopsis of the article. They should have a new angle – for example, a statistic or a strong anecdote – that will give the story freshness; something the Cosmo reader hasn’t read before.
– How many freelance submissions do you take on average (per issue?) We like to use different voices in the magazine so we have a stable of trusted freelancers who write for us each month. We would probably use five freelancers per issue who would write anything from one to three stories each. Often times though these are story ideas that we have brainstormed at the office … but we do take a few freelancer submitted story ideas each month.
– Are there certain parts of the magazine that are no-go zones for freelancers, and parts that are? Not really. We encourage freelancers to pitch across all sections of the magazine, however our in-house writers tend to manage the Life Stylist section, which isn’t very copy heavy. We use freelancers in all of our main sections though – features, You You You and Body Love especially.
– Are freelancers better off pitching to a Deputy or Features ed? Pitching to either the deputy or the features editor is fine on Cosmo – other magazines have different structures though so it’s best to check with each title (just call up the editorial co-ordinator and ask).
– Any stand-out pitches come to mind? A recent one was from our NYC stringer who pitched a story about attending a nude yoga class. Something different and a bit quirky.
– How long before a freelancer should follow-up on a pitch? Do you tend to respond straight away if you are interested? This depends on where we are in the production cycle. If we’re on deadline it could take me a week, if not it could be that same day. I would recommend they follow up no earlier than a week after submission.
– Do you think that gushing about the magazine in a pitch is tacky and unprofessional? I think it’s unnecessary.