I got three emails this week from acquaintances seeking advice about the whole writing game. I always find this simultaneously flattering and humbling. Flattering, because obviously they think i'm doing something right, and humbling, because I really don't feel all that successful! I'm still starting out and I make mistakes all the time.
Still, i think this could be a good space to answer questions with what I do know. Someone emailed to ask me how you write a pitch.
1) You have to be very familiar with the specific publication, and what they want. Most take queries by email, but some still want a packet of material mailed in, including clips.
2) Make sure you know what editor you're pitching to. You can often derive email addresses from the businesspeople on a publication's masthead ; assume that the address format will be the same for all names listed. As a last resort, you can call and ask who handles what.
3) You need to know whether the publication, or anyone else, has covered your idea before, and if so what makes this version new. The pitch should be fleshed out. It doesn't hurt to make a phone call or two.
4) Pretend your story's already been assigned. How long will the story be? What section will it go in? Mention this in your review.
5) Things that in my opinion are almost impossible to pitch: movie reviews (the lead time is too great), anything involving a celebrity who is not your relative, and some theory you have about something. Things that are great to pitch: A new idea which you have previously overlooked evidence for. A subculture or underworld that you have unique access to. Any story with a compelling main character. Whatever the editor happens to be in the mood for right at that moment.
Other writers: let me know if you have anything to add.