Tag Archives: pitching

Successful Science Article Pitches

Art­icle and book pitches – both suc­cess­ful and unsuc­cess­ful – can give you a small insight into an edit­or­’s selec­tion pro­cess and the sales-side of a writer­’s mind, as well as help you learn to write more effect­ively. As such I’ve star­ted to col­lect sites fea­tur­ing pro­pos­als and pitches.

A recent addi­tion to this list is the pitch data­base from The Open Note­book; a col­lec­tion of writer-sub­mit­ted pitches for sci­ence art­icles that have been accep­ted for pub­lish­ing in many of my favour­ite places, such as Ars Tech­nica, Atlantic, Lapham’s Quarterly, This Amer­ic­an Life and Wired.

Of par­tic­u­lar note is a pitch from Dav­id Dobbs, writer of the Neur­on Cul­ture blog. Pitch­ing Atlantic edit­or Don Peck, Dobbs wrote an extens­ive pitch for The Orch­id Chil­dren that led to the pub­lic­a­tion of a fant­ast­ic article, The Sci­ence of Suc­cess. Those who fol­low Dobbs’ blog will know that this in turn led to a book deal for The Orch­id and the Dan­deli­on, Dobbs’ forth­com­ing book.

This American Life on Proposals and Pitches

As a way to increase the qual­ity of the many sub­mis­sions they receive, This Amer­ic­an Life staff offer some excel­lent tips on writ­ing pitches. They go fur­ther, present­ing four pitches that made it on air, describ­ing why they suc­ceeded:

  • Each of these stor­ies is a story in the most tra­di­tion­al sense: there are char­ac­ters in some situ­ation, and a con­flict.
  • These pitch­ers are clear about who the char­ac­ters are and what the con­flict is.
  • Each of these stor­ies raises some big­ger ques­tion or issue, some uni­ver­sal thing to think about.
  • Finally, they’re brief.

On that last one (brev­ity), they offer fur­ther advice. This time I find the advice goes much fur­ther than just radio or TV pitches, but pitches of any type:

Select a short, self-con­tained sec­tion that might make a nice […] story and send us a couple para­graphs describ­ing that sec­tion. […] Assume any­thing over 12 pages will not be read. If you have a hard time choos­ing an excerpt, then spend a page or two explain­ing what your book or doc­u­ment­ary is about, and telling us a few of your favor­ite moments. If you have some ongo­ing pro­ject on your web­site or blog that you think might be inter­est­ing on the show, don’t just send us a link to your archives – paste a few choice excerpts into your pitch. Help us love you! Help us find your best, most radio-friendly mater­i­al!

(Un)Successful Assignment Proposals

I could/should have included this in my pre­vi­ous post on Baum, but I believe these mer­it sep­ar­ate men­tion:

As Jason points out, New York­er edit­or John Ben­net called Baum’s pro­pos­al for a story about a Mex­ic­an gov­ern­ment offi­cial (pdf) “the best pro­pos­al he’d ever read”. Some facts from that story:

One Mex­ic­an in ten lives in the United States, about half illeg­ally. The wages they send home are Mex­ico’s third-biggest source of income after tour­ism and oil. In the demo­graph­ic under­tow of that tid­al wave are 90 Mex­ic­an microre­gions that have been drained of men. Migra­tion to the U.S. is as cent­ral to Mex­ico’s cul­ture as it is to its eco­nomy.

Update: Dan Baum now offers a pro­pos­al-writ­ing ser­vice and as such his col­lec­tion of pro­pos­als have been removed. A real loss. Luck­ily for us, the pro­pos­al above (for a story about a Mex­ic­an gov­ern­ment offi­cial) is still avail­able.