5 Ways to Fake Confidence in Your Article Pitch

confidentwomanpointingatselfBy Diana Burrell

You—ve spent hours–nay days–crafting a pitch letter for a dream market. You—ve researched what feels like every back issue of the magazine, and you know in your gut your idea is a winner. Your idea shines, you—ve got learned expert sources lined up, and you’re even feeling jazzed about your writing style.

So you’re bummed when your killer pitch lands back in your inbox with a tepid rejection note.

Okay, so you—ve been writing professionally for under a year. You only have clips from a couple regional magazines you assured the editor she hasn’t heard of. Or maybe you have zero clips, but you promised the editor you’d do a great job anyway.

If you mentioned these things, any of them, in your e-mail, it may be why your pitch dangles off the loser board.

Because here’s one of life’s truths: People are attracted to confidence. When you sound unconfident in a pitch, it’s like branding your writing with a giant L.

Here’s another life truth: People who seem confident usually feel no more confident inside than you or I. They’re just better at appearing confident.

We—ve all met people who are rather ordinary looking, but who possess seemingly magical powers at attracting a constant stream of admirers. Or friends who are of average intelligence who land jobs and opportunities far beyond what you’d expect and bosses who could turn a roomful of reluctant prospects into eager customers.

How do these folks appear more attractive, more intelligent, more influential than the rest of us?

By acting with confidence.

The great thing about confidence is it can be faked. Even better news for you, the freelance writer: you don’t have to fake it IRL, just in your writing.

How?

 

1. Eliminate wishy-washy wording from your pitch.

What sounds more confident?

“I hope to interview Dr. Christiane Northrop for this proposed article.”

versus

“I plan to interview Dr. Christiane Northrop for my article.”

or

“I could interview mothers of twins who developed this common condition.”

versus

“I will interview mothers of twins who developed this common condition; I’ve already lined up some moms who are willing to talk.”

Don’t hem and haw about how you can maybe, kinda, hopefully do something. Say it with confidence!

 

2. Focus on the positive.

Think about what makes YOU the perfect writer for this story and figure out a way to slip that into your pitch. It can be as simple as mentioning to an editor at a women’s magazine that the ten tips you’ll offer readers to save on their utility bills are ones you used yourself to reduce your bills by 20 percent last winter. For a story on how to move overseas, this is where you mention that you picked up and moved to Europe and Asia ten years ago.

 

3. Ditch the negative.

Read your pitch carefully. Is there anything in there that could be construed by an editor as a negative? Here are some negatives I’ve seen in pitch letters:

  • “I’m a part-time freelancer.” (Your working hours are your business only.)
  • “I’ve only written for…” (Only” Just list names of the publications and move on.)
  • “I wrote this for Magazine X, but it was killed when a new EIC came on board.” (Again, no one’s business but your own.)
  • “English is my second language.” (Here an editor will assume you won’t be able to write well enough for a magazine, even if you can write beautiful prose en anglais. Surprise the editor with your multilingual skills once you’ve successfully completed a few assignments for him.)
  • “I’m willing to write for free to prove myself.” (It’s called a blog. Start one.)
  • “I’ve never written about X before, but I have a mountain of clips in other subjects.” (You’re a writer. Writers write about subjects they don’t know a lot about because they have mad reporting skillz and possess curious minds.)

Do a search and destroy on negative language in your query. Remember, you want to tell an editor what you can do, not what you can’t.

 

4. Zip it.

So many beginning writers worry about not having clips or enough experience and shoot themselves in the feet by admitting this in a pitch letter. My advice is to say nothing and just end your letter with, “I look forward to hearing from you soon.” Some editors will assume you are far more experienced than you really are if your pitch letter is well-written and spot-on for their publication. They—ll just figure you’re so good at what you do, you don’t need to upsell yourself.

 

5. Remember, blogging does get respect.

Blogs were once pooh-poohed by editors as playgrounds for navel-gazing diarists. But if you run a successful blog–meaning you update it frequently, craft well-written posts that attract commenters, and generate lots of page views each month–be sure to mention it in your closing paragraph especially if the article you’re pitching relates to your blog. You can also provide links to blog posts you—ve written for sites owned by others; again, only if your writing sings.

Have you ever faked confidence in a pitch? Let us know your tips in the Comments below. —Diana Burrell.

Diana’s next 3-week Become an Idea Machine workshop starts Monday, March 10. Sign up here or visit her website to learn more.

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27 comments… add one
  • My dear Linda,
    I’m spreading my love and appreciation to you today because I just landed my first feature article in an honest to goodness glossy city magazine — Hour Detroit.
    I recently took your magazine article-writing course because 1. I needed it, and 2. Since stumbling upon your website a year ago I have found your voice clear and your advice perfect.
    So with confidence in heart and hand, I set to work a month ago to compose the most stellar queries ever. A roller coaster of emotions followed. Editor #1 replied with “I can’t see how this particular topic could be developed and what kind of audience would be interested in it.” (copied and pasted word-for-word from her reply)
    I cried for an afternoon, vowing to give up my foolish attempt at this crappy writing thing.
    But hurt turned to anger by evening and I set to work on my last-ditch attempt at a query. I tweaked a few things — according to editor #1’s reaction.
    After sleeping on the revised query to editor #2, I sent it off the next day. Within an hour, he responded positively, commending me on checking their editorial calendar for the correct issue for this story and saying how it will fit right in.
    I credit you with much of this success Linda because of posts like this one. Your practical advice laser-beams right to the heart of the issues, leaving me with enthusiasm to keep on truckin’!
    Thank you,
    Josie

    • Josie, that is AWESOME! Congrats and good for you for not letting that one editor get you down. You can’t place all your faith and hope in one editor — as you can see, she was WRONG! Do you think you could send me a brief testimonial on my ecourse I can add to my website and send out in a marketing email for my next session?

      Keep up the great work!

    • Also, just to be clear, this post is by Renegade Writer Diana Burrell, not me.

    • Congratulations on turning a negative experience into a positive one! That’s the spirit!

  • “Have you ever faked confidence in a pitch?”

    Yes, I have… that is because I am a firm believer in the phrase ‘Fake It till you Make It’.

    If you act as though you are the right person for the job (and put in the hours), you will be the right person for the job.

  • You are right about blogging. It’s really not about how much traffic we attract to our blogs, but it’s about writing regularly and posting so that the right people can visit at the right time for them. That philosophy has attracted more than one client for me over the years.

  • Excellent tips – thank you for sharing! Bonus: Most of them are broadly applicable to other forms of pitching services. Having spent 5 years writing + editing B2B proposals, for example, I applied several of these tips in nearly every assignment and can attest to their impact. So glad to know those practices will serve me well in pitching articles to editors!

    • Thanks, Lana. Really, it’s advice that’s applicable to almost anything, including networking and dinner parties. 😉

  • Ankita Chandran-Dave

    Thank you for writing this post, Diana. I went over the few queries I have created and each one has at least a couple of things that need to be ditched. Without this I would have never realized what I was doing wrong. Also thank you Linda for sending me this way.

  • Great post, Diana, and the timing could not have been more perfect! Tonight, after reading this confidence boosting post, I plan on crafting a knock-out query to the editor of a magazine that has grabbed my attention with some fantastic writing and topics. With this advice, I know one thing for sure- I will come across as a confident, experienced write who will get the job done. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

  • “‘I’m willing to write for free to prove myself.’ (It’s called a blog. Start one.)” — I had to LOL at that one! I used to offer the same advice to my adult students when I was a workforce development instructor. It pays to only focus on your positive attributes. Oftentimes, because we don’t think we are ready for a certain job, we sabotage our chances of getting it with our words. We can be our own worst enemy when it comes to putting yourself out there and finding work. Great post!

    • Halona, thanks for chiming in. Your response reminds me an article I read in a recent Harvard Business Review about executive women applying for positions … they tend to focus on the negatives, like the experience they don’t have, versus what the men do, which is upsell/highlight the experience they DO have and ignore those pesky job requirements in the ad. I wish I could find the link …

  • This is definitely a post I’m going to share with all my newbie freelance followers. Lack of confidence is a big issue for new freelance writers, but, as writers, we have great tools for masking our inner insecurities. This is certainly one of the most practical posts I’ve read about how to do it.

    • Thank you, Kathleen. I like to think it’s so much easier to mask my flaws in writing than, say, a Match.com ad or during an acting audition. 😉

  • This is helpful and encouraging advice. I think the best one was zip it. It’s hard for writers or speakers not to say too much sometimes.

    • I agree, Peter. I guess it shouldn’t surprise us that a lot of writers have *too* much to say. 😉

  • Brilliant, Diana (and Linda for posting it!). I do this EVERY DAY! But I do find that faking confidence “IRL” serves to make me more productive (One secret: sometimes I even dress as if for a client meeting on days when I’m only going to sit home and write if I need to reassure myself that I, in fact, AM a professional writer.)
    As always, thank you for the useful advice, ladies.

  • Diana great piece–I just linked it in my “roundup”. I’ve had soem good guest-post success lately and this topic/article really resonates and I want others to know about it! Despite my sucess with it, for which I am grateful, I know I cannot take anything for granted and the advice and inspiration you provide here will be most useful for me, and many others, no doubt. Thanks, and I would love to connect a bit off-line and discuss further, if you are willing(and love to chat about this with anyone interested–it’s an important topic).

  • Thank you, Thank you, Diana! (You, too, Linda, for providing the platform 🙂 )

    So completely and totally appropriate for , oh, like, everything you want to do with your Life!

  • Ditto on the blog thing! I started my blog late last year and in the past few weeks was approached by three different clients: two editors and one copywriting client.

    Side note: I’ve been following Linda and Diana’s advice since I was a fresh-out-of-college writer (7 years ago!), and it has been invaluable to my career! 🙂

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