I've been a writer and editor for a good long while now. In those roles, I've seen some disturbingly bad pitches. Usually these amount to pitches that don't relate to me or my publication in any way, or pitches that have egregious grammar and spelling errors, or maybe they are just all over the place with no clear point.
Today I got one that is all of the above.
I've decided to analyze this trainwreck in the hopes that others can learn from this person's eye-melting pitching mistakes. So, without further ado, here's the pitch in all it's glory. I've changed the person's name and X'd out the company they work for to protect their privacy.
"Subject: Request For A Guest Post
This is Sarah from XXXXXX, automatic packing machine, and box wrapping company.
We are not only concern with the packing or box wrapping; we also focus on healthy food packing and safe storing. As nowadays it is really important to eat well packed and stored food, so here we directly connect with food and health.
I’m reaching out to see if you would be interested in featuring a guest post on your blog pertaining to any topic on packing, healthy food or food recipes.
I’m open for any topic that you would want me to write on that would attract the audience to your site. Just if in case you could not find any topic then I have suggested some topics below.
1. Reduce The Risk Of Cancer With Healthy Lifestyle Changes
2. Healthy tips and guidance for baby weight gain.
3. Healthy First Foods for Baby
4. Health and fitness of new mom
5. Is Buying Organic Food Worth it?
6. 4 Tips for Eating Healthy on Vacation
7. Super food or Junk food: What’s at the Top of *Your* List?
8. How Important Are Fruits and Vegetables?
9. Nourishing Frugal Healthy Meals
10. Eating Healthy on a Budget – 7 Tips
11. Benefits of home-made food over junk food
12. Do Healthy Foods Really Exist?
13. Recipes for some healthy food to make it tastier
14. Make The Right Choices With Healthy Food For Yourself
15. Importance of Product Packaging
16. Are Your Healthy Foods Making You Sick?
17. Healthy Foods for Women
Do let me know which topic suits out to be the best for you. I can style up the article the way it will suit your audience and blog so that my words can best fit with other articles on your blog.
Awaiting your positive response –
At this point you are probably thinking "what the hell is going on?" and I don't blame you. Reading this pitch beginning to end made me feel like I'd taken five hits of acid and walked into the woods with no pants on.
First, let's look at this subject line.
Subject lines are important. This is an editor's first impression of you and what you want. In this case, this pitch came through the form on my website, so I assumed that this person was going to ask me to write a guest post for them. I would've used "Pitch for Guest Post" or "Freelance Writer Available for Guest Post." Make it clear that you want to do the writing for them, and that you are not asking the target of your email to do something for you.
Next up, this weird-ass intro.
She gives me her name and the company she works for. One of my primary clients is a logistics magazine, so at first I thought she was trying to reach the editorial team there. That may even be the case, I guess, but who the hell knows. I get occasional pitches incorrectly targeted to me that are meant for my client, and that's fine. I usually pass them on. But I'm still not sure if this person is representing the packaging company where she works, or if she's just trying to use that as some sort of clout to impress me.
Now this thing just rolls downhill at frightening speeds.
Okay, so I guess her niches are packaging and food. That's fine. I also have several niches. But I don't throw inapplicable experience into every pitch I write.
She says she wants to write for my blog. Okay, so this is my only blog. My freelance writing blog. So either she wants to offer up a post for this blog about freelance writing, or she called the large international print and digital trade publication I write for a "blog." While I find that error a little entertaining, I guarantee you that the editor and publisher over there would not.
Either way, it was becoming clear to me at this point that this person has no idea who they are pitching. If she was trying to pitch for this blog, she should've identified herself as a freelance writer and offered pitch suggestions pertaining to that. If she was trying to pitch my magazine client, she should have known enough about them to understand that they are not a blog. It's crucial for writers to understand their pitch targets. You can't just fling pitches at the wall and hope something sticks. Look at the target website. Read some of their content. Once you have a feel for who they are and what they do, you can craft a few pitches. If you aren't willing to spend that time doing the legwork up front, don't expect anyone to respond to you (or expect some other writer to rip your pitch apart for educational purposes on his blog).
Now, let's take a gander at this list.
So she is pitching either a freelance writing blog or a logistics magazine with topics on healthy foods? Um, no. Just no. This goes back to what I was saying about understanding your target. There's nothing on this blog like what she's proposing here, and there is nothing in my client's magazine either with the exception of maybe number 15.
Not only are these pitches spectacularly off-target, they're also vague and all over the place. No editor wants to see a 17-item list of potential headlines. You list the topic, then you write a short paragraph describing what you will cover, what sources you will use, etc.
And on to this closing paragraph:
These sentence structures make my eyes scream. In fact, most of the email does. If you want any potential client to take you seriously, you can never, never, never communicate this way. Every sentence must read like you know how to write. You have to review your communication and your work for typos. If you vomit on the page like this and send it to someone you want to do work for, you'll never hear a word from them.
And for any of you prospective clients out there: When I say that you get what you pay for by using cheap writers, this is what I mean. This is the type of person that will write for pennies on the dollar, leaving editors to spend hours rewriting and cleaning up their sloppy copy because they just don't give a shit about what they do.