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How to Pitch a Personal Essay

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Jan 10, 2020 • 2 min read

Anyone can write a first-person piece of creative nonfiction based on personal experience. New writers at the beginning of a writing career can jump right into essay writing and transform their personal narratives into completed essays. If you’re a new writer, learning the ins and outs of freelance writing can be a daunting task. Here are some tips on submitting your personal stories to literary magazines and literary journals.



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How to Pitch a Personal Essay in 7 Steps

The process of submitting a personal essay gets easier with time. Part of your job in learning how to pitch is getting familiar with the ways that various publications accept submissions. A lot of online magazines and journals welcome submissions through websites like Submittable. More established newspapers sometimes use other systems or don’t accept unsolicited submissions at all. Here are some tips on how to package your pitch and find a home for your personal essay:

  1. Write a good cover letter. A strong cover letter that lays out the premise of your pitch in the body of the email is a must for any essay pitch. Make sure to have a clear and concise pitch and include relevant biographical details and accomplishments.
  2. Pitch a story. Make sure to pitch a full story instead of a topic or subject. Even though a cover letter is not laying out the entirety of your essay, it should still provide an editor with the overall shape of the real-life true story you are hoping to tell.
  3. Submit to the right places. One of the most important parts of getting an essay published is making sure you are submitting to the right places. You can’t expect to get narratively driven op-eds published in an online magazine for short stories. Similarly, you don’t want to waste your time submitting to journals that only publish established writers or don’t feature material that matches your writing style.
  4. Pay attention to submission guidelines. You need to make sure that what you’re pitching will fit into the guidelines of any publication to which you’re submitting. Pay attention to format guidelines and word count, and don’t skip the preliminary step of making sure the magazine or journal is accepting submissions.
  5. Have a catchy subject line. Editors are often sifting through hundreds of submissions a day. Set your submission apart by having an eye-catching subject line that demands a second look.
  6. Tailor your full draft. Freelance writers get hired to write pieces of creative writing that are tailored to the specifications of an editor and publication. Even if you’ve already written a full piece, never include the full draft in your submission. Wait to get any initial guidelines or thoughts from your editor and then tweak your draft before submitting it.
  7. Include your bio. A good bio lists significant published work and relevant life experiences (especially when they are thematically linked to the essay you are pitching). You want to be sure to lead with the specifics of your essay pitch and close with a good bio.

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