In my last post, we talked about how to nail the unique selling proposition (USP) for your pitch.
Well, if you have a unique selling proposition, sell it uniquely.
If you’re a freelance writer pitching a magazine article (or a book, a radio show, a blog post; it doesn’t matter) on French pastries, as we were in the previous post, you could send the editor a sample. (It’d arrive stale, but you know what I mean.)
You could include some photos in your pitch.
You can give your pitch a groovy headline and a pithy dek, using the magazine or website’s own display-copy style. That suggests that you’ve been reading the publication, that you “get it.” You’re on the inside. You’re a peer, not a supplicant.
The point is, you need to be a bit of salesperson. Let other writers send in stiff, passive query letters. (“Dear Mr. Editor, I read in your writer’s guidelines that you are looking for….”) That’s essentially what all the the wannabe-a-writer books and blogs advise. Two hundred fifty words of banal predictability. Do you honestly think you’ll get assignments by looking and sounding like every other query letter that crosses your editor’s desk?
It’s a crowded market out there. Make your pitch stand out.
Heed this passage from Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People (that’s my own well-worn copy of this wonderful classic shown here):
“This is the day of dramatization. Merely stating a truth isn’t enough. The truth has to be made vivid, interesting, dramatic. You have to use showmanship.”
Showmanship within the limits of good taste, of course. Dressing up like a pastry chef and dancing into the editor’s office might not score you big points. (Unless you bring a bunch of pastries with you.)
Showmanship is not hype. No need to hype your pitch. No need for superlatives. It does no good to tell the editor how good your idea is, how exactly right it is for her publication, or what a great, experienced writer you are.
Show it. Show it in the presentation of your pitch. And obviously, show it in the strength of your USP in the first place.
Dale Carnegie again:
“…if a salesman can show us how his services or his merchandise will help us solve our problems he won’t need to sell us. We’ll buy. And a customer likes to feel that he is buying—not being sold.”
Remember, that’s exactly what you’re doing for your editors or publishers or for any type of writing client: You’re solving their problems.
If the how of that is clear in your USP, you don’t need to say that you’re doing it. You don’t need to say, “Boy, have I got a solution for your problem.”