Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell have started their own publishing company. They’ve updated an old(er) favorite and are publishing some new books as well. Here’s an excerpt of the newest book, From Pitch to Published.
If you want to score assignments from top magazines like Smithsonian, Inc., Mental Floss, and Fitness, not to mention trade and custom publications, From Pitch to Published: How to Sell Your Article Ideas to Magazines is the guide you need.
Learn how to craft winning article pitches that will pique interest from editors and lead to lucrative assignments. We included 20+ pitches that sold, plus interviews with the writers and their assigning editors. You’ll learn from insiders:
- What editors want in a story pitch.
- Why your writer’s voice is more important than you think.
- What to do if you have no samples or credentials.
- How to stand out from the competition from your very first sentence.
Want more pitch-writing tips? From Pitch to Published also boasts a Q&A about the art and science of selling article ideas to magazine editors…everything from how to structure a winning query letter to how to sell a “killed” article.
This book was previously published in 2006 as The Renegade Writer’s Query Letters That Rock. This edition has been revised to reflect the vast number of changes in the magazine publishing industry.
The Magazine: E—The Environmental Magazine
Article ideas come from the most unexpected places, so keep those eyes open! Jena Ball started out researching an article on a Nepalese god and ended up pitching a story about bats.
“Life has a way of dropping bombshells just when you least expect them,” says Amanda Lollar, who was enjoying her life as the co-owner of a small furniture store in the town of Mineral Wells, Texas. Amanda’s bombshell weighed only 11 grams (about the weight of a pocket pack of tissues) and was no bigger than a business card. “I was on my way to the bank to make a deposit,” says Lollar. “It was one of those miserably hot days when you hate to step outside. Then right in front of the bank I looked down and saw a tiny creature lying on its back baking in the sun.”
Closer inspection revealed the creature was a bat. “My first reaction was a shudder of revulsion,” admits Lollar. “Like a lot of people, I thought bats were pretty creepy. But the poor thing was obviously suffering, so I scooped it up with a piece of newspaper, carried it back to the shop, and put it in a shoebox. I was sure it was going to die. When it didn’t, I knew I had to try to help.”
Fifteen years and some 7,500 bats later, Lollar has gone from being leery of bats to being totally dedicated to their health and preservation. Not only has she turned her former furniture store into a rehabilitation center and sanctuary for injured bats, but she’s founded a nonprofit organization for the care and conservation of bats, co-authored a book on bat rehabilitation, done groundbreaking research on the sounds bats use to communicate, given countless educational tours and talks, and trained more than 150 would-be bat rehabbers from around the world.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Lollar’s story is that she is not alone. In Northern California, for example, 64-year-old Pat Winters has been quietly going about the business of rehabbing bats and educating the general public for more than 30 years. Winters is the founder of the California based nonprofit organization known as the California Bat Conservation Fund, which sponsors twelve rehabbers, gives educational talks to local schools, and gives medical aid to injured bats with the goal of returning them to the wild. “My first encounter with bats was at a swap meet,” says Winters. “I saw two little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) in a glass jar for sale. They had no shade and looked pathetic, so I bought them for two dollars and brought them home.” One died immediately, but the other lived just long enough for winters to become enthralled.
In Austin, Texas, Barbara French was bitten by the bat bug back in 1984 and now works as Bat Conservation International’s (BCI) Conservation Information Specialist, and provides rehabilitative care for 150 to 200 indigenous bats each year as a volunteer for the Wildlife Rescue Organization. She is currently doing research on the mating songs of Mexican free-tail bats.
In the Florida Everglades, biologist Denise Tomlinson is a member of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) Taxon Advisory Group for bats, is the co-chair of the Florida Bat Working Group, and directs the Bat World Everglades program. She has had a special fondness for Old World fruit bats ever since “Grace”—a Rodrigues fruit bat, one of the most endangered bats in the world—captured her heart in 1985.
The list goes on, and includes some 500 licensed men and women working across the United States and Canada. Though they come from widely different backgrounds and lifestyles, they are united in their commitment to the preservation of bats. “Most people don’t realize how intelligent and valuable bats are,” says Lollar. But according to Melinda Alvarado, a bat rehabber working out of San Luis Obispo, California, all you have to do is meet a bat up close to be hooked. “They look right at you with their bright little eyes,” she says, “and you can see the intelligence and curiosity shining there.”
In this piece, For Love of Bats, I’ll tell E readers about the growing grassroots campaign to save one of the world’s most misunderstood and maligned creatures as seen through the eyes of several of America’s most well-respected bat rehabilitators. To help readers understand the importance of bats in preserving ecosystems I’ll talk to wildlife biologists who study bats and their habitats such as Drew Stokes of the USGS, Rick Sherwin of the University of New Mexico, and Bill and Dixie Pierson. Finally, I’ll debunk the most prevalent and destructive myths about bats by introducing your readers to some of the bat world’s most enchanting and memorable characters. Sidebars featuring information about some of the more unique bats of the world can be provided along with excellent photos by the award-winning nature photographer Scott Altenbach.
I am a freelance writer working out of Los Angeles with more than twenty years’ experience writing for a variety of industries and publications including Mother Earth News, House Beautiful, Backpacker, and the Japan Times. I am the author of the syndicated column, “Halfway Over the Hill” and the founder of an online school for journalists.
Thanks for considering my proposal. I look forward to hearing from you.
All the Best,
The Nature of Writing (behind the query)
The Writer: Jena Ball
This idea started when I went to Nepal to do an assignment about a Nepali god. In Kathmandu, the trees are filled with bats. I’d never seen a bat and didn’t know what I was seeing. They were orange with black wings, and they were huge. Then, when I was shopping in the marketplace there, I thought this guy was trying to sell me silver—but he had a bat hanging inside his coat. Its body was about a foot long and it looked so sick. It was looking right at me. I could see that this was an intelligent animal, not a spooky, scary Halloween thing. So when I came back I started doing research.
There’s a gal here in Northern California who has been rehabbing bats for over 20 years. I went to see her and got to meet her bats. Once you meet a bat you will never be the same—they’re so shy and so gentle. Certain species even purr. How anybody can be scared of one is beyond me.
To find sources to interview, I contacted Bat Conservation International, which has revolutionized people’s perception of bats. They have a networking newsletter. Amanda, the source in my lead knew the woman who is in Northern California. The bat community is really small.
I subscribe to E and I know they like a lot of facts and details. That’s pretty much my style. I try to move quickly and include a fair amount of description. The query was so detailed that I hardly had to write anything for the assignment itself. I offered a sidebar because this kind of publication likes tips.
This query was definitely overkill for the FOB he assigned, but I was pitching a feature.
The Editor: Brian Howard, Managing Editor (what he thought of the query)
Jena’s opening anecdote really grabbed me. It was really well written and engaging. I imagined it being a good lead for an article. I also thought it was funny because a lot of people think bats are creepy.
The quotes were good because they showed that she’s serious and has a good reputation and researching skills. We get a lot of queries that are just people’s personal thoughts on something. We also sometimes get people with an academic background who have good research skills but aren’t experienced in talking with people. I can understand that in other publications you can report from research journals, but our format is to have live quotes.
This was a little longer than the average query, but it’s organized well. Including a sidebar idea was a good move because it showed how serious Jena was and that she had a good command of the subject. We didn’t end up running the sidebar, though, because in the section of the magazine where we ended up running the article we never run sidebars.
The fact that Jena offered photos made us want to go with the idea a little bit more. It seemed like she was very professional and could make our jobs easier. We did use some of the photos.
Using new-to-us writers is somewhat of a risk. We’ve had the whole spectrum of experiences with new writers, from great to pretty bad. We try to be careful. Because we’re independent, we don’t pay as much as the big magazines, so we end up working with more new writers and writers who are starting out.
Jena’s query had a good combination of color, direct reporting, and facts, and also a kind of a unique take. We see a lot of queries with angles we’ve recently covered, and this is something we hadn’t done.
From Pitch to Published can be found at