How To Pitch Articles to Magazines/Online Publications

Follow these easy tips to pitch an article!

I started freelancing last year & ever since, pitching articles has always been the most intimidating process for me. Now that I have applied to multiple places, multiple times, it’s no longer as difficult as it appeared earlier.

If you’re thinking of pitching to magazines or online publications, here are a few tips to keep in mind!

 Article idea:

Only having an article idea isn’t enough. You have to research and be able to back it up with facts. Once you have an idea, spend a day or two mulling over it, looking up for sources online, or making sure your idea is unique or hasn’t already been attempted. It’s important to ensure you’re invested in the article to be able to write from the heart. 

Understand the requirements:

Before you start sending out pitches, please go through the magazine websites to familiarize yourself with their submission guidelines, the kind of articles they publish, and whether or not they’re commissioning articles at the moment. A lot of the times a magazine already has enough materials & they’re not looking for articles. You can pitch the same article to multiple magazines if they fit the submission guidelines. Prepare in advance: This is something I prefer doing but you can choose to skip it. If I’m sure of the publication I want to pitch an article to, I always have a first draft written. It gives me an idea of what the article will look like, the estimated word count, and the structure. This is helpful when you sit down to write the email. 

Writing Samples

  If you’re starting out, look for publications that accept writing samples that are not published. Most of them want experienced writers who have had their articles published somewhere. But it’s okay, don’t feel disheartened. There are several more platforms where you can submit unpublished writing samples. 

 Choose carefully:

When you’re attaching the writing samples, choose the ones that mirror the ideology and style of the publication or is the closest to their agenda. You may write a sample that fits their requirement if you really want to hear from them( but it’s not mandatory). 

Now that we have the basics out of the picture, let’s get down to writing that cover pitch.

· Subject

Mention the name of the article in your subject line. The editors are flooded with emails everyday and they mostly don’t spend much time on a single email. To make it easier for them, it’s better to write the title of the article and get it over with.

· Body

Now every submission guideline is different, but most publications want you to give a short summary of 50 words explaining what the article is about. Here is where your creativity and email writing skills come to use. Is it a personal essay or a feature or literary criticism? Why should they publish your article? What is unique about your story? What will be the target audience? Why will the readers want to read it? The idea is to perk the editor’s interest in the beginning itself. Be as direct as possible. 

· Estimated word count

Remember how I asked you to have the first draft ready? Here is where it comes to use. Giving an estimate word count is always helpful and prepares the editor. A lot of magazines require you to give the word count. 

· Offer a proposed deadline:

Don’t be too ambitious & say you’ll submit the article in a day. But think carefully and give a proposed deadline. This makes the editor feel you’re not fooling around and that you’re serious about the work. Your deadline will also depend on your research; the people you want to interview, the field-work (if any) required for your article. 

Attach your writing samples, preferably 2-3. 

· Follow-up:

Magazines or any online publication receive hundreds of emails every day which makes it humanly impossible to reply immediately. If you haven’t received a reply, send a polite follow-up email, inquiring about the pitch you sent. A lot of editors don’t revert, so take this as a reply, and try sending out more pitches. But do not be disrespectful and hound them. 

· Be patient:

These are just tips. At the end of the day, your writing is what’s going to get you that writing gig. A lot of the times, it gets frustrating and you may want to give up. But that’s part of being a writer. Just keep at it.

I hope the above tips were helpful. If you’ve got something more to add, please let me know!

Till then, keep writing!

Meanwhile, check out this personal essay: Of Losses; big or small

Exam Tips: Last minute study hacks.

Last minute tips and tricks to ace exams.

It’s that time of the year again.

Last year I wrote a blog post on acing examinations which was not very specific but aimed solely on how to study. Today I am going to attempt to write and explain to you some of the last-minute exam tips and hacks I’ve learnt over the years and I’m still learning. Since most of you will be appearing for your University and Board examinations, I thought I’d help you ease off a little. And as I always say, do not let these marks define who you are.

  • LEARNING: Most of you might be at the revision stage right now (kudos to you, I have no idea how that feels) but I’m sure or I hope some of you still have to learn the subject material. So how do you do that when you’ve got revision to do?
  1.  You start by picking one topic a day and scheduling it with other topics you have to revise. Don’t learn every thing on the same day. If you’re short on time and studying one topic a day wont cut it then use what I call, “Divide and Conquer”. This means that you study a new topic in the morning and take up another new topic sometime in the evening/night. You revise your subject material in between the ‘learning’. This avoids cramming. Your brain needs time to process new information so be kind and revise instead of continuously hammering your brain to function.
  2. Before you start a chapter, go through the previous years question papers and see if the chapter is worth spending time on. Since time is paramount, you can’t waste it on a chapter that’s only going to amount to 2-3 marks. Don’t come at me, nerds, I know even 1 mark is extremely essential. But you’d rather lose 10 marks than 1, right? Prioritise what’s important. You’ll realize that you’ll be feeling less stressed and are able to study more. If you find some extra-time, go ahead and tackle the 2 mark chapter.
  3. DO NOT STUDY THE ENTIRE CHAPTER. When I gave my boards, I was of the opinion that I HAD to study everything. Every chapter has certain topics that are more important and always have a chance of being in the question paper. Focus more on them.  If you’re certain about a particular question, practice writing down the answers. You’ll be surpised how much time you save in the exam hall. Which brings me to my next point:
  4. Practice writing. I have always advocated using a pen and a paper while studying. Really, it works wonders. Keep making sub-points while you’re studying. Seeing answers written on paper have a higher chance of staying in your mind. I don’t know how it works but recalling answers become 10 times easier. Be creative, use diagrams, flowcharts, acronyms, anything that will help you retain information. You might feel you’re wasting time writing down answers but then when you sit down to revise, it’ll take you less time.(If you followed my advice of writing answers, you’ll already have a set of notes prepared. SEE WHAT I DID THERE? HA!
  5. Something I discovered this year was studying using Youtube. I gave my first year MA exams and was OBVIOUSLY behind schedule. Since I was required to read a lot of plays and novels and all that cool stuff, I realized watching videos on certain dramas helped. For instance, I read and watched, Dr.Faustus. I was not very sure of the context of the play and watching Youtube videos helped. Visual learners are in for a treat with this. I’m sure there are several videos on various subjects out there. Check out Salman Khan Academy, CrashCourses if you’re short on time and can’t find a quick fix.
  • ORGANIZE: I am still understanding what organization stands for. But I’ll try to break it down.
  1.     To-do-list: Make a list of the things you have to study for the day as soon as you wake up. This helps a lot. You kind of get an idea of where you stand and what you need to do. Also, ticking off things from the to-do-list is the single most best feeling in the world. Take it one day at a time. You have to try to stick to the list you’ve made if you want to avoid wasting time. BUT and there’s a big but, do not make a list that’s ambitious. I know you want to make the most of your day but always keep sometime for relaxation. Being well prepared is not directly proportional to 16 hours of studying. Even if you study for 4 hours with breaks in between, you’re doing fine.
  2. Test yourself. I think the best way to find out what you’ve learnt is to attempt question papers right after you finish a chapter. This works pretty well for me. You can dig up previous years’ question papers and see if you’ve understood the material. Again, this might not be the case for you. Maybe you’re better off answering questions after a revision. Great, do that.
  3. Study with a friend. I remember studying with my best friend for my 10th boards and during under-grad and we used to update each other on what we studied. Not only does it give you the encouragement you need, it also makes studying fun. And if you’re someone who is competitive, you’ll make sure you study way more than your friend does.
  4. Take regular breaks. Since you’re studying a few days before the exam, it might not be possible to take breaks often. What you can do is study for 2 hours and take a break for ten mins. No matter what you do, your brain needs time to process. Jumping on to different topics won’t help. I’d rather spend 10 mins watching cupcake videos then cram. (At least, I’ll learn something). I don’t think I need to say this but keep yourself hydrated at all times. Keep snacks and drinks at your disposal to avoid wasting time.
  5. If you’ve been trying really hard to study and are not able to focus at all, leave it for the time being. Just go for a walk or listen to music and come back to it. Forcing yourself is never going to work. If you find yourself still struggling, move on to the next chapter or a different subject. Tackle it again the next day or after a day or two. Sometimes you have to take a detour to find yourself home. *mic drop*
  • FOCUS ON YOUR WEAKNESS:  We all have THAT one subject that makes our insides curl and gives us nightmares. For me it was maths. I HATED IT. I no longer have to study numbers( Thank heavens for that) but I still get jittery when I think about it. Try to devote each day on such a topic. I know it’s hard but that’s the only way you’ll be able to score well. If it’s maths for you, then practice maths more than you would normally do. If it’s history or geography, study half a chapter or a full chapter everyday. The idea is to stay in touch with the subject so that it doesn’t feel overwhelming a day before the exam. If you score very well in all other subjects but don’t score well in one subject, your total goes down drastically. That’s exactly what we’re trying to avoid.
  • STOP COMPARING:  I cannot stress how important it is to realize who you are and what your battles are. Your dreams are different from your friends. You’re not the same. Don’t get bogged down by what your friend is accomplishing or plans on doing. It’s easy to feel lost but losing yourself in the process sucks more. Just do your thing.

Please remember, these exams don’t carve out a future plan for you. Sure, it helps you get into a good college et cetera but they’re not everything. Don’t burden yourself with what others expect of you. Focus on what you want the most and never compromise on your mental state over something as trivial as exams. I say this from experience. Most of the things you’re worrying about won’t even matter in the future. Give your 100%. That’s all.

The above tips are very subjective. One formula does not work for everyone. I hope It was of some use to you. Do you have a study hack I could use? Let me know!

 

It’s OKAY to be lost.

Figuring out life, one step at a time.

“When they asked me what I wanted to be I said I didn’t know.”
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

If there was anything I could tell my eighteen year old self, it would be this; IT IS OKAY TO FEEL LOST. IT IS OKAY TO NOT KNOW. EVERYTHING (almost everything) HAS A WAY OF FALLING INTO PLACE.

You’re about to appear for your final exams and then starts what they call “The real world” where you’ll leave the school life and become a college student. Everything will change. You won’t have the same friends you went to school with, your body along with your mental state will undergo timely transitions and you’ll find yourself enjoying things you disliked and disliking things you loved. It’s common. It only goes to show you’re evolving.

By now you must have decided on the course you’d study, where you’ll apply or whether you’ll study abroad and all that stuff. But what if you don’t know what you want to do?  You still aren’t sure about the subjects you’ve studied or where your strength and weaknesses lie. You hear people throw around words like ‘passion’ or ‘dream’ and you can’t help but question your very existence. What were you made to do?

To be honest, you first have to understand that not all of us are always sure about what we want from life and that’s absolutely fine. (On some days, I can’t even make up my mind about what I want to eat.) There are some who have it all figured out. Kudos, good for them. This doesn’t mean you’re not sincere about having a career or if at all you’ll have one. Life is about exploring yourself and the world around you.

Don’t adopt the ‘herd mentality’ by doing what everyone else is doing. There’s room for all of us. Figuring out what makes you “happy” is the key. If you look forward to a particular subject or you had full attendance in a specific course, it only goes to show your interest in it. It’s important to ascertain the easiness that comes with studying a subject. For instance, if you love memorizing facts you might want to consider studying History or if the human behaviour fascinates you, then psychology is the subject for you. If putting things together and organizing is your forte, Event Management awaits your arrival. (These are just hypothetical examples). What I’m saying is notice when your enthusiasm level accelerates and when the idea of studying a particular subject makes you look forward to studying or even attending class for that matter. This is PASSION to me. Anything that excites or makes me feel confident is passion. You can have passion for multiple things. You might be excellent as a manager but also a competent chef. Best of both worlds? Hell, yeah!

It is, however, not compulsory to enter into academics after school. There’s no hard and fast rule to go the traditional way. Ditch becoming a CA or an Engineer if you don’t want to. Your future self will thank you for taking a smart decision. The dynamic environment has brought about a number of advances in the kind of career you can choose. Gone are the days when commerce and science were the only streams you could select. These days you can earn a living by clicking pictures or even baking for that matter.

All this sounds very doable and exciting but here’s the harsh reality; Most of the time due to unexpected reasons you don’t get to study what you want to no matter how hard you try or you don’t get admission in your dream college. Don’t lose hope. Try to find an alternative. Something that is even a tiny bit similar to what you initially wanted to study. The idea here is to not give up and persevere through your college days by not letting the spark inside of you die. Hard work always pays off. ALWAYS.

(Pro tip: Give your best even if you are not fond of what you’re studying. Good result is a very strong incentive for you to do even better. Been there, done that.)

Remember how you feel at the end of the day, whether you feel satisfied and at peace or you feel like the world around is going to collapse, depends solely upon the decision you take. Being lost helps you unravel aspects of yourself you didn’t know existed. Isn’t it a good thing? So next time you’re feeling lost, believe that you’re being redirected towards something bigger and better.