The great thing about a pitch slam is that everyone benefits from courageous writers who conquer their nerves enough to pitch an idea, at a microphone, in front of a room full of their peers and a panel of editors from top publications. By any measure, the pitch slam at ScienceWriters 2012 was crammed with outstanding pitches that will undoubtedly find a home. But you don’t have to take our word for it: Editors jotted notes on the pitches, also making note of the writers’ names.
For those who didn’t pitch at the slam: Your fabulous ideas can still find a home. Here’s a summary of what the six editors on the panel are looking for:
Laura Helmuth, science and health editor at Slate, considers a pitch the start of a conversation. Email her with a couple of paragraphs to get your idea off the ground. Slate wants the political, cultural, or counter intuitive angle, and the voice is opinionated. Helmuth says #slatepitches makes fun of the site, “But it’s not completely wrong.”
Email Laura at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amanda Moon, senior editor at Scientific American/Farrar, Straus & Giroux is open to your book ideas. Think about a counterintuitive message to frame the story in a way that will surprise people. Current books on her list include What a Plant Knows, by Danny Chamovitz, Gravity’s Engines, by Caleb Scharf, Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That? by Jesse Bering, and The Wisdom of Psychopaths, by Kevin Dutton. To pitch Moon, email her a few sentences about your project and be prepared to send her a full proposal upon request. A full proposal should include: 1-2 page overview of the proposed book, chapter outline, sample chapter, marketing and publicity section, author bio, expected delivery date, and word count.
Email Amanda at Amanda.Moon@fsgbooks.com.
David Corcoran, deputy science editor at The New York Times. The Times doesn’t look for new freelancers but they’re always looking for good stories in the area of hard science, health, medicine, and personal essays with an individual voice. Email a pitch—take the time to write a great one. Articles generally run 500 to 1,500 words.
To pitch, follow these guidelines: NYT Guide for Freelancers.
Queries and finished articles on medicine and health should be sent by e-mail to Mike Mason: email@example.com.
On other science topics, to David Corcoran: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beth Quill of Science News has 20 openings for features from freelancers over the coming year. Features run at 2200 words and cover ideas that speak to a bigger scientific question. Email your pitch in a few paragraphs (2-3) that give a sense of the story and why now, and links to some feature clips.
Email Beth at: email@example.com.
Susannah Locke, associate editor, Popular Science. Locke is looking for really inventive ideas of science and technology that will change the future. The magazine has a specific style and voice so she wants writers “who adapt their language to ours.” Popular Science generally doesn’t cover policy. Locke also wants email pitches in pitch in a few paragraphs (2-3) that give a sense of the story and why now, and links to some recent feature clips.
Email Susannah at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tasha Eichenseher, senior editor (print and digital) at Discover, says that features range from 2000 to 4000 words. A good place to break in is the blogs (specifically the Crux), and the front section of the magazine (called Data). It’s OK to pre-pitch an idea informally. Send a graf or a few lines with the proposed headline and the editors will go from there.
Reach Tasha at: email@example.com.
Two final reminders:
Most publications today publish both print and online, so think of story possibilities that incorporate multimedia. At the slam, several editors told writers with strong visual aspects to consider pitching a photo essay or an online slide show.
Finally, remember that the best way to figure out what editors are looking for is to read the publication.
Photo at top by Shutterstock.