Freelancers: Need A Hint? Check The Open Notebook

If you’re a freelancer who covers science, health, medical or technology, The Open Notebook blog has the thing for you.

The recently launched Pitch Database contains actual query letters from freelancers to magazines and other media as diverse as Men’s Health, National Geographic, The Atlantic, and This American Life. Some come with annotation and explication, others are just the letters as they were sent.

They’re all pitches for feature stories, which mean they’re nice and meaty. Here’s one that ended in a sale to the New York Times Magazine:

Dear Mr. Marzorati,
We talked a few years ago after I sent you a query about the row created in environmental circles by William Cronon’s assault on the concept of wilderness; you passed on the story but asked me to let you know when I had something else that seemed suitable for the magazine. (Congratulations on being chosen to take Adam’s place, by the way.) I’ve been following several subjects lately that might be of interest, from the growing prescription-drug scandals to flaps over the role of fMRIs in cognitive neuroscience, but at the moment I’d like to see if you can use a story on the “The Autopsy : How Its Premature Death Could Lead to Yours.” This story would examine how the steady decline in use of the autopsy threatens our individual and public health.

Good start. It’s a warm pitch, it contains flattery, and it has a good proposed headline.

Four more paragraphs follow, and here is the result. We find it fascinating. Even if you’re not a science writer, there’s a lot to learn from a well-structured pitch.

However, if you really want example query letters for other topics, remember that Pitches That Worked features looking at lifestyle, travel, health and parenting topics (among others) are free for AvantGuild members.