Make it Work
Make It Pay
It’s summertime and if you’re not outside enjoying the outdoors, perhaps you should make some money writing about it instead. The Freelance Strategist spoke with Outside Magazine Senior Editor Abraham Streep (@abestreep) about how to get inside the national outdoors lifestyle magazine.
Once a freelancer himself, Streep has worked for four and a half years on the print side of the magazine, which publishes monthly to a circulation of 678,000 and relies on freelancers for approximately 70 percent of its content. When Streep is not editing and writing for Outside, he’s probably actually outside fishing, rafting, biking, hiking, camping, and skiing terribly (his assessment, not ours).
Travel pitches probably won’t get you anywhere.
“We get a lot of travel pitches and that’s not always the best way to break in—’I went on an awesome trip and want to write about it’—it’s the hardest thing to sell at Outside. We get a lot of pitches for travel writing, so the bar is very high.”
But I really want to write a travel piece.
Frankly, we don’t do a lot of those. When we do a travel narrative, it’s usually a vehicle for a bigger story. The Best American Travel Writing every year is not just a story about a great trip, but about an issue or a personality. Only the framework is a travel piece.
Start with pitches for the front of the book.
“Feature ideas usually come in from settled writers. New freelancers usually write for the front of the book: Dispatches, body, destinations, essentials gear reviews, services, shorter stuff. Editors of those departments get pitches frequently. We want smart, new stories, stories with a news hook, personal stories, media stories, tech stories, fitness stories, science stories.”
A good pitch requires lots of thought, little text.
“A good pitch is surprising and new and relevant on a three-month lead time. Right now we’re planning November and producing October, so we’re looking for news down the pike. Send an email with a quick introduction and a couple of smart pitches. Definitely have read at least the last six issues of the magazine, so you know what sections you’re pitching to and you don’t pitch what we’ve already done. The length of a news pitch shouldn’t be the length of feature pitch, just a paragraph.”
You have more options online.
“We’re a lot more open with time online. It’s faster. It’s for something that’s happening right now, or for takes on a breaking news story today. Your chances are better online than print because there’s not a finite number of pages to curate online. We’re also looking for different types of projects like slideshows that we obviously can’t do in print.”
Know Outside‘s readership and its voice.
“The readership is active. They’re interested in and passionate about the outdoors. They’re usually in their late 30s, early 40s, and are 70 percent male, 30 percent female. People are looking for sports, activities and travel that Outside covers. Knowing this world is important to us. The voice of the magazine has an irreverent authority to it. It’s telling you we’re not just picking stuff off of a blog somewhere, but rather that there’s solid reporting behind each story.”
Remember, your pitch represents you.
“If you get a ‘no,’ don’t send seven more pitches seven minutes later. Be selective because your pitch really is an audition.”
Develop a rapport with your editor.
“The big thing is to set up a relationship with the editor, so you can get to the point where you don’t have to write a full, formal pitch every time. I like working with freelancers who can write a nugget of an idea or a two-line pitch; then I can quickly tell them the timing is off or that’s worth developing into a full pitch. Having trust is the best. You build up that trust so the editor realizes you have smart ideas, you’re reading the magazine and you are in touch with world we’re writing about. ”
Photo Courtesy of Ryan Heffernan