In an ongoing series for Writer’s Residence, editors talk to us about what they look for in pitches and queries.
Claire Jones, Editor of the popular women’s history magazine, HerStoria, spent several years as a freelance writer and edited an academic magazine prior to launching HerStoria. She has written widely on women’s history and her book, Femininity, Mathematics and Science, 1880-1914, has just been published by Palgrave Macmillan.
Claire has a PhD in women’s history and is an associate lecturer at the University of Liverpool. She is currently working on a biography of the nineteenth-century scientist and suffragette Hertha Ayrton.
Claire took some time from her busy schedule to speak to us about what she looks for in pitches to HerStoria magazine.
What process do you follow between receiving a pitch and commissioning (or not commissioning) an article?
I consider if the article will fit in with the profile of HerStoria Magazine, which is women’s history. After that, the key thing is the writer’s qualifications for a commission. Our articles have to be authoritative from an academic/research point of view so I look especially at the CV. Most of our contributors are university historians/researchers, or published history authors. I have sometimes commissioned freelancers who have an interest and higher degree in a history-related subject and a good research track record. Thirdly, of course, writers have to have an engaging, accessible style, so I look closely at any examples of their work.
What makes a pitch easy to deal with?
It is much easier (and more likely to be commissioned) if writers have read HerStoria and have a clear idea of the type of articles we feature. I find many writers don’t tailor their pitch to the publication they are approaching – I get a lot of ‘family history’ pieces and that is not what HerStoria is about at all.
How do you like to receive writing samples and how should they be displayed – as an attachment, text in the email, a link to their website, a jpeg scan of a clipping, something else?
Attachment, link to website or jpeg are all fine.
If a writer sends you a link to their website with their pitch, do you visit it? How much does this weigh on your decision to commission them for an article?
Yes, I always visit as this allows me to get a better feel for the writer’s style, and to see if they he or she has covered historical subjects before.
What qualities do the best pitches share? What about the worst pitches?
The best pitches are direct and to the point, they tell me straight away why the pitcher is qualified to write for HerStoria, they contain a small abstract (no more than 200 words) of the proposed article, including the historical sources used, and they include a sample of the writer’s work.
Many thanks to Claire Jones for her wonderful interview. Don’t forget to visit her magazine, HerStoria, which has just released its Spring edition.