Entertaining

9 Rules for Pitching a Story to 'Tasting Table'

Or any publication, really
How to Submit a Freelance Pitch to Tasting Table
Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

Ever dream of seeing your byline next to a Tasting Table story? You're in luck: We're on the lookout for interesting, thought-provoking and diverse food stories and ideas. Whether you're a seasoned vet or a writer who's just getting into the game, here are the nine essential tips to help your pitch stand out to us—or any other publication.

① First things first: Don't pitch stories that we've already published.

Use our site's search bar to ensure whatever you're proposing is fresh. (If we receive something we've just published last week, it's safe for us to assume the writer was too lazy to do a Google search.) And while you're at it, do take the opportunity to read over our more recent stories to get an idea of what we're into at the moment.

The subject line or pitch title should be an actual headline.

It's the easiest and quickest way to transmit your approach; it helps us understand instantaneously whether your pitch is a roundup (10 Cheap Eats You Can't Miss in Saigon), a deep dive into a single topic (Inside Balthazar, NYC's Most Iconic Restaurant), an explainer (How to Cook with Paprika) or something different. Plus, if your headline is snappy enough to catch our eye in a sea of emails, we'll know it's something that will catch our readers', too.

③ Keep your proposal clear and full of answers.

Here's where you can unwaveringly lay out more about both the subject and how you're going to approach it. As editors, we should be coming away from your pitch with answers, not more questions.

Here's a great (real-life) example:

"Long a staple on the East Coast, luncheonettes have been popping up across the West Coast since January of this year. Notable openings include Dad’s Luncheonette in Half Moon Bay in an old train caboose; City Counter in San Francisco, modeled after a Woolworth’s-style lunch counter; and in Seattle’s Pioneer Square, there’s Pittsburgh Lunch & Superette, named for a soup kitchen in the same location. Each offers a short menu of fresh sandwiches and salads, affordably priced and served conveniently at a counter. Behind each concept are chefs and restaurateurs with impressive résumés who have dedicated themselves to more approachable dining. I’ll share their stories and a menu highlight from each."

Here's a not-so-great example:

"I'm interested in luncheonettes and would love to do something on them for you. They're a huge trend right now, and I think the piece would be very visually driven."

You're going to need to do a little research.

As you just read, a great pitch will probably require some pre-reporting on your part. We don't expect you to have interviewed anyone before taking on an assignment, but you should familiarize yourself with a subject to a certain degree and be able to throw in some specifics. For this reason, phrases like "I'd love to do something on [X]" or "Have you guys done anything on [Y]?" rank high on the list of pet peeves (in addition to people  dropping off completed, 2,500-word essays in our inbox).

⑤ A pitch needs to be relevant.

For anything we read, we ask the question, Why should we care about this topic now? So be sure to give us an answer as to why L.A. has suddenly become the next destination for Italian cuisine or why the rise of women in distilling is noteworthy.

And remember, you're partly pitching to our audience as well—an explainer on why you should store your truffles in an egg carton is cool to geeky nerds like us, but realistically, it's not a question a lot of people at home are asking.

⑥ Proofread, proofread, proofread!

Your pitches are a form of raw copy: If they're poorly written or laden with typos, an editor will know what to expect in your draft (aka a lot of extra work on his or her part).

Also, think of your pitch as a movie trailer previewing the full-length feature: This is your chance to give us a sneak peek into your writing style and get us hooked and excited about your idea. So put the same thought into your pitch as you would a final draft.

Don't forget to introduce yourself.

If you're pitching us (or any other publication) for the first time, you're asking us to take a leap of faith with you if we say yes. So assuage our fears—back up your pitch with some credentials, links to past clips and why you of all people are uniquely qualified to tell this story. No one likes going on a blind Tinder date where they don't know what the outcome is going to be like.

Don't be afraid to be clever, creative or weird.

We encourage outside-the-box thinking that turns seemingly conventional subjects on their heads, and we love when writers take an unpopular stance. Consider what everyone else is doing and ask: What can I do that's different or unique? The resulting pitch may or may not ultimately be right for TT, but we've got mad respect for anyone willing to go out on a limb with a wacky idea that strives to push beyond the mainstream.

On getting rejected.

More often than not, it's because your idea is a square peg in a round hole: There's nothing wrong with it, but it's just not for us. Part of the whole pitching process is finding the right place for your idea, which might mean seeking out a more local publication for your piece on San Diego's new, up-and-coming food neighborhood. We always try to give feedback on why something isn't right for us, but our best advice of all is to just keep on pitching.

Sound good? Then send us your ideas.

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