For a perfect pitch, you need a perfect target. That’s how my article about a seminar on forensics for thriller writers made it into the science pages of The Guardian – the two so obviously belonged together, they just jumped at it from a two-minute phone call.
But a target is only perfect if you know it’s there to aim at, and that means it’s worth putting in some research.
Freelances with access to a good reference library can turn to directories such as Benn’s Media Directory and Willings Press Guide. These give listings for thousands of publications across Britain and the world. FHM in Latvia, for example, is just an email away (email@example.com since you ask), although the Latvian language requirement looks a bit of a killer. You might be better off contacting The Daily Triplicate (what a name) in Crescent City, California, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Even if you can’t get at such directories, and you’re not going to buy them at £800 or so a throw, you can turn to the internet.
Start with www.mediauk.com which lists the titles of hundreds of UK newspapers and magazines. Click on those which look relevant and you’re taken to the publication’s website. You’ve still got the problem of establishing a contact email address, but you can always start by emailing their ‘letters to the editor’slot and asking how to submit a proposal.
Actually, quite a lot of the big publishers in Britain make things easier because they are quite open about the general pattern of their email addresses. Reed Business Information says its staff can be reached by emailing email@example.com. That’s how I was able to email a proposal to Mark Lewis, editor of Caterer & Hotelkeeper. He didn’t go for it, but he courteously emailed back to say so and thanked me for thinking of C&H. I’m obviously now well-disposed to him, and he’ll be top of the list for anything I get that’s relevant.
If you want to start flinging your net wider, www.usnpl.com links to 3,800 US newspapers. You can see what you might do with multiple sales, since publications in the US, with their non-overlapping circulations, are more used to freelances reselling their work.
For real detail you can look for sites like the one that has devoted itself to collecting the email addresses of all the staff members on The New York Times who have ever made them public. This suggests that firstname.lastname@example.org is a staff editor for foreign news, whereas email@example.com is a staff editor for culture. No obvious email pattern there, but they might help you find your way in.
For magazines in the US, and Canada and Australia too, you have to go commercial. The website www.magazines-subscriptions.co.uk is out to sell subscriptions. But the listings are pretty extensive, you don’t have to buy anything to trawl through them, and the magazine titles are enough to launch you on the next phase.
I have had a look at magazines in France, just out of interest, via another subscription website, www.journaux.fr. Unless your French is good, there’s no way round the language barrier for writers, but I did come across the interesting-sounding Tracteurs – Passion et Collection, roughly ‘tractors for men who love and collect them”.