How to Pitch a Listicle About Pop Culture 

By Sarah Osman

It’s no secret that readers love listicles. This may be due to the fact that they are so easy to read. A solid listicle will tell you exactly what to expect from its title, and listicles often break down information into digestible chunks of information. Due to this, the demand for listicles is higher than ever, and this is especially true of pop culture.

I have worked as a pop culture writer a few years now, and due to the sheer amount of films, TV shows, books, and music that is out there, audiences often need some guidance on what to watch/read/or listen to first. This is where listicles come in handy, and where you come in. Multiple sites are on the lookout for pitches of listicles but it can be tricky to know what to pitch and how exactly to pitch it. That’s why I’ve created this nifty little guide that will break down the art of a successful pop culture listicle pitch!

Step One: Pitch a Fresh and Specific Take On a Topic

When pitching a pop culture listicle, you want to avoid topics that have already been written about endless times over; for instance, we really don’t need another list of the best episodes of The Office or more conspiracy theories about Squid Games. Instead, consider the fact that certain titles in pop culture simply aren’t written about as much as others – for instance, international films and TV shows (there are a ton of these on Netflix!) are often not as focused on. One of my first successful pitches was about international rom-coms, which I timed for Valentine’s Day. I have now written multiple articles for Watercooler HQ about international films, such as this one about the best international horror movies to watch.

Step Two: Make Your Pitch Timely

Certain topics are evergreen, which means that audiences will always be interested in them, but most pop culture articles need to be written at specific times. For instance, listicles about a certain film or TV show should be pitched right as that film or TV shows are set to come out. This is due to the fact that a week or two after they are released, new shows or films will be released, so the interest in them will drop, which is why it is so key that articles about specific pieces of media are released as they are. Another thing to keep in mind is the calendar year – most publications design their entire editorial calendar around it, so if you have an idea about the most epic traps in the Saw film series, this should be pitched in September so that it can be released in October, which is the peak time for horror movies. For instance, I specifically pitch certain articles timed to certain holidays, such as this article I wrote for SheKnows about Holiday Movies That Are Not About Christmas. I pitched this article in November, knowing that most holiday articles would be released in December. In some cases, I would have actually needed to pitch this article sooner, such as in September. It’s key to know what a publication’s editorial calendar looks like.

Step Three: Cater Your Pitch to What Editors Are Looking For at a Specific Time

Thanks to Twitter (and handy dandy sites like Freedom with Writing) it’s quite easy to see editors’ calls for pitches. Most editors are fairly straightforward with what it is that they are looking for, so you can often cater your pitches to specifically match their call. For instance, I first began working with SheKnows when I noticed a call for lists of films/TV shows that accurately portrayed what it is like to be a part of a specific group. Since I am of Arabic descent, I wanted to write about films and TV shows that accurately portrayed Arabs, since so many films portray Arabs as harmful stereotypes. Keep an eye on those calls for pitches because this is often one of the best ways to start working with a new editor.

Step Four: Be Sure to Answer These Three Key Questions in Your Pitch

Remember that editors’ inboxes are often flooded with pitches, so you want to keep your pitch short, sweet, and to the point. However, it is crucial that you answer the following three questions in your pitch:

  1.  What is the story (in this case, what is the listicle?)
  2. Why is now the time for this listicle?
  3. Why are you the right person to write this listicle?

Be sure that your story is a distinct unique list, and not something vague. For instance, do not write “I want to write about Die Hard” or “Here’s why Die Hard is a great Christmas movie”; instead, you want something more specific, for example: “Here’s Eight Movies That Are The International Version of Die Hard.” 

It is crucial that you explain why now is the time for this listicle. You don’t want to pitch an article about a Christmas movie in July, unless that’s what the editor is asking for!

You don’t have to go into too much detail about why you are the right person to write this listicle (now is not the time to include your entire resume). If you have experience with pop culture writing, bring that up! If you listen to Gilmore Girls’ podcasts religiously and you are pitching a listicle about Gilmore Girls, that may be worth mentioning.

Here is what these three questions look like when answered in a pitch. Take a look at my pitch about accurate Arab representation in film and TV:

I hope that this email finds you well. My name is Sarah Mina Osman, and I am a freelance pop culture writer/film and TV critic, and I noticed on Twitter that you were looking for pitches regarding TV shows and films that highlight marginalized communities (without relying on stereotypes). ←this answers the why question. I am pitching this article because you are looking for this type of article! This also touches on why I am qualified to write this article. 

I am half Egyptian, and Arabs are barely represented in the media (I believe we are in 2% of all American media) and when we are represented, we are portrayed as terrorists. I find this very frustrating as we are not terrorists and this sort of stereotyping is dangerous for our community. ←this further explains why I am qualified to write about this topic and why this article needs to be written now. This goes beyond the fact that the editor is looking for these types of articles; this is a sincere problem in the media. 

I would like to make a list of TV shows and films in which Arabs (and especially Arab-Americans) are portrayed more accurately. Unfortunately, there are still very few American TV shows and films that do this, so I would also like to include international media, especially if it comes from the Middle East to give outsiders a better understanding of what we are actually like.  ←this final sentence details what the listicle will be about and what it will look like. If I had wanted to get even more specific, I could have included the exact number of titles and a brief description of a few of them. 

Be sure to keep it to the point – most successful pitches are just a paragraph or two!

Step Five: To Really Solidify Your Pitch, Try Using a Template!

Depending on the amount of pitches you are sending out, it can be helpful to use a template, especially if you are fairly new to pitching. Do keep in mind that you will want to change your language depending on the publication. For instance, if it is a bit more serious, now may not be the time to drop in random jokes, but if it is a more playful publication (which most pop culture ones are) you want to show that you can be witty.

My general pitch template looks something like this:

Subject: PITCH (Exact title of what you plan to call the listicle; i.e. Films and TV Shows That Include Accurate Portrayals of Arabs)

Dear (editor), (Try to find and use the editor’s exact name).

I hope that this message finds you well. I’d like to pitch a story for (vertical or name of publication)

Answer the three questions:

What is this listicle about?

Why should this listicle be published now?

Why are you the right person to write it?

Include a bit about who you are. Remember, you don’t necessarily have to be a writer to pitch something! If you have writing samples, this is where you should include them.

Step Six: Before You Send Off Your Pitch, Make Sure It’s Not Written About By the Site You are Sending it to!

In some cases, your idea may have already been written about. However, that doesn’t mean it’s time to give up! You may be able to find a different angle for your listicle OR there may be a publication that hasn’t published a piece like your listicle. The important thing is to do your research prior to sending out your pitch.

Sarah Mina Osman is a writer residing in Wilmington, North Carolina. In addition to writing for The Arts Fuse, she has written for Watercooler HQ, The Huffington Post, HelloGiggles, Young Hollywood, and Matador Network, among other sites.



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