This American Life on Proposals and Pitches

As a way to increase the quality of the many submissions they receive, This American Life staff offer some excellent tips on writing pitches. They go further, presenting four pitches that made it on air, describing why they succeeded:

  • Each of these stories is a story in the most traditional sense: there are characters in some situation, and a conflict.
  • These pitchers are clear about who the characters are and what the conflict is.
  • Each of these stories raises some bigger question or issue, some universal thing to think about.
  • Finally, they’re brief.

On that last one (brevity), they offer further advice. This time I find the advice goes much further than just radio or TV pitches, but pitches of any type:

Select a short, self-contained section that might make a nice […] story and send us a couple paragraphs describing that section. […] Assume anything over 12 pages will not be read. If you have a hard time choosing an excerpt, then spend a page or two explaining what your book or documentary is about, and telling us a few of your favorite moments. If you have some ongoing project on your website or blog that you think might be interesting on the show, don’t just send us a link to your archives – paste a few choice excerpts into your pitch. Help us love you! Help us find your best, most radio-friendly material!