Pitch Perfect – How to Get Your Work into Holiday Gift Guides – Plus Etsy Shop HOT TIP of the Month

time to blow our own horn (but not in anger)

time to blow our own horn
(but not in anger)

If you grew up in a family (like I did) where you were told not to “toot your own horn” (this was one of my grandmother’s favorites and I still don’t understand it, are we supposed to grab someone else’s horn and toot that – that just sounds rude … and well, unsanitary actually). She also loved to say that “cream rises to the top” and “people will notice your good work, you don’t have to tell them about it, Cathy”. And this is totally true and this is also totally not true (aint’ life tricky). When it comes to publicity for our maker business it is best to err on the side of ‘not true’ and let people know we are out here.

If you want to open up a magazine in November and see that amazing something you have created staring out at the world from the pages of a GIFT GUIDE now is the time you have to take the action to make that happen.

First know your intention

First look at how holiday gift guides fit into the overall intention you have with your business. If you don’t want to be bombarded with orders over the holidays – and it is totally OK to say this – it is your business; you get to set the rules. If you are not set up with the time, supplies, inventory etc for an increased holiday rush, then this is not something you have to do. Cross this post off your list – whew, one less thing to think about.

Otherwise we will be like that kid who half-raises her hand in school hoping the teacher won’t call on her. That’s not the kind of energy we want to send out. The half-hand-raise will not work.

This doesn’t mean we have to be totally ready – we will never be totally ready for anything. It’s a good idea to look at how increased holiday sales would work for you though. You want your positive energy behind any action you take!

a little paste and cut for inspiration

a little paste and cut for inspiration

1. Create a media list

What is your customer reading? Get creative with this. We can’t all fit in the Oprah Magazine Gift Guide (but you might).

If you sell dishtowels, you don’t need to only be pitching home and garden magazines (but pitch those, too) – if you make a dishtowel with a bicycle design – pitch cycling magazines. If you make a dishtowel with a sloth (yes, I said sloth – yes, I mean the animal) – pitch, well, I don’t know, this is where the ‘get creative’ part comes in. I do know that sloths are hot (and I did previously predict the owl trend and then the fox trend and then the hedgehog trend – as soon as I saw that cute actress blubbering about sloths on Ellen, I thought TREND and yes, I do sometimes predict trends after they are, well, trending, but I think that still counts). You get the idea. Almost every publication has a holiday gift guide.

There is a list here of media outlets (industry targets) that might help. Go to Barnes and Noble. Read the magazines. Buy a couple. Take them home. Put them under your pillow. Walk around holding them. Tape pictures of your stuff on the pages (see above). Get your positive mojo all over them. When you pitch them, they won’t know what hit them!

2. Pitch the right person

Call or email the magazine and ask for the name of the gift guide editor.

3. Prepare the perfect pitch

Think short bits of quick information with great visuals. Use the words Holiday Gift Guide in the subject line. Address the editor by name. Write a short and sweet pitch geared to them. No one can tell you exactly what to say here – this is again where the ‘get creative’ comes in. I write something about me, something about them, 2-3 ideas with links (for example):

Gifts Your Wine Loving Friends Will Love – Under $30 (with link)

Gifts Your Wine Loving Friends Will Love (and you will want to keep for yourself) – Under $50 (with link)

I always send different links to different publications – I don’t think gift guide editors want to see their finds in other gift guides. I always try to pitch a little angle even though with a gift guide pitch this isn’t as important as with an out of the blue pitch. I attach photos (crisp, white background). I offer to mail a sample product and include a ‘thank you for your time’ kind of closing. Remember to gear your pitch to the publication- you will want to use different language pitching a teen magazine gift guide editor than you would use for a computer magazine. Be clear, concise and TYPO FREE. Keep it short, people are busy.

4. Double check it. Sleep on it. Check it again. Imagine Susie, the editor, opening your email (yes, cold coffee in hand – she is bored, she is tired, she is thinking, oh brother, here’s another gift guide submission – then she opens your email, her eyes light up, she is speechless,  you have made her day, she simply must have your thingie in her gift guide!). Imagine your product in the pages of that magazine’s gift guide. Imagine yourself buying copies for all your friends, feel how that will make you feel (do a little happy dance).

5. Hit send.

Mark your calendar for a date to follow up and release your attention from it.

6. Follow up in a week or so to see if they would like a sample. If you get a yes – overnight it. You want it in the editor’s hands while she is thinking about it. Never send anything unsolicited and if it is something pricey you can definitely send a return shipping label (depending on the outlet you are sending to, you might want to let the editor keep it even if it is pricey – whatever happens just consider it money well spent).

Some more of grandma’s advice like “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” and “try, try again” may apply here (there is a reason we remember grandma’s advice – it’s usually pretty good). Also there is a whole 2nd pitch season for online gift guides in a few months, so you get another at bat.

Every pitch may not be a homerun (wait, we don’t want pitches to be homeruns, do we!? saying every pitch may not be a strike out sounds wrong, too, though), but good stuff always comes to us from any positive action we take – it can’t not. It’s universal law. It may not come back in exactly the way we had planned though so stay open.

I recently sent a pitch that landed out in left field somewhere I guess, but in preparation for the pitch I had to take some great photos of a certain item which I then had handy when the Anderson Cooper show emailed me (in a totally unrelated way due to a post on my own blog about something else) and I sent the photos over within minutes. I got an email to appear on the next day’s show with Lara Spencer who was promoting her new show (just to get called up from the audience to show something I’d upcycled – I wouldn’t be like an actual guest or anything, but I might get close enough to touch Anderson’s hair or something),

so for the next few hours I was pretty excited (and terrified) until the show called me and said Anderson had to go to Rome because they had picked the new Pope and the episode was cancelled. Ugh! Anyway, I am thinking when this pitch finally winds its way back to me it will have enough momentum behind it to be a knock-out (hopefully, it won’t leave me on the ground with loose teeth).

Also, there is no pot of gold guaranteed at the end of a gift guide.  I have a friend who’s item was in the People Magazine Holiday Gift Guide and she got 5 sales. Yup, 5 sales. Now, her item was submitted by a store who carries her line and their name was in there, too, which might have mucked things up for her – a reader’s attention span is about 10 seconds, but the guide did include her brand name which is totally google-able. She geared up for huge sales (her work is amazing) – it didn’t happen. I know someone else who was in a People Magazine gift guide for a popular teen movie sequel that was coming out and she was busy for weeks.

And yes, just like everything else we do as business owners we could do a lot of work for not a lot of money with this – that’s because we have a business, we don’t have a job – that’s how this works. The only guarantee is that the positive energy we put out there will come back to us. In the long run that’s a better guarantee anyway.

Now for my Etsy Super Hot Tip of the Month –

Every month I will be offering up an Etsy tip you probably won’t find anywhere else.

Maybe because:

1. My tips might not actually work  – I will never offer a tip unless I see it working for someone, actually I will not offer a tip unless I see it working for multiple someones or I have tried it myself and it has worked for me, but it still might not be right for you

2. My tips seem a little shady – it’s almost summer in many parts of the world – we need shade, we are the treehugging team, shade is our friend.

this tip assumes your item is not one of a kind

this tip assumes your item is not one of a kind


This tip doesn’t work for everything and everyone, but is worth a try for a seller not selling one of a kind items who is thinking “I wish I could list this item in multiple categories” or “I need more tags” or just has an item that could be marketed in various ways. I wouldn’t double list your entire shop – that could annoy browsers, but at $.20 a listing giving customers multiple ways to find your stuff could work for you!

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  1. Amazing article!!! I’ve never pitched to a magazine but I definitely will now! I love the way you worded this and your steps make it simple and straightforward. Great job thank you thank you!

  2. Thanks al! If you are going to do this – schedule time to search for mags and editors and schedule in another time slot to write your pitches now – hit send by mid July at the latest!

  3. Wonderful to be poked with this post.. I needed it. I’d love to see an example pitch. Last year I attended a workshop on this subject and ended up pitching to 20 stores at a later date which were rounded up into one room. It was fun, informational, exciting, and thought provoking. I have not tried the print version of pitching to magazines.. hmmmm….
    Thank you for the fire!

  4. What an awesome post. You rocked it. I’ve never submitted my items to a gift guide but I may have to start looking into those. You offered some great tips. Thank you.

  5. Annabel says:

    Very enjoyable, and easy reading writing style you have! Interesting article and tip. :-)

  6. Thanks Jen!

  7. This post was absolutely fantastic. Your tips, suggestions and style are fabulous. Thanks for sharing!

  8. That’s great – let us know how it goes! I am shaking my rattle for you guys now!

    hugs- Cat :)

  9. This is one fabulous article and I love your writing style. I am taking ideas from it for our wholesale pitch. Thank you!