Go to the magazine store
Yesterday, I went to the magazine store. There's usually either one guy working or two guys working. It was a Sunday, so two guys were working. There was a couple looking at magazines, and there were some random guys looking at magazines. I picked up The New Yorker, Playboy, Harper's Bazaar, Los Angeles, GQ, Forbes, Vanity Fair, Details, Cosmo, GQ UK, Esquire, Esquire UK, Lui, ESPN, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone. I asked the tall older guy behind the counter if they had a copy of Marie Claire UK, because I have a piece in it, but they didn't. There were too many magazines to carry around the store, so I left a stack of them at the register while I got more. I wondered why the Playboy was wrapped in plastic, but then I thought maybe it was better not to know. I spent about $100.
Have a story idea
I usually have a dozen story ideas in my head at any given time. Some of them are stupid but can be sold to dumb magazines for good money. Some of them are weird, and no one will publish them. Some of them are short. Some of them are long. Some of them are not fully formed.
Remember, you're the boss
One mistake amateurs make is that they pitch one idea to one editor and then wait. You will be waiting a long time. Most of the time, editors never respond if the answer is no, so you have to hustle a lot of things at the same time. As a freelance journalist, I've found around one in every 10 pitches turns into a story. Throw a lot of balls.
Figure out what they want
Usually, I throw all the magazines on the floor. One by one, I pick them up, I flip through them, and I think about how they organize the magazine, what stories they publish, which writers they publish, who advertises on their pages, and what I can concluded about their editors by flipping through their glossy pages. If you can't figure that out by looking at the magazine, you should do something else. Like work at Burger King. (Obviously, you can do the digital version of this. It's all the same.)
Take aim at your target
Twenty-somethings who are new to journalism, who are armed with degrees but no experience, stumble at this part. Locate who the appropriate editor is in the masthead and figure out what their email is. To do that, play around with their name in Google until you figure it out. Maybe it's John.Smith@fancypants.com, or maybe it's email@example.com. It's easy. Unless you are dumb. In which case it's hard.
A pitch is an email. Write something catchy in the subject header, like, "Ladykillers, Inc." In the body of the email, put the editor's name first, so they don't think you're spamming them. Write one to three paragraphs about your story idea. It's a good idea if the first paragraph is written like journalism, not like someone writing a pitch. That's more likely to grab them by the balls and make them want to do something, like respond.
Forget about it
Click send, and move on to the next one. Try not to think too much. These people don't know you. Therefore, it doesn't matter what they think about you. Besides, you shouldn't be pitching. You should be self-publishing. You're wasting your time letting someone else decide if your story is worthy of being told.