If you are an aspiring writer, or you simply want to augment your professional qualifications by publishing material related to your field of expertise, listen up. Here are a few tips that will help ingratiate you in the hearts and minds of editors. Once you’ve established a positive rapport with an editor, you may find the publication to be an excellent outlet for your work – and if you’re good enough – you may be invited to submit more work.
1. Editors prefer e-mail correspondence above all else – especially when submitting query letters and final articles. If you e-mail a story, make sure to paste it into the body of the e-mail, just in case the conversion of an attached file does not go smoothly. E-mailing correspondence and articles means the editor can cut and paste it into the publication, without having to retype. Digital delivery saves the editor lots of time.
2. If you promise an editor something – an article, a short bio, or a high resolution photo – make sure you deliver it. Always follow through with your promises, and that editor will remember you as reliable.
3. Before submitting a story, remember to fact check accuracy of dates and the spelling of places, names, and geographic locations. Most editors will revise your work even further, because that’s their job – to make the work even better. But few editors will continue to work with a writer who submits sloppy material that needs to be fact checked or heavily rewritten each time. Worse yet, you don’t want to submit something with factual errors in it.
4. Have a short, three to five sentence bio on yourself ready to submit to editors. Not all publications provide information on authors with published articles, but when they do, you want to take advantage of the free publicity. Don’t EVER submit a one page or one paragraph bio to an editor, unless they specifically request this much material. They’re being gracious by providing some space and most editors will not want to take the time to carve a bio down.
5. Have a publicity photo of yourself ready for publication and in digital format. For print media publications the dots per inch (dpi) should be a minimum of 300. For newspapers 150-200 dpi will suffice, though you should ask the editor or graphics department which they prefer. DO NOT send print media editors 72 dpi, or low resolution photos. This resolution is usually the standard setting for a digital camera, and is acceptable for publication on the world wide web, but is not appropriate for print media. Once a photo is shot, chances are very good that not much can be done to improve the dots per inch, except shrink it to 3 times its former size.
6. If you choose to telephone an editor to pitch them a story, remember – their time is valuable. First, ask them if it’s a good time to speak for 10 minutes. If it’s not, then ask them for a convenient time to call back. If they can speak, limit your pitch to 5-7 minutes. No editor wants to be on the telephone with someone for an unendurable length of time. Do not start telling them about all of your publication credits or credentials unless they ask. Stick to the pitch for your story idea, and focus your conversation accordingly. If they like it, you may continue the conversation for longer than 10 minutes. If they’re not interested, politely end the call.
7. Deadlines are important to editors, because they need written material before they can make decisions about visual materials, ad space, and layout and design. If you have promised an editor something, do your absolute best to submit it by the agreed upon deadline. If something has come up – in your personal or professional life or in the process of writing and interviewing for the story, communicate the need to slightly extend the deadline to the editor in advance. Most editors will work with you on deadlines, provided they are not under the gun themselves. Newspaper editors usually do fly by the seat of their pants, so keep this in mind when asking for extensions.
8. Engage the editor in a short e-mail about your story prior to writing it and he/she may come up with a few guiding sentences to help you. This is a chance to try to get a feel for how the editor would like this written prior to writing it. An editor may help you frame a story, give suggestions for potential interviews or subjects, or cause you to look at the story in a totally different way. Don’t despair if you receive no response. The editor may be busy and not have enough time to reply.
9. Do not write stories or articles that are just barely disguised promotional pieces for your business associates, friends and family, or your own business. It’s OK to mine these contacts for story ideas, but make certain the content you present is not OVERTLY promoting anyone. Any seasoned editor can smell a promo piece a mile away and will not publish it.
10. Try to write in subject areas you feel passionate about. For example, if you are passionate about hiking, write for some outdoor magazines. Editors are drawn to freelance writers who have a knowledge base for the material they’re submitting. This is an excellent ‘in’ with any editor – a well-developed knowledge base is a good foundation for any story. If you have a passion, pitch the right editor your idea. GO For it.
Elizabeth Kirwin has published work in national magazines and newspapers. She is co-owner of Sidhe Communications http://www.sidhecommunications.com in Asheville NC. She develops web sites, newsletters, brochures, and other marketing materials for companies and health care ogranizations nationally. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.