Making First Contact – How to get an Editor to Not Hang Up on You
Editors are busy people. They know immediately when you are unprepared and they lose interest quickly. Here are two methods to peak an editor’s interest:
- Secured preliminary commitments and interview your subjects prior to contacting the editor.
- Include quotes in your pitch that support your article’s theme and the publication’s style. Your strong pitch will reflect a level of commitment that impresses editors. Once you been green lighted, you can conduct more thorough interviews based on your discussions with the editor.
- Call the editor on the phone and ask if the publication would be interested in an article on [topic] if you were able to secure the commitment of [subjects]. The editor might recognize your subjects as experts in the field and take an interest.
- Keep the call short and don’t sell yourself. You’re on a fact-finding mission. If you receive a positive response, thank the editor and state that a pitch will arrive from you within a week.
Getting an Editor to Read Your Pitch
It’s important to remember that magazine editors receive dozens of queries and pitches each day, hundreds each week, for an editorial calendar that might contained less than 100 available slots per year. Most editors can afford to be selective in the content they choose, so they look for several things to jump out immediately:
- “Has the writer studied my magazine and is there a demonstrated understanding of our needs and guidelines?” Most magazines publish their guidelines online . About 30 percent of the e-mail queries editors receive lack this and get deleted. Editors have little time for writers who do not bother to study a publication’s style and guidelines prior to submitting pitches.
- A better approach: “I visited your Web site and read [article name] from your archives. I see that you haven’t covered that topic since [date] and I see it is appearing again on your editorial calendar in [month]. Your submission guidelines state that I should pitch stories several months in advance of publication, so I’d like to offer an article that would be a good fit.”
- Go on to describe who has agreed to be interviewed and how the story would unfold. These pitches usually get marked for follow up.
- “Has the writer secured a commitment from the subject?” Editors sometimes accept an article for print based on a good pitch only to then hear the writer say, “Great! Let me contact the subjects and see if they’re into it and I’ll get back to you.” Potential contributors are usually only forgiven once for this error. It costs editors too much time of which they usually have too little to begin with.
- “Does the writer have the resources to pull off the article?” Editors can tell when they’re dealing with a newbie or a veteran writer. They might enjoy working with newbies when time permits, but there can be serious consequences when contributors fail to deliver. Show the editor up front that you have the resources in place to accomplish the task and you’ll more likely be given a chance to succeed.
Filling the Editor’s Needs Gets You Published
Remember, editors are gatekeepers who are charged with filling pages with quality, timely and pertinent content that their readers want and need. That’s a huge responsibility and a primary motivation that you can leverage if you study the publication’s editorial guidelines and calendar and then fashion your pitches to reflect their needs. That’s a winning combination that will lift your pitch from the slush pile onto the editor’s desk and dramatically improve your chances of getting into print.