How to Pitch Stories to Magazine Editors and Get Published
Getting published is a wonderful thing, and it’s not easy. It’s competitive and the process can be intimidating. But for those willing to do the work, it’s never impossible.
Editors need to fill their magazines with quality content. It’s their primary job and they’re looking for you. If you understand their motivations, and take a few simple steps, you can get onto their radar screens and into their pages.
Making First Contact — How to get an Editor to Not Hang Up On You
Editors are busy people. They know immediately when you’re unprepared and they lose interest quickly. Here are a few methods that will pique an editor’s interest:
- Secure preliminary commitments and interview your subjects prior to contacting the editor.
- Call the editor and ask if he/she would be interested in an article on [topic] if you can 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 try to 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.
- 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’ve been green lighted, you can conduct more thorough interviews based on your discussions with the editor.
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 contain 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. At least 30 percent of the e-mail queries editors receive indicate the writer lacks this fundamental knowledge. They usually 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 website 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 that the resources to complete the article are already in place 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.
It’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