Before I had a blog, I cut my chops in the world of print journalism, fluctuating between full time gigs to freelance positions, and as my blog has grown, I still keep up with contributing to at least two sites. Not only is it a little extra money, which of course is always nice, but more importantly, I get to flex my writing skills in different styles and voices on a constant basis, keeping my creative process fresh thanks to the myriad of pitches that I send on a weekly basis. If you're thinking of branching out from your blog to write for print and/or digital magazines, here's a few tips that I've learned over the years that can get you closer to a published piece at a new publication.
Do Your Homework
Let's say that “IFB is the Best” Magazine is your favorite publication, and you would love to write for it. First, decide on what particular section of IFB is the Best you'd like to write to, and who the editor of that particular section may be. It's usually not too hard to figure out if you look at the masthead of a magazine, and, as you look through that section/column for what has been written to it over the past few months, you'll probably see the same one or two names pop up repeatedly.
As you're looking at previously written work, take notes as to what has been written; when you craft your pitches, you'll want to suggest features that are similar yet different- something that would feel like an organic fit to the magazine, but as far as you know, hasn't been published yet.
When you are ready with your ideas, usually finding an email address for an editor to send pitches to isn't too hard, as everyone at the company will have a formatted one, i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Build Out Your Pitches
Be extra thoughtful in the “cover letter” portion of your pitches, stating what you like about the magazine and the particular section you'd like to write for, and provide a complete title with either sentence format or bullet point details on your article ideas. I would recommend sending 3-4 pitches, and really spending time working on them, making sure they are a good fit for the publication. Even if the editor doesn't select the ones you sent, he/she may assign a different one to you, or keep you in mind to assign a piece to in the future because you were considerate and thorough from your first impression. When all you have is words to go on in order to make an impression, you need to make every word in that email count.
Provide Relevant Examples From Your Blog
If you haven't been published before, provide specific links to features on your blog as your main source as examples of your previous work. Make sure that you find features that are relevant to the magazine you want to write at, i.e. if it's a shelter magazine make sure to provide a link to a home-related post you did, and triple check your post(s) to make sure they are the epitome of perfection when it comes to image and links working, and any spacing, grammatical, or technical errors and typos that can arise. If you don't have an example of your writing that is a perfect match, at least provide several links to pieces that you feel exhibits your stellar writing skills and voice.
Editors seem to be split 50/50 regarding if they need to see a resume, but they basically want to be assured that you can write, are professional, and can meet deadlines. If you have a great “about” section on your blog, you can provide a link to that so that they can learn a bit more about your professional background and interests.
Carefully Consider When you Send Your Pitches
I know this may sound silly, but after you've done all of the work mentioned above, you want to have all of the cards in your favor to ensure that your email gets open and read, right? Think about your work behavior; Mondays can be hectic, as can be Fridays, and mornings could potentially be busier than afternoons. Plan for your email to arrive mid-week, in the afternoon, as a good strategy for getting your foot in the door, and you may want to build in your follow-up approach, i.e. “Thank you for taking the time to consider my pitches, and if I don't hear from you, I will be in touch in two weeks with a few more ideas.” Since the editor likely doesn't know you yet, keep the subject of your email straightforward, for example, “Compelling Pitches for the ___ Section,” so that if the editor is busy when it arrives to the inbox, it's eye catching and easy to find to later.
What additional suggestions would you make for pitching ideas to print & digital magazines?
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