As an Associate Editor for a regional magazine publisher, I’m often tasked with working with freelance writers, as well as branching out to grow our network of writers. With my position as the director of the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference, one of the big things I talk about is submitting to our magazines, as many attendees are local writers searching for new opportunities. My publisher has several regional magazines as well as custom publications and inserts, and we’re always looking for writers to help create great content. For those writers interested in freelancing for a magazine, perhaps these 5 tips will help in your path to published.
- Do your research. This is perhaps the most important part of the process, because if you don’t know anything about the magazines you’re submitting to, then prepare for your emails to be instantly deleted. I can’t tell you the number of emails I’ve gotten for bridebook from people all over the world offering to write articles – but it’s clearly an outlet for local weddings in our SWVA region. Blue Ridge Country is another great example – we get plenty of emails with story suggestions, but more often than not, they’re for places way outside of our region (it only covers the 7 states with Blue Ridge Mountains, and is quite clear in our website). If you pitch me a story about some neat piece of odd history that took place in the Blue Ridge, however, that’s right in our wheelhouse and something we might want to cover – and shows us you’ve at least flipped through an issue at some point.
- Address the correct person. Perhaps this one falls under “research” but nevertheless, it’s important. As someone who gets emailed with “Mr. Long” (nope, sorry) or “Leslie” (Liz…3 letters, guys), that’s an automatic disqualification, much like when a writer incorrectly queries an agent. I can almost hear you saying it: All these magazine websites only have generic contact forms, not specific names! Okay – then pick up an issue, or have a peek at the digital issue online. Within the first 3 pages will be a pub box, with publisher, editor and rest of staff listed. That’s where I’ll be, and you can get an actual name to go along with that website contact form email, which will ensure that email is forwarded to the correct person rather than tossed into the “file for later” pile. If you can’t take the time and care to get the right editor, how can I trust you to do the same with your articles?
- Have an angle. Unless a magazine has specifically requested suggestions for a particular piece, you should have an idea of what you’d like to pitch to an editor. This shows not only your care and thought, but motivation and, to some extent, imagination. I don’t want to hear the same old “Roanoke is great” article. I want to know specifics – is it about a business or restaurant, or the new brewery opening down the road? Tell me the 5 W’s: who, what, when, where, why. Show me why you think this article would hit home with readers.
- Include writing samples. This one’s easy. Don’t just send me a resume. That tells me nothing, other than your career history. I want to know your writing style, if you’re any good or just throwing things together, if I’m going to have to edit the hell out of typos and grammatical issues. On the other hand, if it’s sparkling clean and interesting to read, I guarantee you’ll catch my interest – and probably a reply email.
- Understand timing. The Roanoker and Blue Ridge Country are both bimonthly publications, meaning they cover a span of 2 months. That means when you pitch me coverage for an event in May, you need to contact me in February or March (the sooner, the better, honestly). Many magazines are monthly, but all of us work way ahead of the calendar year (trust me; I’m working on Christmas themes in August each year). It’s important to remember that magazines want to write about what’s happening, not what’s happened. Don’t wait too long to pitch an idea, or you may have to wait until the following year.