Editors are busy people, but they are always on the lookout for good, interesting content to engage equally-busy readers. Their medium, whether print magazine, newsletter or website, has to survive in a highly competitive environment and it’s the content that helps them stand out. They have their work cut out keeping existing subscribers, and attracting new ones, so a good proposal from a potential author, presented in the right way, could be most welcome.
Planning – what have you got to offer?
Before you even think about contacting editors think about what it is you want to write. Who is the target audience? What will they get from it and why should they care?
Do your research. Make sure you know about the magazine or website that you plan to write for. Look at back issues. What’s the tone/writing style? What kind of articles do they normally have? What have they produced in the past and does your proposed article fit in? Can you add value for the readers and what can you offer that’s different? All of this will help when approaching the editor if you can show that you have taken the time to get to know them beforehand.
If you think you have enough interesting material for a regular column then think about proposing a series of articles.
Whatever you do don’t be tempted to offer editors a thinly disguised advert. They won’t be impressed. Instead of writing about ‘how your company helps clients manage their stress levels’ why not write about ‘stress management techniques for the busy entrepreneur’ or ‘how to manage stress and avoid that nervous breakdown’. Offer useful, pertinent information and the reader can always follow the link to your website in your sign-off at the end of the article (so don’t forget to supply it).
The last thing an editor wants, or needs, is an advert masquerading as editorial and you will need to convince them that you are serious about providing quality content.
Pitching your idea
When you have decided what it is you want to offer, and who to, you will need to prepare your approach. Styles differ but the most common approach is to email the editor with a short proposal and follow up with a phone call.
Start your email with an introduction and a couple of sentences to show that you’ve done your homework and you’re not going to waste their time. Your proposal should include a suggested title, and the first paragraph or two to show that you can write for their audience. Follow that with suggested bullet points for the rest of the content, let them know if you can supply images, and give a rough word count. Don’t forget to include contact details.
If you haven’t been formally published before, think about other ways in which you might demonstrate your written skills such as directing them to your blog.
Approach the right person
Call the magazine or website if necessary to get the email address of the editor. Avoid emailing to generic addresses such as ‘editor@’ or ‘news@’. Also try to stay away from the advertising people. Their job is to sell space and they will be keen to encourage you to pay for an advert ‘in exchange for’ editorial space. This is not what you want (and the pros and cons of advertorial is probably another article in itself). If you can pitch your idea to the editor you will have a much better chance of achieving your goal.
So now that you have the right contact details email the editor and follow up soon after with a phone call. However, make sure to check before you call that they are not going to be in the middle of a deadline or putting an issue to bed. Have your proposal and/or bullet points to hand as you may have to go over it again. Also be prepared to convince them if necessary that you really are the best person to write your article.
If you can propose good relevant editorial content, that adds value for readers and helps the editor fill a gap, and you can show that you are the best person to write it, then you are in with a chance. Then all you have to do is make sure that you write and deliver the article by the deadline.
About the author: Deborah Rowe, Consultant, Sheba Marketing
Deborah is a chartered marketer, member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, and fellow of both the Institute of Direct Marketing and the RSA. She has more than 20 years of solid marketing and communications experience which she puts to good use as principal consultant of Sheba Marketing.
Originally from a science and engineering background, she gained much of her initial experience in the construction industry, civil engineering, and the built environment. She now works with a wider range of clients in areas including professional services, professional associations and publishing. She works with clients to engender best practice and a strategic approach to marketing. She has been successfully running her business for 11 years.
Sheba Marketing provides no-nonsense business-to-business marketing support to small and medium-sized organisations. The principal consultant works with a network of professionals to provide clients with tailored services to suit their needs. www.shebamarketing.co.uk