How to Get an Editor's Attention

Saturday, November 07, 2015
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I’m working at a magazine right now subbing for a colleague on maternity leave, and I had forgotten exactly how much e-mail an editor receives on a daily—I’d even venture to say hourly—basis. Halfway through the first day I had to get up from my chair, take a stroll, and give my eyes a rest. I also knew I already my next blog post topic ready for WOW!

The majority of electronic correspondence an editor receives is from someone pitching something—whether it’s article idea, a product, a local news event, etc. But even though we all know you have to research the market you’re pitching first, not everyone does. Public relations firms are focused on results, and to receive results, they send out as many queries as possible. In my experience, you only have a minute or so to get the attention of an editor, if that. An intriguing subject line is a good start but you have to follow through.

Here are a few do’s and don’ts for freelance writers and PR pros to keep in mind when pitching a magazine, newspaper or web editor:

Do provide detailed information in your correspondence. Many magazines have sections that run local community news and events. Editors are looking for good tidbits of information for these sections, and are more likely to run an event that has a good amount of background information, dates, times, locations, and even a quote from someone affiliated from the event already put together.

If your pitch is time sensitive, do give enough lead time. I received several e-mails this week for things that were happening a week to two weeks from now. I work at a monthly magazine that’s already laying out December and January issues. That doesn’t work for us. Luckily, we do have a daily blog on our website that could list events happening just a few days out, but not all publications have that luxury.

Do include high-resolution photos if you have them. Images make for more compelling content—you don’t read magazines or blogs that don’t have good images, do you? An editor is more likely to use your event/product/idea if you include photos along with the above two items. Caption suggestions are also a bonus.

Don’t be presumptuous. It’s one thing to confidently pitch an idea or a story, but saying things like “we envision this making a great multi-page article full of photos,” is a turn off to an editor. Most publications don’t have room to give that much space to one organization, and statements like that come off as amateurish.

Don’t use a misleading subject line. When editors (such as ones working at a parenting magazine) are looking to fill in their editorial story budgets, they get excited when they see an e-mail pop up that says something like “top common childhood illnesses.” It’s disappointing and frustrating to then open the e-mail pitching nothing related that topic besides “the latest and greatest” infant thermometer. There are ways to engage with a subject line without pulling a bait and switch.

What tips do you have for pitching an editor successfully? Share in the comments below.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning professional freelance writer, editor and blogger with hundreds of print and online articles and columns to her name. Her experience includes a background in journalism and communications, public relations, writing for regional parenting and city magazines, a daily newspaper and websites and e-zines. For more information, visit her website.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--I have no tidbits to offer, because I've never snagged an editor's attention.

However, if I ever DO become a true freelancer, I will keep in mind these helpful hints.

Thanks for the post.

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