Publishing an article in a national trade publication can present a daunting challenge, especially if the magazine’s circulation means you are competing against many other submissions. Here are some useful techniques to help you succeed at the task.
1. Avoid voicemail at all costs.
Editors at your favorite magazines are besieged by requests to publish articles. They typically receive hundreds of press releases and bylined articles every day. Leaving a voicemail message almost guarantees a lack of response. If unable to reach your contact by phone, speak to the operator, explain your problem and determine whether the editor is in. If so, ask to either hold on or to be transferred to a receptionist on the same floor who can get the editor to respond to your pitch.
2. Always call first to ask permission to email your story.
While editors may not appreciate the extra call, this is one of the few ways to stand out from the crowd. Pitch your story idea and ask whether the editor thinks it’s suitable for the magazine. If not, you’ve saved yourself a lot of time and aggravation.
3. Develop a relationship with the editor.
If the editor understands you are a professional or just a friendly person, you are more likely to succeed. A relationship with the editor typically develops as you follow up during the pitching process.
4. Provide graphic support but wait before you send it.
Graphic support increases your chances of publication, but you should hold back before sending it. First of all, you don’t want to clog up an editor’s computer before your story has been accepted. Secondly, you can use graphic support as an ace in the hole. If the editor is hesitating about your article, you can mention the possibility of graphic support to improve your chances. Finally, offering graphic support gives you an excuse to call editors again to see whether they looked at your story yet.
5. Except for prominent publications, deal directly with the editor-in-chief.
The cutoff is a circulation of about 50,000. By dealing directly with the editor-in-chief, you avoid the need for subsequent approvals. Lower ranking editors may also try to pass the buck by saying they referred your article to someone else or someone higher up.
For publications with a circulation above 50,000, it may be just about impossible to get in touch with the editor-in-chief, and beat editors/reporters are given a higher degree of autonomy in these magazines.
After submitting your article, give the editor a few days to look at it, and then call again. Keep at it until you get a response one way or the other.
7. Review the article over the phone by providing the exact time of transmission.
Typically, editors will ignore your article for a period of time. In your third follow-up call, ask the editor to review the article over the phone and provide the exact time of transmission to make it easier to find. By this time, the editor will feel guilty about ignoring you, and you will probably get it published.
8. Pin down the editor.
Even after accepting an article, editors may try to avoid a firm commitment. If so, you should ask them what issue they are working on and when the article might appear. Otherwise, it might not.
9. For bylined articles, offer to send an outline first.
By doing so, you avoid spending a lot of time writing a piece that will not be published. In addition, you make the editor a part of the process. Your article is much more likely to be published if the editor approves your outline first.
10. Find the placement.
If the editor says the article will be published in the November issue, make sure you find it when the issue comes out. Often, articles may be deleted in favor of an extra advertisement (referred to as “space considerations”). In that case, you should note the article is not time sensitive (provided this is true) and ask for inclusion in a future issue.
Of course, the above points assume your article is well-written and covers a newsworthy topic of interest to the reader. Provided you meet that test, the techniques listed above should prove invaluable in the pitching process.