How to establish a good relationship with Magazine Editors is a question asked by many new authors. It is difficult to break into the magazine writing market. Draw on your expertise to explore freelance article writing. There are literally thousands of potential writing markets to land assignments. It is important to establish and maintain good relationships with the magazine editors you work with. Before you latch on to a topic and start writing your article, familiarize yourself with what an editor wants, needs, and expects in submissions. Carefully review the submission guidelines; they often outline what material publications are seeking and what material they’re not seeking. These guidelines also itemize where to send queries and submissions, in what format to send submissions, who to send submissions to, remuneration policy, and when you can expect to hear back on queries and submissions. Collate the information gathered by asking the following questions to draw a mental picture of the audience you’d be writing for:
- What is the magazines chief purpose?
- Who is the target readership? Men? Women? Moms? Dads? Old-ish? Young-ish? Experienced in the subject matter?
- Why are they reading the publication? Because it helps readers acquire or enhance job skills? Because it keeps their knowledge current? Validates established practices? Offers opportunities for further research?
- Are readers looking to be entertained, informed or persuaded?
- What kind of information do readers need or want? How-to? Vocational development? Interviews with experts? Comprehensive, well-researched topics?
- What supporting information do they want or need? Examples? Anecdotes? Figures? Graphics? Humor? Facts?
- What regular departments or features does it include?
- What range of freelance-written topics does it cover?
- What topics and articles are published in recent editions?
- What elements and features do the articles include?
- Where and when would readers likely read the publication? At home while relaxing? A home office–while working alone or with family members underfoot? At a formal sector office working with co-workers, busy answering phone calls and liaising with customers? On an airplane passing time? In a waiting room or lobby?
- What seasonal material does it include?
- What writing style, techniques, and organization do authors employ?
- Is the content deep or light-hearted?
- How long are the articles?
- How do articles and accompanying graphics appear?
- How formal or informal are the design, writing, and graphics?
Adhere to the rules stipulated in the submission guidelines. If it states ‘submit queries only’ then don’t submit a full article. If it says to submit articles to Heather Jones, then address your submission for the attention of Heather Jones. If it says to submit material via surface mail, then don’t submit material using email. If it says to include a resume and three writing samples, then provide your resume and three writing samples. Abiding by these rules is important simply because most submission guidelines are developed according to in-house processes allocated to specific personnel. If submissions should go to Submissions Editor Heather Jones and you send your work to Managing Editor Peter Olden, they would need to take extra steps to filter your submission to the right person. It is highly likely that your submission will be lost along the way.
Query only if you’re serious about developing the article you propose Regardless of the publication, size of the editorial team, or editorial resources, reviewing queries and submissions takes a lot of time. Therefore, submit only your best work for review. Make sure your submission fits the following criteria.
• Does it support long- and/or short-term goals of the publication?
• Is the topic of interest and value to their readership?
• Does the topic and your approach provide a fresh slant?
• Does it provide fresh information not available through other resources?
• Does it fit into the magazine’s existing department or feature area?
• Are you qualified to provide accurate, authoritative information?
• Is the material developed appropriately for the target audience?
• Are the length, style, tone, and supporting materials appropriate?
• Have similar articles been recently proposed or published?
Be patient; before following up with an editor about a query or submission, check the date of your submission and then give it a bit more time beyond what the deadline says. If a fair amount of time has passed and you’ve not heard back from an editor, query with a brief follow-up message that includes
• Your name and contact information
• The date of the original query or submission
• The subject line of your original query or submission (if you sent it via email)
• A brief extract of the article as a reminder of the topic
• Attach a copy of the original query or submission
Get into the habit of filing all correspondence you exchange with editors. Inform editors of changes or just to keep them in the loop about how the project is progressing. Editors have deadlines to meet, based on publishing needs and goals, publication schedules, and content availability. By communicating your progress you effectively help editor’s better plan for content and schedules. Keep questions focused on the article at hand; gather as much information as possible in advance to asking an editor to spend time helping you. Explain what research you’ve done so far, and results you’ve found. It is important to understand that publishing is a series of sequential mini-stages from inception to completion. Meeting a deadline is vital.
Take time to study email messages, comments, feedback, and suggestions from editors. On occasion you may take comments about your work personally or get defensive; it’s possible that you’ll disagree with the editor strongly enough to take your work elsewhere, but sometimes that reaction is unfound. Take note of editors’ constructive criticism to improve on your work, after all, they know the likes and dislikes of their readership. When addressing feedback and suggestions:
• Acknowledge all queries, comments, suggestions, and concerns.
• Ask the editor to elaborate a comment you don’t understand.
• If you understand the suggestion but don’t agree with it, justify your choice not to make a change; offer a compromise that addresses the core of the editor’s suggestion.
While editors may assign an article based on a query and subsequent interactions, they may choose not to work with you again if you fail to meet deadlines, become a nuisance by sending regular email queries, become problematic to communicate with, or deliver work that does not fit the brief or the magazine’s writing guidelines.