How to Impress an Editor in 10 Steps

December 24, 2016
How to Impress an Editor in 10 Steps!

Contacting an editor about a story idea can be intimidating to all authors, whether new or very experienced. You’ve spent so much time thinking about an idea, then worked hard to turn it into a pitch or full-blown article. What if they don’t like it? What if you never hear back from them? Editors tend to juggle multiple tasks, so you’ll want to make their job as simple as possible while proving that your article is perfect for their publication. Editors always love to hear about good ideas! Ready to pitch your amazing article and impress an editor? First, check out my tips for communicating with editors.

How to Impress an Editor in 10 Steps

1. Look for submission details before being in touch

Sending an email that says ‘what is the word count?’ or ‘what kinds of articles do you publish?’ when these details are easily available on the publication’s web page suggests you haven’t read the website. If you haven’t read the instructions for authors, this suggests to the editor that you aren’t really familiar with their publication.

Not all publications/websites give extensive submission details or make them easily available. But make sure that you have checked thoroughly before contacting the editor.

2. Follow submission details

If publications ask for articles of a certain length, send them articles of that length. If they ask to see a pitch first, send a pitch first. And, if they ask for photos, send some photos. While there are often exceptions to these rules, these exceptions are usually only applied if you already have a working relationship with an editor or a publication.

3. Check that your topic hasn’t been published recently

This depends on the publication, and whether it matters to them if they have multiple articles on the same topic. Many publications don’t like to repeat themselves too quickly—or at all.

For example, if you joined in the Holi celebrations in India and are wanting to write about it shortly afterwards, just make sure that the publication you’re pitching hasn’t already covered that story. A way to avoid being beaten to that awesome Holi story would be to pitch the publication before you go, so that you’re more likely to beat your competitors to it.

If the story already has been covered, check whether that’s a problem for the specific publication by browsing their content. (For example, at Pink Pangea, we love to have many different articles about the same place, as each brings a different perspective. Yet, we do like to space them out).

How to Impress an Editor in 10 Steps

4. Send a pitch first

If you would like to write an article for a publication, it’s much more effective to include a brief pitch in the body of your introductory email, than to send links to a few blog posts. You may have written a great blog post within the context of your blog, but does it fit with that publication? Also, many publications have a policy not to publish previously-published articles, and this will probably apply to blog posts, too.

5. Make sure your pitch/article is tailored to that exact publication

Make sure that your idea and the publication are a great fit, every time. For example, if the publication tends to adopt a witty or tongue-in-cheek tone, and your article is a sweet, earnest piece about meeting your long-lost cousins, it may not be a great fit.

Ideally, you would be a regular reader of the publication you’re pitching. If you’re not, spend some time getting to know it and its content.

What do the guidelines for authors say? What other kinds of things have they published recently?

Sign up for a FREE online writing workshop here.

6. Don’t address the editor as ‘sir’ unless you are 110% sure he’s a sir

This is my pet peeve, and I’m sure many feminists will agree with me on this. In one editorial job I had, I was responsible for hiring interns. 90% of the applications I received opened with: “Dear Sir.” I could only assume that many people thought that someone in a position of authority was a man. Not cool. It wasn’t just about offended sensibilities for me; it showed that the applicant wasn’t paying attention, and hadn’t really done any research into who they were contacting.

7. Address the correct publication

Many editors consider the biggest faux pas to be recycling the same pitch, word for word, for different publications. Even worse is referring to the publication by the wrong name. I worked for a magazine based in Kathmandu, and one of our biggest rivals/peers was a Delhi-based magazine.

If we received a pitch that opened: “I was wondering if [wrong publication] would be interested in publishing my article on…” then that delete button couldn’t be hit quickly enough. It meant we were their second attempt at getting the same article published. While that fact in itself is not always a problem, the failure to put in the minimal effort required to change the cover letter was very unimpressive.

8. Don’t be offended if you’re asked to make revisions

You may have written a wonderful article, and the editor can see that it has great potential. But nothing is perfect. Even if your article has been proof-read a thousand times and all of your friends have given you feedback, it’s highly likely that the editor will want to change some things. It’s extremely rare that an article is published as is.

This isn’t personal. It’s about making the article as good as it can be, and most importantly to the editor, making sure that it fits with the publication 100%.

9. If you think you won’t be able to meet a deadline, let the editor know in advance

It’s common and understandable that writers—like anyone else—get busy and are unable to meet all of their deadlines.

This isn’t always a major problem for publications, especially web-only publications. But if you’ve agreed upon a deadline with an editor and you realise you can’t meet it, it’s always better to give them a heads-up ahead of time, rather than miss a deadline and have them wondering what happened to you. A simple “can I have an extra couple of days?” will often be fine.

How to Impress an Editor in 10 Steps

10. If you’re rejected, try again with a new and improved idea

Depending on the publication, editors may not always provide feedback on why they didn’t accept your idea. If you get a polite ‘no thanks’ with little further information, it suggests that the editor looked at your pitch but decided that it wasn’t a good fit.

Think carefully about why you may have not been a great fit this time, and try to improve on those things next time. Did it meet the length requirements? Did the tone meet the publication’s tone? Had your topic already been covered recently?

Did you proof-read thoroughly before submitting? Once you’ve thought through these things, don’t be shy to give it a second shot, but with a different idea. Just because one idea wasn’t wanted, it doesn’t mean that the editor never wants to hear from you again!

Impress an editor

How to Impress an Editor in 10 Steps

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A Step-by-Step Guide to Overcoming Writer’s Block

Do you have tips for add to this list? Email us at [email protected] for information about sharing your advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you.

Photo by Unsplash.

About Elen Turner

Elen Turner is a travel writer and editor based in the South Island of New Zealand. Her writing on New Zealand, Nepal, and India has appeared in a variety of places, including The Best Women’s Travel Writing Vol. 11, Lonely Planet, Architectural Digest, TripSavvy, The New Zealand Herald, and more. She is a developmental editor, copyeditor and proofreader who specialises in helping women authors express themselves through non-fiction and fiction.

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