In all businesses, relationships are the key to success. It’s a combination of skill and who you know. If you prove your skill to a small publication, they are likely to accept your ideas a second or third time, or on an ongoing basis. Growth comes from here.
When I first graduated from university, I found a job working for a smaller twice-weekly newspaper. Even though it wasn’t the biggest in the city, I covered similar stories as the big ones. I attended press conferences alongside the big names. I used my pink iPhone to record the Q&A periods. At the same time, I wrote quite a lot of local lifestyle and community stories.
I used that experience to land a consistent gig writing business stories for a well-known company. I interviewed business owners around Montreal, snapped photos, and created a blog-like page for each.
I wiggled my way into glossy print by using the experience from each job before it. Bigger and better with every step!
You wouldn’t pitch “Social Media Marketing Trends to Follow” to Home & Gardens, would you? If you haven’t heard of the publication before you decide you want to pitch them, at least read a few back issues. Study their writing style, and take note of the general format of their sections. Most publications include a formal document outlining their editorial calendar for a few months to a year in advance.
Brainstorm within their guidelines and editorial calendar, then send your best idea (or two) off to the appropriate editor. Editor emails are relatively easy to find online these days if you know where to search. Either on the publication’s website, or try finding them on social media as well.
When you pitch your ideas, most publications ask writers to include their proposed section of the magazine, word count, any research or potential interview questions if necessary. Many request pitches are no longer than a page; included directly in an email, rather than as an attachment; and that they have about a month to get back to you before you pitch the idea elsewhere.
When studying the publication itself, note their submission guidelines. Do not reach out a second time unless they say you may feel free to do so. Most work on the basis of, “If you haven’t heard from us in 4 weeks, you can send your pitch elsewhere.” Some publications outright do not appreciate follow ups.
Complete your draft on time, and accept your editor’s suggestions. Criticism is hard to take—especially from someone you don’t necessarily know. It’s likely that your first draft will be returned riddled with track marks and comments with areas for you to improve the copy.
My best advice is to keep a cool head, and work through each comment systematically. Take a few hours before returning to work through it. It’s a wonder what a fresh set of eyes (and a fresh cup of coffee) can do to your writing!
Again, much of business is about relationships. Build a good one from the beginning, and you will have a positive reference for life.
As you build up experience you can use that experience to apply to larger publications. Not only will you build your own reputation as a writer, but you will gain legitimate practice writing for a variety of publications over the years.
Through it all, practice patience. It takes years to create your name as a writer. Don’t get discouraged by rejection letters—we all get them. Even after years of experience, I get them. I hear radio silence sometimes.
Along the way, keep your ears to the ground. Grow into opportunities as they come.
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