Ever wanted to see your name splashed in the pages of your favorite magazine, but not sure how to do it? You’re not alone. Pitching and even being published in magazines seems so elusive, and you could drive yourself mad just searching for the secrets online.
Writing for magazines is like any other kind of writing (no matter how many times you’ve seen The Devil Wears Prada); you just have to know enough to get you where you want to be. With a few strategic tweaks, you can make your stories stand out in the sea of cluttered inboxes.
So, here are 25 tips for pitching, writing, and being published in magazines:
1. Read the magazines you want to pitch to before you send a pitch.
2. Not sure if your story is the right fit? Look at the magazine’s press or media kit. It’s for advertisers, but will have editorial calendars you can use for pitches and story ideas.
3. Find your niche, but be open to adapting. What you like to write about may be different than the work you like to read. Start with what you’re drawn to and see how it evolves over time.
4. Want your story in print? Pitch your story 8-12 months in advance. Most print publications work 6+ months in advance, and with editors’ schedules, it could take you a lot longer to get in touch with them and for them to develop your story.
5. ALWAYS look for submission guidelines. Most magazines have a preference for how they want you to send them story ideas and the kinds of stories they’re looking for. They also may include tips on how to best pitch them.
6. Don’t submit just one story idea. Have 2-3, so if your first pitch doesn’t get chosen, editors already have a couple of other options.
7. Add the word PITCH to your email subject line with the general topics or ideas you’re pitching or if there’s a specific vertical/column/section you’re pitching your story for.
8. Make the first paragraph of your pitch email a connection one. Whether it’s a recent story you read in the magazine (online or in print) or a personal connection you have to the editor. Show you’re paying attention to them and their publication.
9. In your second paragraph move into why that inspired you to reach out to this specific editor at this specific time with these stories.
10. Give each of your story ideas a headline. You can use tools like CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer to test out headlines and see how effective they are on an audience.
11. Make your story pitches no more than 3 sentences. Give the who, what, when, where, and why it matters now.
12. In your closing, mention other places where your work has been seen. These clips can be your own website or other magazines and publications where you’ve been published. Also mention that if they have any questions or would like additional ideas, you’d be happy to provide them.
13. Be professional, but sound like yourself. There are basic structures to pitches, but the important thing is the content. Get to the point, be a real human and show why this idea matters.
14. Editors are people too. Be kind to them and their time. Haven’t heard back from them in a week or two? Send a quick email just checking in and seeing if they have any questions. Don’t be rude or demanding. After your second follow-up, if there’s no response, you can move on. But if it’s a publication you really have your eye on, you can send a third follow-up but leave it after that.
15. Find an assistant or junior editor to pitch to—they need stories and will be more likely to open and respond to your emails than a more senior editor. You find full lists of people in the masthead (at the beginning of the magazine).
16. If a magazine doesn’t have submission guidelines or you want to pitch to a specific editor, you can look for a contact page or even Google the specific person with the email at the end of their name ex. “Quinn Jones foodie fan magazine email.” If you can’t find the email of your targeted editor, find the email address of other people who work at the magazine and just add your editor’s name there. Ex. You find email@example.com, instead of Quinn’s. So, you’d email firstname.lastname@example.org.
17. The editorial world is small and people move around a lot. The editorial assistant you pitch to one year could be a senior editor in the next year or two. So, be gracious in all of your pitches and follow-ups. You never know what pitches weren’t right at the time, but are perfect for a future spot in the magazine.
18. If you have an outlet you really want to write for, send an editor an interesting subject or story idea or compliment them on something they’ve recently written or published. Don’t forget that your insights and connections are also valuable, and these quick check-ins will remind your dream outlets of that.
19. So, your pitch has been accepted? Huzzah! Your editor will give you a deadline, and it’s yours to keep. If you get stuck or need an extension, tell them as soon as possible. They can’t help you if they don’t know what’s going on.
20. Revisions are part of the process, and your first draft is….a first draft. Yes, you want to submit a solid piece of writing, but very rarely, will an article be published untouched. Be curious about your editor’s suggestions and presume they have the best intentions with their edits.
21. Pitching to magazines is the best way to find a book idea and grow your audience. A lot of writers begin with a personal essay or article for a publication that turns into a full-length book. They also are able to expand their platform and reach, which comes in handy regardless of what genre you’re writing in.
22. Hone your craft. Some helpful books to get you started are The Essential Feature by Vicki Hay, Telling True Stories: A Non-fiction Writers’ Guide from the Neiman Foundation at Harvard University edited by Mark Kramer, and Story Craft by Jack Hart.
23. Join professional groups for magazines and also organizations in your niche. Not sure where to start? Find writers and editors you admire and look at the groups they belong to. You’ll often find this on their LinkedIn, website, or even their social media.
24. Support other writers when their stories get published. It’ll make it easier for people to support you when your work is out in the world too.
25. Have a friend who’s written for a specific publication? Ask them who their editor was, and if they have any suggestions on what kinds of stories to pitch. Your network is bigger than you realize, and most people are happy to share advice and connections. Just make sure you pay it forward when the time comes.
Tell us in the comments: Have you ever thought about pitching articles to magazines?
Amanda Polick is a writer and book coach, who guides food folks through the writing process. Her work has been featured by Cooking Light, Food & Wine and Time. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee now, but a piece of her will be in California forever. To connect with Amanda, you can find her on her website.