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Pitch perfect: Getting in at new publications

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BY ERIC ARNOLD
In the world of publishing, editors and writers have a symbiotic relationship. Writers need an outlet — and to make a living — and editors need fresh content. But in a world of constant deadlines and distractions, it can be hard for writers to garner the attention of editors and for editors to find the writers who don’t waste their valuable time.
The following are tips for writers’ pitching publications.
Research First
Research the publication and its audience before contacting the editor. That way there is no misunderstanding about the type of content the editor is seeking, requirements, pay scales and rights. This information can usually be found on the publication’s website within submission or writers guidelines; however, there will be times when you will have to reach out to the editor for it. Look through the publication’s media kit as well. Although produced for advertisers, most media kits give a good snapshot regarding distribution, frequency, editorial calendars and audience demographics.
Submissions
When contacting an editor to inquire about writing opportunities, some writers include links to, or attachments of, articles they have published for review. Some editors like this approach, while other editors, like myself, do not. I am not clicking on any links in an email from most of my friends, let alone a person whom I do not know. Also, editors know what is published is not always what was submitted. Determining ability from an edited article may only show how good the editor is, not how well the author can write. But the main reason I don’t like writing samples is that the introductory email has already provided me insight to  he writer’s ability. Spelling errors, incomplete thoughts and sales pitches paint a better picture than any attached article could.
A better way to get noticed is to start by sending a personalized email to the editor introducing yourself and expressing an interest in submitting work. The letter should show you have researched the publication and that you not only understand the type of work it is looking for, but its audience. Often overlooked, a good understanding for whom the article is being written can be especially important for publications targeting a specific audience. It tends to be obvious if the writer actually did any research before contacting the editor. At this time, the writer’s goal should be to establish rapport with the editor and work on developing a longtime relationship rather than trying to sell an individual story.
Sending an introductory email asking for an all-expense-paid, 10-day trip to the summer Olympics, preset interviews with the committee members and a starting expenses account of $10,000, most likely won’t get you too far with many publications. Likewise, trying to sell work by talking bad about other writers the publication chooses to use isn’t the smartest thing to do either.
Assignments
Some editors prefer writers to submit finished articles on their own, while others like to assign and consult on the story before the writer begins work. Understand if you have a paying assignment, which often comes with specific direction from an editor, or if you are writing on spec, meaning you’ll get paid if the article is what the editor wants. You can also choose to write about whatever is on your mind and try to sell the finished article after it’s written.
Consideration
Just because an article is submitted doesn’t mean it will be printed, especially if you wrote it on spec or without an assignment. It’s arrogant to assume whatever you write is print worthy as is, and editors hate that attitude so much, it could impact you working with them again. Don’t take rejection personally. The timing may be off for the topic, or the story might need more details. Learn from the experience and act like a professional. It will keep your relationship with the editor intact and the door open for future submissions.  ♦
–Eric Arnold is the editor of Wildlife Control Technology magazine. 
 
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