Baiting Your Hook to Get
by Melanie Rigney
Sometimes it seems that
sympathy for the devil would be easier to muster than sympathy for a magazine
editor who refuses to review your book, refuses to schedule an interview about
the book, or refuses to run excerpts from it.
As someone who was a trade and
consumer magazine and wire service editor for 20 years, I’m here to tell you
that editors are not the enemy. It’s just that you have to engage them, to hook
and lure them, just as you do your readers. You need to do the editors’
job—so they don’t have to.
Consider the life of a traditional
or Web magazine editor. Here’s a short list of a typical day’s activities:
· go to meetings with marketing,
circulation, and advertising people to discuss strategies and editorial’s role
in increasing ad sales, newsstands sales, and/or the number of subscribers
· bemoan editorial budgets for
staff, freelancers, photographers, travel, and everything else
· plan conferences, workshops, and
seminars that the company will sponsor
· attend conferences, workshops, and
seminars to keep up with trends and what the competition is doing
Notice what comes last? More often
than most editors will admit, other time pressures and priorities make editing
one of the last things on their to-do lists.
As readers, we all have plenty of
activities competing for our time and dollars today, and editors search
constantly for ways to make their publications must-reads. The reason they’re
in all these meetings and attending or planning these conferences is that they
need to figure out how to be indispensable to their readers. That’s where
independent publishers come in.
Nonfiction authors are experts in
subject matter, whether theirs is cooking, parenting, marketing, traveling,
knitting, or anything else. Novelists may be experts on a period of history, a
locale, creating new worlds, and more. Publishers should be experts at knowing
their target markets and what their readers want and expect. Match up expertise
with a magazine in search of it for the same reader, and you’ve got a match
made in heaven. You have the content to reach the target reader, and the editor
has the readers who need your content.
How to Do the Editor’s Job
The first key to doing an editor’s
job starts with finding the editor. Yes, you can look through the directories,
such as Bacon’s,
that list all the magazines and newsletters in the country. But I suggest you
take the easy way. Tap into that authorial expertise. Ask the author—or
yourself, if you are the author—what magazines or Web sites provide news
in a book’s area, and what publications served as resources for writing the
If you insist on further research
(or if, perhaps, you haven’t yet done as much research into your audience’s
reading habits as you should have), take three trips: one to the largest
bookstore nearby, one to the largest grocery store, and one to another venue a
particular book’s readers are likely to frequent. These locations might include
museums, craft stores, and outdoor outfitters. Buy copies of the two or three
magazines that appeal most strongly. Don’t be sucked in by appearance alone;
look for the publications with the most editorial content.
Also, take a trip on the Web,
paying special attention to trade publications relevant to your readers. They
may outnumber general consumer magazines that are geared to your target market.
And readers pay a lot more attention and give a lot more credence to news items
in such magazines than they do to any advertising you might buy in their pages.
Now, read the magazines you’ve
Notice whether each magazine
reviews books and has a book review editor listed on the editorial masthead.
Examine the articles with bylines.
Do all those names appear on the masthead? If not, that’s good news; it means
the publication probably accepts freelance articles. The news may be similarly
good if the authors of the bylined articles appear as “contributing editors,”
because writers with that title are often not salaried and on staff.
Next, go to the magazine’s Web
site. Typically, you’ll find writer’s guidelines posted that tell you what the
editors want—how-to or personal-experience pieces, for example. Those
guidelines should reflect what you’ve learned by reading the publication. If
you’re investigating a publication that appears in print as well as online,
determine whether the Web site uses repurposed content and whether it has its
own list of requirements for writers.
A magazine’s guidelines will also
tell you how long articles should be; how far in advance the publication works
(four to six months is typical for print monthlies); whether the editors prefer
that you submit queries before sending articles for publication; to whom to
send a query, an article, or a book for review; and whether any payment is
offered. But don’t worry about payment; remember, your goal here is to get
information about your book in front of your target reader.
Following guidelines is the
smartest thing you can do. Don’t waste your time or money sending a book to an
editor whose publication doesn’t do book reviews. Don’t waste your time or
money suggesting in late October that a magazine run your book’s holiday
knitting tips in its December issue; that issue is practically in the mail by
that time. If your book is about building fancy centerpieces out of diapers, do
offer to answer reader questions about baby shower favors at a Web site for
parents. Get the picture?
In the final analysis, editors
want one thing: to keep their readers coming back for more. You want to attract
their readers too. So have some sympathy—and know that a little research
on your part can make the editor’s life easier, the reader’s life
better—and your life a little richer in more ways than one!
Melanie Rigney is a
principal in Castaway Media and the owner of Editor for You
(www.editorforyou.com), an editing and evaluation service. Previously, she was
the editor of Writer’s
Digest and an editor with <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Advertising Age, Thomson Financial
Publishing, and United Press International.