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Want More Article Assignments? Tips for Working With Editors

magazine editors who assign articlesTo get more article assignments, you need to keep winning article assignments! These tips for working with magazine editors will help ensure you’re always working on either a feature article, a research short, or even just a sidebar. Either way, you’ll be making money writing.

Before the tips, a quip:

“Almost anyone can be an author; the business is to collect money and fame from this state of being.” ~ A.A. Milne

Fellow scribes, if you want to earn a living as a freelance writer, you need to treat it like a business. For valuable writing advice, read the Writer’s Digest Handbook of Magazine Article Writing. And, here are my seven tips for working with editors (who hold the key to the freelancing kingdom!)…

Want More Article Assignments? 7 Tips for Working With Editors

1. Learn which editors prefer what pitches. One of my regular magazine editors prefers longer, more detailed pitches with most of my sources and information listed. Another editor prefers short, punchy pitches, about a half-page long, so he can share it with his fellow editors more easily. To keeping work with the magazine editors you like best, find out how they like their article query letters, and pitch accordingly.

2. Hold off on asking your editor questions about query letters. I usually wait until I’ve written at least one article for the magazine before I ask what type of query letter the editor prefers. I never ask when I’m cold-calling or cold-emailing — instead, I just send a catchy, thoughtful one-page pitch at first. Later, after the editor has emailed or called, I ask what types of pitches he or she prefers.

3. Throw your best article pitch. It’s taken me a full year of full-time freelance writing to absorb this tip: line up your most interesting source or idea before you pitch the article. For instance, if I want to write an article about how the economy has affected feature article assignments, then I need to find a source with direct, unique, and fascinating experience. I’d try to line up a couple of freelance writers, perhaps a freelance editor or two — and definitely a magazine editor. Then, I’m ready to write the pitch that will hook my editor.

4. Realize that you may put more work into your query letter than your article. The more experience I get as a freelance writer, the more time I spend writing pitches that are flawless in terms of execution, sources, anecdotes, experts, and ideas. As I develop relationships and work more with editors, I can simply email ideas in a sentence or two. If they like the idea, they ask me to write a more detailed pitch.

5. Ask for another article assignment when you file an article. When I submit an article and invoice, I ask editors if they have any leads or article ideas that they’d like me to expand on. I still pitch different ideas — especially for feature articles — but I like to show editors I’m open to writing most anything.

6. Be grateful for revisions. When editors ask for edits, be glad for the opportunity to become a better, more successful writer! I learned far more from revising and rewriting than I ever did from the editors who simply published my articles “as is.” One of my favorite Reader’s Digest editors would call me, and we’d edit my articles over the phone…I usually dreaded those calls but every edit made me a better writer.

7. Take opportunities to make personal connections with editors. If an editor makes a personal reference in an email — for instance, one of my health magazine editors recently referred to his use of the elliptical trainer — follow up on it. The more real you are to editors (and the more real they are to you), the better your relationship will be…and the more your chances increase for future assignments.

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5 thoughts on “Want More Article Assignments? Tips for Working With Editors”

  1. Oops, I think there’s a typo in this quip:

    “Editor: A person employed by a newspaper, whose business it is to separate the wheat from the chaff, and to see that the chaff is printed.” – Elbert Hubbard

    The editor should see that the chaff is NOT printed! The wheat is the good stuff…the chaff is the stuff you don’t want.

    Laurie PK’s last blog post..10 Tips for Eating Healthy While Working From Home

  2. Hey Laurie,

    I’m loling at the quips. Perfect!

    Some good suggestions here. I hadn’t thought of asking for more work when submitting an invoice. It makes perfect sense. They already know me and my work, and I’m fresh in their mind’s eye.


  3. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Good point, Margie — and that exact thing happened to me! I sold a short article to Reader’s Digest, and couldn’t find enough sources to write the damn thing. I ended up having to back out of the assignment…..ouch!

    So, lining up your sources and experts is a great idea. Or at least, have a good idea of where your people will come from!

  4. These are great tips. I have found #3 to be especially true. It makes the pitch more difficult to put together in getting sources already lined up, but makes it all that much stronger.

    By the time you get to writing your article, a lot of the leg work has already been done and that saves you time for writing the best story possible. Plus, I don’t want to end up in a situation in which I have successfully sold a great or unique story idea, but couldn’t find any sources to go with it!