Are online publications really that much different from glossy mailbox delivered ones?
Some aspects…yes. Others…not so much. After all they both accept articles, stories and photos.
So where do you start when you want to pitch a story idea to an editor?
Can you use the same information, the same tactics and even the same article? Perhaps. There are some commonalities but there are differences as well.
How do you know which way to focus?
Before you write, read
First, your initial step should be the same for either an online or offline publication. Read it. I don’t mean glance at the publication and then think you know all about it. Read the articles, look at the editor’s column, check out the writer’s guidelines, know how long the articles are and get a feel for what this publication is all about. Not only will you have a better idea for your article or story idea but you will be able to intelligently speak about the fit of it as it relates to the publication.
Speaking of guidelines, be sure to read them… and then follow them closely. Are photographs required? If photos are not allowed, please do not send some with your article “just because they are so special and will make my article pop”. That’s a sure sign you haven’t really read the guidelines. How many words do they require? Online publications may be asking for shorter more intense articles. If that is the case, you will need to have your title or your description tight and to the point. Grab the attention quickly…of both the editor and the reader.
Know your audience
This sounds simple but you need to ask yourself “who reads this publication?” Many times the reader for an online one is greatly different than for an offline one. You may need to pitch your idea and your article differently, possibly even rewriting it as needed.
Write your query letter accordingly. Online publications probably want a query by email. Offline ones may or may not. This information will be in the writer’s guidelines. Either way, address your query to the correct person with the correct title…spelling everything correctly.
Keep it short, but don’t forget the hook
Queries for both types of publications need to be short enough to read quickly, contain enough information to explain your idea or article and include enough of a spark to catch the editor’s attention. Too long, too flowery, not enough white space or too short are all queries that probably won’t grab the editor. Remember you only have a few seconds to get his or her attention.
What if a query letter is not required? Again, read the guidelines. And once again, follow them exactly. How about attachments? Are they allowed or does the publication want the article in the body of the email?
Editors of both online and offline publications are looking for interesting stories, well written articles, and writers who can follow their guidelines and then deliver. They need to sell their publication. If you can help them do that, you have a chance of being included. This is the time to branch out. If you have never written for one publication or the other…try it now.
Finally…be sure to have all of your contact information readily available. Do not make an editor of any type of publication have to search through a long email or letter just to find out how to contact you. Chances are…they won’t.
Do you have success with your pitches? Share your advice!