You’ve finally found out how to reach an editor at a publication you want to contribute content for, now what? I receive a handful of emails weekly that ask if I’m “taking contributions.” That’s the first mistake that a lot of potential writers/contributors make when cold emailing an editor. The vagueness of that message alone in my sea of emails will promptly urge me to hit delete without even responding. So how do you get noticed? Let me give you some advice on what I look for.
The email is your pitch – make it good
First and foremost, if you are emailing anyone – friend, colleague, boss, client, etc. – you need to make sure the subject line is concise and to the point. Something along the lines of “Guest Contributor Inquiry – [Subject of interest]” is what I’m looking for. I’ve received emails that have read “Guest Writer?” as if to say they don’t even know if they are a writer themselves. So get to the point with your subject line.
Next up, the actual body of the text. Once again, keep this short and to the point – remember there are hundreds of emails we have to sift through daily and not enough hours to do it. If you know the person’s name, a “Dear [Name]” works fine, otherwise I opt for “Dear Editor” in its place. You follow that up by getting straight to the point of selling yourself and your work – your pitch. Immediately talk about the subject matter you wish to write about and what kind of interesting angle/news you will be covering. Don’t just say “I’m wondering if I could write a piece about grooming for you.” Instead, pitch something along the lines of “I have an interesting angle on how men steal women’s grooming products because it works” to draw the attention of the editor.
Now that you’ve hooked the editor with an interesting pitch, add in some relevant work. I don’t want your entire resume or what you wrote about years ago, just 2-3 samples on the topic that are no more than 6-12 months old. If you’re looking to contribute on the topic of sneakers and footwear for example, show me you know what you’re talking about. Examples of sneaker release roundups, an understanding of the resell market and influential designers are a good place to start.
Once you’ve put this together, “Thank you for your time and consideration” are in order followed by your contact information: [Name], [Email], [Social media channel if you wish to share it and it has relevant content], and/or [Website/Portfolio link]. A lot of times people email me from personal email accounts and I don’t even know their names by the time I finish reading their pitches. The sad truth is, no one is going to go searching for your name.
Once you’ve put together the above, the rest is out of your hands and up to the editor. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear back, the cold emailing process is harsh – just like cold calling. The same way you follow-up after an interview, you should do that for your pitch. If you get that email or call or DM to move forward with the idea, be prepared to explain it thoroughly and to have a clear salary conversation – don’t do it for free. We explain finances for freelancers in our digital zine, THE HUNT.
Some final words of advice, if you are just getting started and new to the field, I don’t expect you to have published work. An editor wants to see you take the initiative, show passion and follow through with drive, so send over samples of things you wrote about in your free time. Personally, I like being able to see a person’s website instead of boring links or .doc/.pdf files attached at the bottom – I believe every writer should have an online portfolio, the same way photographers do. This gives you that extra edge over others and is what leads to you getting a shot. A great place to start one is clippings.me. Lastly, have a professional email, either your [First Name] [Last Name] or vice versa instead of something like your hobby or favorite sports team or something completely inappropriate for a professional setting.