The American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) held its annual Writers Conference last week at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York. The conference featured more than 80 sessions covering a wide variety of topics, from how to write a book proposal to how to break into magazines. I was fortunate to attend the conference and will be recapping several of the sessions here over the next few days.
While the sessions were targeted to freelance writers, the information is also helpful to PR professionals looking to get their clients in these publications. Not only does it give you an inside look into what the publications look for, but it also gives you an idea of what freelancers need in order to pitch these publications successfully.
The first recap is of the "Women's Markets 101" panel:
Getting a great gig with a women’s market is easier than you think. Four top editors dished on how to grab their (and other editors’) attention with a killer query, and offered a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on in their editorial offices.
The panelists were:
- Sarah Burns, health editor, All You magazine
- Heather Graham, deputy health editor, iVillage
- Barbara Brody, health director, Shape
- Celia Shatzman, associate editor, Family Circle
Following are highlights of the panel discussion:
Celia Shatzman, Family Circle
As an associate editor at Family Circle, Shatzman works on general features covering everything from parenting and family to entertaining and pets. She got her start as an editorial intern at Glamour, and has been a research editor at Lucky and an editorial assistant at Weight Watchers Magazine.
Family Circle is a women’s service publication aimed at mothers of tweens and teens, so any pitch has to have a family angle.
Shatzman offered these tips for freelancers pitching the magazine:
- Have a well-crafted pitch with a hook, and include statistics/facts that make it current. Why is the story important now?
- Write a lead that would be used as the lead for the article.
- Pitch your ideas 4-6 months in advance. Family Circle has a very long lead time.
- Don’t send PDFs or attachments on initial contact. When you do send clips, attention to detail is very important – make sure the clips aren’t grainy. “Take the time to make them look good,” said Shatzman.
- Don’t pitch simultaneously to several publications.
- Don’t pitch to several editors at the same publication.
- In your pitch, be very direct in how you would execute the article. Mention any past experience that ties into what you’re pitching. “If you have written for another publication I know, then I know you are aware of the steps that are involved,” said Shatzman.
- Include a subject line that makes it clear you are a writer, and not in PR. “I am more likely to open pitches from writers than PR people,” said Shatzman.
- If your pitch is not accepted, “be gracious,” said Shatzman. “Don’t argue with us,” or you will risk your chances of being picked for a future article.
Family Circle pays $1-$2 per word, depending on the writer’s experience and how much reporting is required.
Barbara Brody, Shape
Brody is the health director at Shape and was previously the health editor at Woman’s Day, where she worked on the print magazine, blogged for WomansDay.com, and hosted audio podcasts and Web videos.
While more of the magazine’s articles are done in-house than before, there are still places for freelancers to pitch.
“The best place [to pitch] is a feature,” said Brody, who also shared what she looks for in pitches:
- Be creative. Health is such a big topic, you can come up with a health slant for many non-health stories. But always keep the audience – active women – in mind.
- Think about the big picture. Don’t pitch one study – see if there is a trend.
- Be dramatic -- dramatic stories are popular with readers.
- Don’t say, “I want to do a story about sleep.” Point out what’s different about your story.
- It helps if you include a working headline/subhead for the story.
- Keep it short, at least on first contact. “You don’t have to have the concept entirely fleshed out, as long as the concept spark is there,” said Brody.
- Don’t pitch more than once a month, as the magazine is published monthly.
- Give her time to review your pitch. “Don’t be a stalker. I try to get back to everyone, but it could take a few weeks. If you haven’t heard after two follow-ups, it probably won’t work.”
Shape pays “at least $1.50 per word,” depending on the freelancer’s experience and how much reporting will be done.
Heather Graham, iVillage
Graham is the deputy health editor at iVillage. She got her start as an intern for Paper Magazine’s website in 1998, and has spent most of her career in digital media. In addition to freelancing for outlets such as Mediabistro, New York Moves, DailyGlow.com and LifeScript.com, Graham was on the editorial team that launched EverydayHealth.com.
iVillage is the largest content-driven community on the Web, said Graham. The site has a very classic women’s lifestyle model and caters to women who are married, busy, budget-conscious, young mothers. The tone/voice of the site is as if the writer is your best friend who just happens to be a doctor, sex therapist, etc.
Graham said she depends mostly on freelancers for iVillage content and offered the following tips for pitching successfully:
- Be familiar with the content. “I can tell immediately when someone hasn’t read the site,” said Graham.
- Be creative. “What works for me is a new, surprising thing – something with a twist,” said Graham. She’s interested in things that aren’t usually covered, or a study that turns something on its head.
- Weight loss is a very popular topic on iVillage, but you have to come up with a creative slant, such as, “Seven surprising ways to lose 200 calories.”
- If you have a website with clips, don’t just include a link to the website – include links to your three best pieces. This will give her a sense of your writing.
- Include the word “Pitch” in the subject line of your email. It helps her identify which emails are pitches from freelancers.
- If pitching a service-oriented slideshow, pitch with a hook, but keep it short. What’s the slideshow about? What’s the headline? What are five out of the 20 or so slides? You don’t have to include completed slides themselves, but she does need an idea of what the slideshow will be about.
iVillage rates for freelancers vary, depending on whether the article is for the blog or a slideshow, how much reporting the freelancer will do, and how much experience the freelancer has.
Sarah Burns, All You
Burns, health editor at All You magazine, has worked for a variety of award-winning publications, including Prevention, Self, Fitness, Glamour, Natural Health, Good Housekeeping and Fitness. She was also a deputy health editor at iVillage.
All You is sold exclusively at Walmart and is also subscription-based. Because it is a value-driven publication, much of the content is rooted in value and how people can save money. The magazine does occasionally cover home and travel, but most of the content is focused on health. The average reader is a middle-income woman, 30-55 years old, that has a fit lifestyle and is either very active or aspires to be.
While FOB (front of book) and short items are written in-house, Burns said All You uses a lot of freelancers, mostly for features, which typically consist of several sidebars.
Burns offered the following tips for pitching articles:
- Read the magazine so you can package your pitch in a unique way that speakers to All You’s audience. “It’s all about the packaging,” said Burns.
- Sourcing is important, so give her an idea of the caliber of experts you plan on using.
- If you were referred by a writer that has already worked with Burns, include the writer’s name in your pitch.
- Don’t include more than three story ideas per email, and keep each story idea to one paragraph or less.
All You pays $1.50 per word for freelance articles.
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