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Friday, September 15, 2006

Pitching to the Right Person

Got a great idea for a story? Make sure your query goes to the person most likely to assign the piece. For that, you turn to magazine mastheads and the phone.

You can look up the staff list online--but sometimes what you find there is the staff list for the online version of the publication. Libraries and book stores are lovely repositories for editor information, although there's no guarantee that the magazine you're looking for will be there. You can also to those these resources:
Writer's Market -- online and in print.
Wooden Horse Publishing -- $ involved, but not that expensive. For those of us pinching pennies, buy a short-term subscription and look up all the magazines you might be interested during your subscription.
Mastheads -- a new online compilation of exactly that. Check out the article on the site with a dozen tips for querying.

Titles on mastheads are confusing because the job descriptions attached to the titles vary from magazine to magazine. Some rules of thumb: Staff writers can be called editors or senior editors. Contributing editors are freelancers who write for the magazine, sometimes on a schedule, sometimes on an ad hoc basis. The publisher cares about advertising. The editor in chief tends to be the publisher's wingman.

In addition to the whole title morass, mastheads can go out of date quickly, and responsibilities can change.

The easiest, best way to pinpoint the right person is to call. Ask for the editorial department, then politely ask whoever picks up the phone which editor would be the best one to pitch for a (short piece/feature) on X. The phone script goes like this: "Hi, I'm X. Y. Freelancer. I have an idea for a short piece on FeeFieFoo executives. Can you tell me which editor would be the best one to send my query to? Would that be Sally Mae [guessing from the masthead]"

Get the editor's name--and ask for it to be spelled, too, if it wasn't on the masthead--and try to find out if that person prefers e-mail or snail mail when it comes to queries.

Do not ask to speak to that editor. You don't really want to speak to the editor because editors are ridiculously busy and will invariably say to any *$%# interrupting freelancer to send a query letter.

category: resources


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