Marketing 101 for Freelance Writers #14: How to Get Editors to Notice You

Carol Tice

Marketing for Freelance Writers: Get Editors to Notice You.

Would you like to write for big, national magazines, or high-traffic websites?

All you have to do is impress an editor.

It’s not always easy to do. Most editors I know get a hundred or more pitches every week.

But there are a few ways to cut through the clutter and stand out:

Schmooze power. I’ve met editors in person at networking events and pitched them ideas on the fly. Which is why you should always have a lot of them up your sleeve.

Hang out with them. I’ve heard great things about the weekend events the Journalism and Women Symposium holds, for instance — I gather editors from the big magazines go.

Connect on social media. With a simple reachout on Twitter or LinkedIn — I like “Are you the correct editor to query about X topic?” — you might catch their eye. Then you can follow up with some story ideas.

Smile and dial. I have one mentoring student who gets all his assignments from talking to editors on the phone. If you can get through the voicemail and snag an editor live on the phone, and you’ve got that gift of gab and story ideas at the ready, this can work. The advantage here is if they don’t like your first idea, you can quickly pitch another — or ask about what types of stories they’re looking for right now.

Query letter. This is still the golden ticket of editor-reachout methods, in my view. A well-written query that spotlights a fresh idea that’s a perfect fit for a publication’s readership will get you in the door every time. You don’t need connections, a lot of clips — just that sparkly, fine idea.

If you’re not getting responses, learn more about how to write a strong query. My experience having reviewed many writers’ pitches is that most queries are pretty weak. Here are a few links to help you with that:

Letter of introduction. For trade publications, magazine inserts and other markets where it’s hard to tell what articles they might need, a strong LOI is your ticket. My quick LOI tips:

  • Speak their language. Absorb the tone of their publication and write your LOI in that exact tone.
  • Do your research. Learn something about this market that you can mention.
  • Get a referral. Obviously, this won’t be possible every time, but a referral will greatly up your odds of success.
  • Stress your expertise. Why are you the absolute best writer for them to work with? Share your experience with them.
  • End with a call to action. A good one is “May I send you some clips?”

No matter what approach you take, know that getting editors’ attention takes time. It’s a numbers game — send more LOIs and queries, and you’re more likely to get results.

If you’re not getting results, get some feedback on that query or LOI and make it better.

Need feedback on your query or LOI? I give a lot of tips in here…

Join my freelance writer community


  1. Terri Huggins

    Great advice! I also find sending editors recent articles, studies and surveys that may be helpful to them is another good way to get their attention. In my experience, editors tend to be a lot more receptive to my pitches after realizing I have an idea of what things they are looking for and truly interested in making their jobs a little easier.

    • Carol Tice

      I love it! Thanks for adding to my list of ideas. Yours could be a great relationship-builder that opens the door to pitching.

  2. Kimberly Rotter

    In San Diego, there’s an organization called SDPEN – San Diego Professional Editors Network. They have listings, a job board, and interesting events (last one was a fireside chat by Richard Lederer). I imagine you could find groups like this in many cities. Some of the members are of course trying to get work as editors, but many are in influential positions and would be great additions to a writer’s network.

    • Carol Tice

      Great suggestion!

  3. Sylvia

    I have yet to make a living writing but I can attest to the fact that a well written (really well written) query letter will get an editor’s attention.

    The very first (honest to god) query letter I wrote was snail mailed on a Thursday. The very next Tuesday the editor called me saying she was pitching my article at the next editor’s meeting!

    I had no idea what I was doing. I had written down an experience I’d gone through for the sole purpose of getting it off my chest. It read like an article so on a whim I grabbed a magazine (major glossy), found an editor’s name, wrote a cover letter and mailed it (with the completed “article”). I found out after the fact that you are never supposed to include the completed article. I also discovered that my cover letter was actually called a query letter.

    What got me noticed was the cover letter. I assumed that editors get bombarded with unsolicited articles daily and I needed to make my cover letter stand out. I knew it was good and powerful simply by instinct.

    In the end the article was never published because the magazine folded (Rosie O’Donnel’s “Rosie” magazine; formerly McCall’s). And I never seriously pursued the writing avenue until now.

    I threw my entire website together in 2 hours (no editing). Words just flow naturally. But I have never pursued writing as a viable means of income. Now I am ready to take the plunge! I am reading everything Carol Tice writes as my way of educating myself. Thank you Carol for sharing so freely! Any words of advice for a total newbie?

    • Carol Tice

      You mean besides join Freelance Writers Den? ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Seriously, it sounds like you’ve figured out a lot of how to pursue paid writing on your own. Just lather, rinse, repeat. Turn each editor connection into an ongoing relationship where you get regular assignments.

      Speaking of which…where is that former “Rosie” editor now??? Might be a good place to start.

      • Sylvia

        Thank you for the encouragment Carol.
        That experience was several years ago. Not sure where that editor is now. But you are absolutely right….time to google her and reconnect!

        • Carol Tice

          Use LinkedIn, then ask to connect with her there. LinkedIn is the BEST place to find former editors. If she’s still working anywhere, she’s probably on there.

  4. John Soares

    The standard letter of introduction has gotten me a lot of work in my field.

    I also frequently get referred by one editor to another editor in the company, in part because I make a point of asking to be referred.

    • Carol Tice

      Good one, John — so many writers never make that ‘ask.’ So they don’t get referred! Let editors know you are looking for additional clients and to keep an ear out. They do often hear from other editors, either at their own publication or elsewhere.

  5. Laura

    Hey Carol,

    Connecting via social media and the phone have both been good tips for me. Sometimes it’s very difficult to find an editor’s email, and when that’s happened I’ve never had a problem asking a receptionist to let me know where to send things. For some reason editors seem more likely to give you a response through outlets like LinkedIn as well. I guess since you’ve already reached out to them personally it’s harder to ignore a pitch (though having a great idea to follow-up with is certainly important too).

    It’s also great for finding interviewees! People who would be impossible to get ahold of on the phone can end up writing you personally if you find them on LinkedIn and say you want to ask a few quick questions for a story. It’s a great tool.

  6. claudioalegre

    Great starting points Carol … I’d like to share a few things things of a personal nature in this regard with your readers if I may:

    Early last year I decided to offer copywriting and writing services to my list of clients. The thing was I had no clue on how to biz up and frame it, not only to them but to potential clients as well.

    Of course being an avid Copyblogger reader I bumped into one of Carol’s posts: “40 Questions You Need To Ask Every Copywriting Client”

    I couldn’t believe it! A pocket size road map to exactly what I needed. I printed and devoured this post or what I like to call a “post-report” several times … The only thing I didn’t do with it was shower. I still refer to it!

    Then as it usually happens on the Web, good links lead to better targeted and value-packed links (at least that’s the way it should be!) …which landed me on this site where I then purchased what i consider to be “My Way In” ticket to learning how to sell writing services:

    “Make a Living Writing Guide -The 21st Century Guide” .

    Everyone that wants to learn how to make a living writing NEEDS to GRAB this Guide and take it to bed every night! … Then kill a few trees and print it!

    Immediately I started to get traction from the advice on positioning and how to pursue the right kind of client. Obviously I started with a base which was a no-brainer, but it also gave me the framework to go after new clients just for copywriting and writing gigs … which I got!

    When it comes to writing you can be good, you can be bad… with practice the bad can turn into better and the better into good.

    But what I find I lacked, and what I think most people lack is the framework and discipline to turn it into a business.

    What I mean is the writing is the writing, but if you don’t know how to frame it and sell it, then it’s just a personal diary.

    This e-book gave me a framework!

    … and of course though I not always make the time to read these posts (though I should…), I always scan the headlines and read what grabs me. Today was one of those days!

    Thanks Carol!

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Claudio —

      I’m so happy to hear the ebook and that Copyblogger post were so useful to you! Thanks for making my day.

      • ClaudioAlegre

        You are very welcome Carol. It was long overdue, I should’ve thanked you a while back ๐Ÿ™‚


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