Once upon a time, I was an intern-turned-editorial contributor at the crown jewel of stylish online publishing, Refinery29.
Our stylish, growing team was crammed in a chic basement office, clattering away at our keyboards in a highly collaborative atmosphere.
As a freshly churned out fashion school grad, it was basically the best place I could have imagined working. They effectively kickstarted my writing career, which is huge. If the editors there hadn’t taken a chance on me, there’s no telling what I’d be doing right now.
…or whether this blog would exist!
Anyway, while growing increasingly obsessed with their ultra-cool content, I learned a lot about online publishing—specifically what editors look for.
In fact, I learned quickly enough that shortly after becoming an intern, I was allowed to guest-edit the site when the Editor in Chief or Global Editor had to step out for a meeting (or a runway show).
Site traffic was growing steadily, which meant editor inboxes were filling up regularly with pitches.
It seemed like everyone wanted to score some a piece of that prime digital real estate.
The editors spent a crazy amount of time reading emails from people hoping to place products or personalities on the website. They would laugh at some, gawk at others, and immediately assign some to be written up and published.
Others got deleted without a thought.
What was that magic quality something had to have to get published?, I wondered. And, after a while, I caught on. Years later, the same “magic qualities” hold true.
Want to get your projects published? Here’s what not to do when you’re writing to an editor…
- DON’T be vanilla. There are wildly interesting things happening in the world. If you’re just barely interesting enough, you’ll be scrapped faster than a shockingly bad email. Repeat after me: mediocrity a good pitch does not make.
- DON’T send huge file attachments or embed photos that will stretch a standard size screen. We’re a visually sensitive culture. What makes you think it’s okay to JPG-vomit all over someone’s inbox?
- DON’T send a huge block of text. A concise paragraph and a medium-sized, clear photo is a good formula to follow. If it looks like it’s too long to read between a few sips of coffee, it may not be read at all.
- DON’T write any part of your subject or body in all caps. It looks ridiculous. DON’T YOU AGREE?
- DON’T use fluffy words like “totally amazing” or “fast-rising” to describe what you’re pitching. Let the goods speak for themselves.
- DON’T follow up five times if you don’t hear back. One follow-up a few days after your initial email is all you need to check in on whether they were “too busy” or not interested.
- DON’T hide crucial info like website and social links or direct contact information. Put it all in one easy to find place, so an editor can quickly get in touch if they want to.
- DON’T pitch something you don’t even believe in. If you’re not passionate about the thing you’re pitching, assess whether you really want to spend your time asking other people to buy into it. People can sense when you’re full of BS.
If you can avoid these mistakes, you’ll have a leg up on millions of terrible pitches that get fired out into the inboxes of editors ’round the globe on a daily basis.
When all is said and done, if you’re pitching something mind-blowing that’s worth a spot on that editor’s website, they’ll be in touch. Why not make their job easier and increase your chances of getting screen time by following the above tips?
Go forth and get published!