Emailing an editor for the first time can be intimidating. But by the time you’re responding to a job application or call for submissions, you should already know exactly what every editor you’re writing to is looking for. Here’s how to impress them in just one email.
Step 1: State your experience or expertise
“I have been writing for five years” says absolutely nothing about any experience you might have that’s relevant to the editor you’re writing to. However, you’re totally allowed to name-drop publications that have published your work. An editor needs to know your portfolio is even worth looking into, so make this clear within the first few sentences of a cover letter or email.
Step 2: Prove you know the publication
You should never submit to a publication you’ve never read, so before you submit anything to an editor, let them know you’re (literally) on the same page. In your email, mention you’re interested in writing specific kinds of content covered by that publication — which means you’re going to have to spend an hour or so browsing the archives before you even start drafting an email.
Step 3: Make it all about them
This is not about you or how awesome you are — that comes later. Initial contact with an editor is all about how you can serve them, NOT the other way around. Your skills, your experience — it’s not to make yourself sound good. It’s to help an editor know whether or not your skills and experience fit the content needs of their publication. If they’re looking for a writer who has experience writing for a news organization, and you have that, focus on why your experience in particular is going to benefit them.
Step 4: Include relevant writing samples
“Relevant” is the key word here. Don’t submit something about fashion if you’re writing to the editor of a health magazine. An editor needs to see that you can write on the correct subject matter. If you write about a variety of subjects, split your online portfolio into sections and submit a link to only the relevant section.
Every editor is looking for a writer who fits a very specific checklist of criteria. And they’re not shy about what they’re looking for! If you fit that criteria in terms of experience and background knowledge, go for it. If you don’t … don’t be surprised if you don’t hear back. We’re not joking around when we ask you to read a job description or set of guidelines carefully. It’s nothing personal. Really.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.