Kelsey Roadruck, contributing writer for Ed at Indiana, gives you all her tips on how to write a standout letter to the editor of your favorite mag!
There comes a very daunting time in an aspiring journalist’s time, and that time includes a shaky, clammy palm hovering above a mouse pad, eyes closing – no, squeezing – shut after rereading for the billionth time and finally clicking “send.” Letters to an editor can be overwhelmingly nerve-racking as you ponder detail-to-detail what you could revise, replace, and rewrite. Often times you end up scrapping the entire email and procrastinating on your career inquiry just one more day. If you couldn’t already tell, that one more day isn’t going to come on its own and land you that magazine editing job you want. However, Ed at Indiana has done some thorough research (from browsing WikiHow to asking editors themselves) to provide you the best email toolkit for a confident, and much less sweaty, “send”.
- Give the subject line a great deal of consideration. This is ultimately the first line of “copy” an editor will probably read of yours, and we all know first impressions are essentially either deal sealers or breakers. Though a catchy subject line is important to a point, conciseness and correct grammar will get you, and your email, even farther. A heavily hooked subject line may very well get an editor to open your email before others. However, if the subject line doesn’t match up with an email’s inquiring content or, worse, is an over-exaggeration of yourself or capabilities, then an editor may get frustrated and revert back to their inbox without a second glance. Note: If you have a solid reference, use this subject line to read “Referred to you by [reference’s name].”
- Editors have names, too. Find them and use them. Using a “To whom it may concern” address is often interpreted as generic and lazy. If you can’t find the editor’s name online or in the magazine, give the office a call and simply ask who you should send career inquiries to.
- Mention the magazine’s mission statement and identify its target audience. You can typically find this information in the magazine’s press kit, which you’ll want to bookmark and research word-for-word and detail-to-detail anyways. If you’re unable to offer a clear understanding of the magazine’s goals and readership, then you may risk coming off as merely a fan of the magazine.
- Research editorial calendars and provide appropriate pitches. After you’ve pitched yourself to an editor, you’ll want to propose some original ideas. Reviewing a magazine’s editorial calendar will give you strong guidelines to follow during your pitch generation. Although originality is admirable, don’t push the limits of an editorial calendar. There’s a handful – or two – of reasons why an editorial calendar is in place and those reasons can be found above in tip three. Convey your ideas clearly and concisely by revising your three or four pitches to two to three lines. Have ready-to-send writing samples on deck, but hold off on sending them over until an editor has had a chance to read through your pitches.
- Answer the “so what” question every editor will want to know. Why should they hire you? Instead of leaving the editor with a well-written email and an employment deliberation, help them decide then and there whether or not they should hire you. Explicitly outlining the benefits an editor will gain from hiring you will encourage that “ah-ha,” light bulb effect to turn on sooner (as in while reading your email) rather than later (post-writing samples).
If you do anything before sending an inquiry email to an editor, do your research. Don’t stop there either. After researching the magazine cover-to-cover and mission statement to circulation, interpret your new knowledge. Then, present your interpretations in a clear and concise manner.
“Have a very strong email intro, so the magazine knows you did a little research on them,” Shelly Marie Redmond, founder and editor-in-chief of College Lifestyles™ magazine, said. “Trust me, we know a cut and paste when we see one.”