Friday, February 15, 2008

Cracking the Major Magazine Nut

Suzanne Falter-Barns, through her organization, Get Known Now, has graciously allowed me to share this article that recently appeared in her newsletter.

How to Pitch Major Magazines

Nothing beats major magazine coverage for sheer credibility. Being able to say you've been written up in SELF, Time, or even that star of the supermarket check out line, Woman's World, helps gain client clout. And it helps you get more media, because editors and writers see one write-up as a flag that you're worth paying attention to ... and many follow suit. One client of mine actually followed a story in Time with interviews on 60 Minutes, and in at least one major newspaper.

Remember, the circulation of these publications is huge - Woman's World has more than 2.2 million readers.

So here's how you get on the radar screen of major magazine editors:

1. Understand the playing field. Position yourself as a expert they can draw on whenever they need a quote from someone in your field. Every editor in America (and beyond) needs experts - these quotes are simply part of the formula in every major magazine feature. I like a simple quarterly post card campaign for this, sent to a select 20-40 top editors and freelancers.

2. Get them to hire you to write something. After you present yourself as a quotable expert, pitch them with a piece you’d write as an expert in your field. This could be a ‘service’ (how to) article, in which you’d really be required to feature other experts primarily. You might be able to tell a few of your own stories, etc.. No need to write the piece up front – just pitch a paragraph describing it and why it’s a good fit with their readers. Mention any experts you’d feature, and anything else you’ve written that’s been published. Also, stress your expert credentials.

3. Pitch a personal essay. Tell a story that demonstrates your expertise and, more importantly, has a larger life lesson. The little bio line at the end of either this type of story or the preceding one will hopefully identify you, your book if you have one, or your website. Note: You will have to write your essay in its entirety before you pitch.

4. Get clear on what the magazine runs/wants/needs and who their reader is. Without this information, you’re simply sunk. Remember their top priority is not featuring you as expert, but feeding their reader’s need to know. To really get clear, spend a day reading back issues of your select magazines at the library. One major magazine editor I know told me her worst peeve was cold submissions from people who hadn’t researched her publication. For instance, don’t submit your idea if they just ran something on it. And do look for formulas you can fit in different sections of the publication.

5. Check out the editorial calendars on This is a valuable paid service provided by a website that serves up all kinds of helpful info to freelance journalists, editors and editorial assistants. Well worth the money to see what issues are in the works for the coming year. Use this info to pitch editors for specific topics and issues germaine to your work.

6. Network. Meet these editors, freelancers, and assistants however you can … try to somehow find them at networking events and introduce yourself. It’s tough to sell yourself at massive pitch fests like the National Publicity Summit, or after conference panels, but at least you’ll learn names and titles. Then follow up with some emails, letters or calls and try to get on their radar screen. It REALLY helps to have one or two insider contacts, so work your network – see who you know. I got in using my college alumnae list.

7. Always research who to send to. You can’t submit anything to ‘Editor’ – that will be immediately trashed. Do your homework by calling the switchboard and talking to whoever answers the phone. Get an email or at least a correct spelling of the name of the person you should submit to. (If nothing else, send to the Managing Editor.) Many publishers have very reproducible email address formats – i.e. -- check out the fine print in the publication to learn how to do it, if they won’t provide emails over the phone.

8. Be sure to include a link in your email to your media page. Keep emails brief, to the point, and helpful. And send them to your media page for sure. What — you don’t have a media page?! Better pick up a copy of our Get Known Now Home Study Course pronto.

9. Follow up. Don’t let them forget you. Stay in touch by email one week later on email submits, two weeks later on snail mail submits. And continue to follow up about three times, every 1-3 weeks. Follow up by phone one month after submission, and be sure to remind them over the phone what you sent. Don’t give up but don’t be a pest. Be useful and charming. Get to know their assistant.

Suzanne Falter-Barns is a best-selling self-help author, and former New York copywriter, marketing consultant and freelance writer. Her articles and essays have appeared in More, Fitness, Self, The New York Times, Prevention and Writer’s Digest.

She has been featured in Woman’s Day, New Woman, SELF, The Christian Science Monitor, i-village, and, as well as more than 100 TV and radio programs. Earlier this year, SELF Magazine named her most recent self-help book, Living Your Joy, one of 9 ‘best of the best’ self help books. Her consulting clients have included Hearst, Conde Nast, and The New York Times Company. She is also the author of How Much Joy Can You Stand?, a One Spirit Book Club Main Selection. Suzanne’s website,, teaches anyone how to build platform effectively and establish themselves as a recognized expert in their field.

It's all better with friends.


  1. Thanks for the great tips :)

    On a side note, I know people who say you need to be an "expert" to write on a certain topic, but I struggle with the idea of calling myself an "expert" in anything. I tend to be a jack of many trades. God has brought me through many life changing experiences. For example, I don't feel qualified to call myself an expert on grief even though my first husband died when I was twenty-five. Any thoughts?

    Maybe I'm not cut out for magazine writing, but I know all writing ties in together. It all started many years ago when I had a desire to write for children...

    Good food for thought. Thanks again.

  2. Susan, (btw, my two bestest crit partners share your first two names), consider this: you cannot possibly be the only 25-year old person who has lost their spouse, even though, at the time, it probably felt like you were. What would have happened had you been able to read about someone else in that position? Someone who shared their experience in a way no one else could?

    Today, if you feel the emotions you experienced, the lessons you learned, the take-away you were left with (and may even still be experiencing), may help someone else, I would call you an expert. Because it's YOUR story. Not mine. Not even someone who is recognized as a grief counselor.

    And losing a spouse is significant at any age. Trust me. It hasn't happened to me, but I know if it does, I'll be looking for any port in the storm.

    Could it be yours?