Editors don't often invite writers to submit columns because they usually receive enough unsolicited submissions. Still, most editors are open to looking at what you offer because they always want to publish better information that interests their readers.
In addition, as current columnists move on in their careers, editors need new writers to keep their publications full and fresh.
What does this mean to you?
You have nearly unlimited opportunities for closely targeted visibility that will bring you responses from genuine prospects. From daily newspapers -- to business weeklies. From industry trade publications -- to professionals journals. From national glossies -- to local newsletters. A quick look at national media directories of print publications will astound you.
What's more, in today's super-information age, editors also need copy for gazillions of on-line publications.
Get the picture? Your market for editors in need of well-written articles and columns is constantly changing -- and nearly endless.
Here are 15 secrets for winning an ongoing column:
Secret #1: Identify the publications that will benefit your marketing effort the most. If you already have clients in the same industry or profession, ask them which publications they read. Not which publications they receive, but which ones they actually read.
Secret #2: Don't be put off if the publication already has a columnist writing about your subject of choice. Some editors like to change writers to give their readers a new point of view. The editor may have the current columnist simply filling the page until the editor sees the really good materials you offer.
Secret #3: Don't overlook "small" publications. Lawyers often ignore small publications, thinking they are only local as opposed to national. Or read by only hundreds instead of thousands. Don't overlook local and small-circulation publications that reach your prime prospects. Your prospects often read local publications much more closely than they read national publications that reach millions.
Secret #4: Choose a subject that will interest the publication's readers. If you hope to write for a broad-based publication, such as a daily newspaper, the editor will look for a broad-based column that deals with many fields of law. If you want to write for a niche publication, the editor will favor a narrow column that deals with various aspects of the same subject.
Secret #5: Don't call the editor on the telephone. Editors at the bigger (and often more desirable) publications are so overwhelmed with deadlines -- and so understaffed -- the last thing they want is another phone call. (This is not true in every case, but most.) In addition, your phone call provides the editor the opportunity to quickly say "no", with the hope of reducing his or her stack of incoming mail.
Secret #6: Send sample columns. Even if the editor will talk with you on the telephone, no editor will make a positive commitment without first seeing what you offer. The editor will say, "Send me what you've got and I'll look at it." If you don't have something ready, the editor may lose interest by the time it finally arrives. So forget phone calls and send sample columns instead.
Secret #7: Give the editor a yes-yes choice. I suggest you send six columns roughly the same length as other columns already running in the publication. You might send three in a question/answer format, and three in a straight topic format. This way if the editor prefers one over the other, you still have a chance.
Secret #8: Write in plain English. Most editors want columns their readers can easily understand. If you're writing to a consumer audience, keep the readership level at around sixth grade. If you're writing for other attorneys, you can write at a higher level, but even lawyers grow tired reading legalese. The simpler the language and the easier readers can understand what you write, the more likely the editor is to publish your columns.
Secret #9: Write in the format you see. Look at the columns and articles written by the publication's editors and writers. Try to match the length of sentences and paragraphs with what you see in the magazine. If they use sub-heads throughout, you should, too.
Secret #10: Create your samples so they look as if they were already in print. Use the same type fonts and sizes that appear in the publication. The more closely you duplicate the editor's current format, the more easily the editor can visualize your column in print. If existing columns have the author's photo, include your photo in the same position.
Secret #11: Include a cover letter no longer than one page. Introduce yourself and talk about your background and experience. Include how long you've practiced law and any special qualifications. Explain the range of subjects you can discuss, and point out how your columns will differ from anything the editor has ever seen. This is especially true if the publication already has a legal writer. You must convey how your column will be better -- fresher -- and more informative than the column currently running in the publication.
Secret #12: Submit your columns simultaneously to editors at publications that do not compete. They may have readers in different geographical areas, or reach different target audiences. If you're dealing with major national publications, you should offer the editor an exclusive review for a specific period of time. Since many editors won't comment on what you send, ask the editor for a response within 60 or 90 days, after which you'll approach other publications.
Secret #13: Don't expect a quick reply. Due to pressing deadlines, the editor may need a few weeks to review what you send. If you don't hear from the editor within 90 days, you can assume the editor has other priorities -- or that the editor is not interested at that moment. Don't waste your time trying to call the editor. If the editor likes what you sent, you'll hear from him.
Secret #14: Don't get discouraged if you come up dry. You can be sure that somebody reviewed what you sent. But, even if you send good materials, most editors can accept only a fraction of what they receive. Still, an occasional "yes" can give you a terrific opportunity to generate inquiries from your prime prospects.
Secret #15: Never give up. The key to getting publicity is to send good materials on an ongoing basis. Keep sample columns flowing from your office to targeted publications. Every once in awhile you'll strike publicity gold. And in some instances, the editor may even pay you.