The Often-Overlooked Document That Will Tell You How to Break Into Your Dream Magazine — And It’s Right In Front Of Your Face!
When targeting markets for your queries, do you review their media kits?
Magazines spend time and money defining their audiences and creating a package to attract advertisers. With a little know-how, you can put that research to use and sell your ideas.
To get started, find the “media kit” link on your target market’s website. Most of the time you’ll spot one right away–after all, the magazines want it to be easy for advertisers to find it. If you come up empty on the main page, look under “Advertising,” or less frequently, in “Contact Us.” You can also type the name of the magazine and the words “media kit” (with quotes) into a search engine.
Once you have the kit in front of you, examine these three features before you write your query:
1. MISSION STATEMENT (a.k.a. “Positioning statement”)
What it is: A brief statement that defines the style and tone of the magazine. Editors use the mission statement to keep the editorial focused.
How to use it: Tailor your query to fit their mission.
Consider the opening line from the mission statement for Ladies’ Home Journal: “Ladies’ Home Journal is for women who recognize the importance of taking time for themselves.” Now, compare it to the opening line of Family Circle’s mission statement: “Family Circle celebrates today’s family and champions the women at its center.”
Though both magazines serve women with families, each wants a slightly different spin on the material they publish. For example, your pitch about a spa getaway would be better received at Ladies’ Home Journal, while a query about a round-up of historic destinations for families is better suited for Family Circle.
2. DEMOGRAPHICS (a.k.a. “Audience”)
What it is: A snapshot of the magazine’s readers.
How to use it: Slant your query to match the audience.
A publication’s demographics might pinpoint the basics about their audience. You’ll find Taste of Home’s audience defined in terms of age, marital status, college education, employment, etc. Other publications provide much more detail. For example, The Onion knows 52% of their readers drank beer in the last seven days, and roughly a third of them plan to buy a new computer in the next year.
Let’s say you have a fantastic snack recipe. If the magazine has a large percentage of readers with school-aged children, you might pitch your idea as “Easy Afterschool Snacks.” On the flip side, if your target publication has a readership made up of single women with high-powered jobs, you’d pitch “Quick Snacks to Go.”
3. EDITORIAL CALENDAR
What it is: A monthly breakdown of upcoming features and themes.
How to use it: Pitch them what they want AND need.
The editorial calendar is the freelance writer’s crystal ball when it comes to writing pitches. It tells you what the editor needs and when he plans to use it. A quick scan of Reader’s Digest’s editorial calendar shows planned issues about brain power, food, and miracles.
Queries fitting those themes will move to the top of the pile because the editor is actively looking for pieces to fit in those issues. Tip: When using an editorial calendar, keep in mind most magazines assign pieces 4-6 months in advance. Pitch your ideas early.
Editors base decisions on how well an article idea fits the scope, audience, and needs of their publication. Practice homing in on all three and more of your queries will hit the bull’s-eye.
BIO: In 17 years of freelancing, Barbara A. Tyler has written everything from coffee can labels to an award-winning humor column. She shares writing tips on her blog: Brainstorms & Bylines
If you liked that post, you might also like:
- You Ask, I Answer: Can I Send Similar Ideas to Different Magazines?
- Break This Rule: Always Send Your Query to the E-Mail Address Listed in the Guidelines
- How to Find an Editor’s E-mail Address
- The Art of Following Up
- Are You Under-Researching Your Queries? Here are 4 Ways to Create Queries That Get Assignments