Secrets Your Editor Wished You Knew

This may seem like a no-brainer, but this oversight costs writers—and editors who read them—valuable time. If you needed a new transmission for your car, you wouldn’t drive around town for an hour looking for a mechanic only to arrive at one who only did oil changes.

That hour is only a fraction of the time it takes most writers to develop an article and to write a compelling query, but you get the picture: Don’t waste your valuable time focused on things that have little or no possibility of success.

It’s fairly easy to find out all the pertinent information about a publication before you query it. Find out how often it publishes, what specific types of articles it normally includes and how often—if ever—it publishes freelance writers. Each of these will play a pivotal role in how you query the publication.

Many people peruse a writer’s guide and come up with dozens of publications to query without taking the time to determine if a particular publication fits their specific query.

For example, over the years I’ve worked for several religiously-themed publications and have received countless queries that would in no way be appropriate for us. It’s obvious that the sender didn’t even take five minutes—or in some cases one minute—to determine if the query he was mass-sending to publications was appropriate for each one. It’s the shotgun approach: send out as many queries as possible and hopefully one sticks.

This rarely works. It also puts a bad taste in an editor’s mouth and can make further querying from that person even more difficult. If an editor receives several unsuitable queries from a particular person, she is likely to block that person’s email or just delete every email that person sends without ever reading it.

By determining the basics of each publication, the writer can tailor the query to fit the specific needs of the publication and its audience. Some argue that you should read several back issues of a publication before you query them. That’s fine and certainly is helpful.

However, most writers don’t have that kind of time. Do your best to familiarize yourself with the publication through perusing its website and conducting Google searches for the name of the publication and your topic—to determine if it has previously done something along the same lines as you are proposing.

Find out from a writer’s guide if the publication uses freelance writers and how often. Some writers will go through the effort of composing a query and sending it to a publication without checking to see if it even uses freelancers.

Also, some publications will use freelancers but only on assignment or only those with significant clips to their name. By determining this simple requirement, you can save a lot of time, energy and emotional well-being.

Finally, determine the frequency of publication for each magazine/journal you query.

When I was at Decision magazine, we published 11 times a year (we had a combined

June/July issue). We also worked seven months ahead of schedule.

So, if it’s June and you are querying the magazine, we are already working on articles for the January issue. So that means if your article has a seasonal focus or in some way is more suitable for a certain time of year, then you need to be mindful of this when sending your query.

This can also serve as an advantage for the prepared writer.

If your query relates to the importance of fathers, sending it several months ahead of Father’s Day can give you a head start on other freelancers who are hoping to query on the same topic.

Knowing the publication you are querying can also earn you points with the editor.

If you are a regular or committed reader of the publication, don’t just say “I’m a committed reader of The North Shore Review.” Show the editor that you’re a committed reader by referencing a previous article in the publication and how that might relate to your query.

This isn’t a necessity, but if you have the ability to tie your query into something previously published—without it being the same type of article—mention it and demonstrate your knowledge to the editor. Things like this can only help; they rarely hurt.

For more information on querying publication, sign up for the Noble Creative eNewsletter for additional tips, resources and ideas.

 

3 Tips for Better Article Titles

After two decades of developing and editing content on a variety of platforms, I’ve discovered one of the easiest ways to improve your articles is by spending time creating compelling titles. As attention spans continue to get shorter, it’s even more imperative for writers to draw in readers from the start.

If we fail at the title level, then we often fail the rest of the way. If we can’t compel readers to get past the title and into the crux of our writing, then we have lost the battle.

Here are three quick tips I’ve learned to help writers develop titles that will inspire readers to want more.

1.  Invite the reader into the article.

Admittedly, this is often easier said than done. However, readers will more likely read past your title if they perceive an invitation or opportunity to join you in the story.

Instead of a “me-focus” on the title, consider a “reader-focus.” Avoid words such as “my” or “I” and focus more on an “our perspective” approach. Readers will more likely read an article if they perceive that it someone relates to them as opposed to the article just being about your personal struggle or journey.

2. Demonstrate some emotion

Take a glance at an academic journal and read the title page. Most of the articles are very specific indications of an approach to a topic without any emotion or feeling. And in that genre, it works.

However, if you’re writing popular works and hoping for a broad-based readership, you’ll want to provide some level of emotive roadmap of what’s to come. Now, we’re talking about titles, so we can’t include tons of words that describe what the reader can expect.

Yet if we don’t at least provide a snapshot of what to expect, we are putting up our own roadblocks to potential readerships. If your article is a serious, emotional approach to fighting MS, allude to that in the title. If your article is a humorous look at parenting, make sure the reader knows that by the title.

3. Consider asking a question or including numbers

One way to attract attention is by asking a question in the title. If the topic is of interest to the reader—and oftentimes even if it’s not—people will want to read on to discover the answer.

Try to make the question simple, broad and compelling … so simple that a reader will remember the question long after he or she reads the article.

Another option is adding numbers (much like the title to this article). Adding numbers sticks out to the human eye and tells a reader that there are simple and doable suggestions to a certain topic.

Titling an article “5 Simple Tips to Better Health” is easy, broad and compelling. And it conveys the idea that the suggestions are attainable and can be incorporated into my life.

These are just a few suggestions to consider as you title your next article. Most of us–when we write–spend copious amounts of time refining, editing and proofing our articles. And we should.

But how many of us spend a decent amount of time developing compelling titles—titles that will draw in more readers and expose them not only to the topic at hand but to our broader writing and publishing?

For more ideas and help on writing, editing and content development, visit noblecreative.com. And if you’re looking for a writing coach who can walk with you along the way to publication, email snoble@noblecreative.com and put “Writing Coach” in the Subject line.

 

3 Tips to More Effective Writing

It’s easy to get in the habit of just putting words on paper without fully understanding how to make them as effective as possible. With these three simple tips, you can make your writing more compelling, more widely read and also more powerful (meaning people will be moved to action).

1. Write from the perspective of your audience. If you are a business owner, write with the perspective of your customers in mind. What do they want to hear? What will make them take action? If you’re an author, it’s pretty obvious you need to take into account your audience and what will make them pick up your book. Take that same approach whether you are a business owner, communications director, social media specialist, student or real estate agent. It’s too easy to be tied directly to your own marketing message without taking into account what will make your audience interested.

 2. Tell a story. This is a fundamental aspect of all communication. Don’t just communicate facts, statistics and other important information. Craft it into a story. Since the beginning of time, people have been drawn to story, and I imagine this will continue to be so until the end of time. 

3. Provide an action. Too often people will write a business report, an article, a description for a new product or content for a website but will fail to communicate an action. Make sure your writing leaves the reader with something to do. Sure, not every reader will take the suggested action. However, if you don’t provide an opportunity for them to take action, no one will.

Writing is hard work, but if you keep these three tips in mind and are willing to work at them and perfect them, your writing will move from pedestrian to powerful.