It’s common, especially at the beginning of your writing career, to be terrified of that first email to an unknown editor. How formal should the email be? What should it include? What should be left out? The questions are unending. The five tips below may prove handy in such situations. Read through them and be on your way towards crafting a perfect first email.
Research: Before you craft your pitch and your piece it is important to research the publication thoroughly. Read through the content and analyze the tone and style of the articles. Once you zero in on these details, figure out how your idea can be presented to the editor so as to be a perfect fit for the publication. Do not send completed articles (in your first communication) unless specified in the publication’s submission guidelines.
Address: If you have access to a valid editorial contact, address the email to them directly with a conventional ‘Dear (Editor’s Name)’. It is essential to spell all names correctly. Poorly addressed emails can leave a bad impression; it tells the editor the writer is careless. This could cost you a commission and an editorial contact. If you don’t have access to a name, start the email with a ‘Dear Sir/Madam’, or a simple ‘Hello’. Once you establish a working relationship with an editor, it’s common to adopt a semi formal tone to your emails.
Introduction: When introducing yourself, be brief. Don’t give a detailed history of your writing career. Don’t tell the editor you’ve been writing since you were six, or add all the writing courses you’ve taken, or your university ranking (unless it was exceptional). Editors do not have too much free time so don’t waste it with rambling emails. However, do list significant writing milestones.
Follow this up with your idea for the publication and your writing experience. Again, be specific. Editors don’t like statements like – I have written lots of articles for many publications. List the more prominent publications and websites you have written for. In case you have commissioned articles that have not been published yet, mention them under the soon to appear title. It is important to be honest through all your communication. Do not ever falsify a list of publications. If you don’t have a lot of published work, make up with a strong idea and a clever hook.
Links and Samples: Always provide clips and samples of your work when pitching to a new publication or a new editor. It helps editors understand your writing style and gives them a glimpse of your range. A really convenient way to do this is to link your blog or website to the email. This may earn you a new (and influential) reader and earn you additional commissions in the long run.
The Follow Up: Post submission, the editor may or may not reply immediately. If you don’t hear back from them, it’s best to wait for a week or two before writing in and asking for an update. An editor’s calendar can be a crowded place, so don’t be surprised if you have to send a few rounds of follow up emails. It’s also a good idea to send a small thank you note to the editor once your piece has been published.
The key to communicating with an editor is to be polite, disciplined and professional through the process, irrespective of the end result. It is essential to create a good impression, as this will lead to more interesting opportunities down the line.