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Freelance Writers – When Should You Approach An Editor?

approach an editorUnless you have a hot news story that has to be published today or tomorrow, it can pay to think about the editor’s schedule before you submit a query or an over the transom article.

This is true for both print and web editors, and includes book editors as well.

Editors live and die by deadlines

An editor’s life is driven by the deadline she must meet. Those deadlines, of course, depend on the nature of the publication. For example, the editor of the daily newspaper has a much more hectic schedule than the editor who is responsible for say six books a year. A weekly publication, online or off, has a much faster pace than in monthly.

No matter how frequently or infrequently something is published, however, as the deadline approaches the editor gets busier and busier until finally it is done.

There are also seasonal considerations that editors have. If you are writing stories about year-end holidays and it’s mid-November, you’re already passed deadlines for all but local newspapers if you hurry. Monthly print magazines often plan their end of your issues six months in advance; 90 days ahead of time is probably the minimum a magazine might consider a freelance submission.

Trade book publishers sometimes key the pub date of a book to a holiday. As a general rule trade publishers take up to a year to prepare a book for publication. If you’ve got the greatest new book for the turning of the new year, now would be about the right time to submit it for 2016.

If you’re working with an author who self-publishing, the process is generally faster. But there can be real marketing advantages to tying certain books into holidays.

Sussing out an editor’s schedule

Common sense is the first place to start when trying to figure out timing on a freelance submission to an editor. You probably instinctively know that November 18 is far too late to submit a Thanksgiving article in the US – at least to most print publications. You might be successful with a local newspaper, particularly if you have a local angle. Plan six months ahead for major holiday features.

It never hurts to check the print publication’s website to find out if they’ve published an editorial calendar. More and more of them have writer’s guidelines that will give you a real sense of when they want what and how to submit it. In fact these days even websites often have writer’s guidelines.

It may be quickest to simply search the magazine publishers name followed by the phrase writers guidelines. It’s amazing how often that works.

Another great strategy is to simply pick up the phone and call the publication in question. Just ask whoever answers the phone what the deadlines are. Receptionists and other people answer the phone are usually pretty well in tune with the rhythm of the place where they work. They know that as the deadline approaches whatever it is, staff gets harder and harder to reach. In fact the receptionist can often be a truly great source of information about when to approach an editor.

Your goal, of course is to have your query or over-the-transom submission land on the editor’s desk when he’s got a moment or two to really read it. That’s not at deadline time. On the other hand, most editors are well enough organized that they won’t lose your ms. in their deadline flury. Most, but not all by a long shot.

Chances are if you pay attention to the guidelines and think about when you’re submitting, you’ll get it right. And if you don’t, you can learn from the experience.

The Freelance Writer’s Business Solutions Course is now open for registration – but only for 5 days. You can get the info you need and register now.

Write well and often,






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