It’s the million dollar question every freelancer wants to know. What is an editor looking for?
I took the easy way out and asked a few of my editors on everyone’s behalf. Many thanks to the experts below for their tips. Here’s what editors say about…
Catching their attention.
“I often base my judgement on the subject line alone, and then the first sentence if I get beyond that. I know my editor colleagues here do the same. However, I ALWAYS take note when someone has done their homework and says something like “This may be of interest for your First and Worst [or wherever] column.” Mark Ellis, former editor My Career, Sydney Morning Herald and The Age (now deputy arts editor, The Age)
“My pet peeve is irrelevant pitches. I can tell in a heartbeat if a pitch has legs and it’s always from someone who is a fan of the magazine and truly reads it, because their pitch will reflect our style of treating stories and tone, rather than someone who is new to the world of freelancing who is quite interested in health. [They often] send you a list of really general health ideas that you know they’ve also just sent to Body & Soul, Good Health etc.” Tara Ali, Features Editor, Women’s Health (Australia).
“If you get offered work, do it fast. Then I will be more inclined to offer you more, particularly if I need something at short notice and need a good fireman. Don’t send me drafts unless you’re on work experience. I’m employing you, not teaching you.” Kirsty McKenzie, former editor of Green Living (now editing Australian Country Collections).
Pitching the right story to the right publication.
“What gets my attention is if a freelancer seems to have read and understood what the publication is about and their pitch is specific and on target with the sorts of articles we have – e.g. “This story on natural air conditioning would work well for your summer issue in the home section…” It’s not that hard to pick up a copy (we’re in the library!) and have a look at what sections and the sorts of things we cover and the angle i.e. Consumer, not business etc.” Carolyn Barry. Former editor of G Magazine, currently editor at Australian Geographic online.
Filing stories like a pro.
“There is nothing more annoying than having to fix up phraseology, grammar and spelling…Read your copy through from beginning to end before you send it out.” Kirsty McKenzie, former editor of Green Living (now editing Australian Country Collections).
“Very often it’s about timing. I receive about 30 pitches a week and it’s impossible for me to keep with them all.” Tara Ali, Features editor, Women’s Health
- What would you ask an editor if you could?
- Do you read the publications you want to write for?
- What do you struggle with in the pitching process? If you’re a graduate of Australian Writers’ Centre, my mentoring program may be able to help you.