Want to build your law practice? Then the first thing you want to do is get a little bit famous. And one route to fame is getting published. Editors always need good content. To get your chance at a byline or guest post, all you need to do is write well on a topic that is in demand by readers, let the appropriate editors know that your material is available, and make sure that working with you is a pleasant experience. Easy, right?
If You Get It Right, You’ll Have Editors Calling to Ask You to Write
Here are a few basic tips that will help smooth the way to a pleasant working relationship with editors.
- Show you care. Read the publication, website and writer guidelines before you write. If you or your PR representative send queries or articles that are off point, it signals that you are too lazy to do basic research — and that puts into question the quality of any article you might submit.
- Get a clue. Editors like questions, just not the type of questions that reveal you didn’t bother reading those writing guidelines before asking. And “How many words would you like?” is not a good question in response to the editor who just emailed you guidelines that begin with “Please stay within our 1,000 word limit.” When this happens, it says you aren’t serious about the editor’s needs, and that you are quite possibly dimwitted. Editors don’t want dimwits writing for their publication. Please don’t be afraid to ask for more details, just make sure you are clued in beforehand.
- Make it easy. Here’s what’s going to happen. Your carefully crafted article pitch is going to arrive in the editor’s inbox. If it is at all appealing, your article will get forwarded elsewhere, downloaded, clicked and copied. Do anything to make it less than a snap to open up and read your document, then you are irritating the editor. That means no strange file formats, no footers, no headers, no superfluous graphics and no fancy fonts. That means please do include any notes critical to the article—along with your name and how to find you—in the body of the article, not just in your email message. You want to make sure that whoever opens that file can see that you wrote it and where they can find you.
- Write your own bio lines. Speaking of critical items, always include your very brief bio in the body of the article, just as you’d like it to appear. Don’t expect someone else to condense your 12-page curriculum vitae into a pithy paragraph, or to select golden nuggets from your LinkedIn profile. Chances are you won’t like the result.
- Go the extra e-mile. Even if you are writing for a print publication, it will likely end up online eventually. Make sure the URLs included in your article actually work (especially the one to your own website), provide some keywords at the end of the article and add a few resources for further reading, if you’ve got them. Perhaps others in your firm have written on a similar topic?
- For gosh sakes, proofread before you send it! Yes, do run the spell-checker, but don’t expect it to catch everything. You’re going to have to proofread with your own eyes as well. Yes, you’re right, that’s the job of editors as well, and no, they don’t expect total perfection. But those glaring errors provide good cause for second-guessing your credibility. So proofread it … again.
- Talk to ME. If you’re just blanketing the press with a general query hoping that something will stick somewhere, odds are extremely high that editors on the receiving end of your email will simply hit “DELETE.” If, however, you make a direct inquiry that demonstrates you know something about the publication, what it does, who its readers are—and that you recognize this editor is an individual—then bingo!
- Flattery will help get you there. Pick a few past articles that appeal to you—or some characteristic that you like, say, the quality of the authors—and make sure to convey that you think highly of the work this editor does. Generally, editors are harassed and underappreciated. Sincere compliments are always appreciated (just beware that experienced editors also have built-in BS meters, too.)
Attorney at Work’s Joan Feldman is an editor and writer who has created, steered and contributed to myriad practice management, trade and association publications, including ABA Law Practice magazine, where she was Managing Editor for a dozen years. Follow her @JoanHFeldman.