One strategy to advance your career is to raise your level of recognition in the industry. And one method of doing this is to share your expertise through the pages of industry trade publications. So how should you go about it?
Ronnie Garrett, editor in chief of Law Enforcement Technology, another Cygnus Business Media publication, offers her experience as an editor and a freelancer. She has been a writer/editor for 20 years with seven years experience as a freelance writer and 10 years in her current position.
Garrett has to write and edit articles for a monthly magazine that goes to law enforcement chiefs, sheriffs, or supervisors nationwide and another seven-time publication, along with managing web sites and traveling to shows and industry events. She has a staff of three other editors but about 50 percent of the editorial is freelanced with four to five regular contributors each issue.
What does she advise? “Look at the issues to see what they’re doing. Editors want you to make their job easy. Work on queries and state topic, sources, and experience. Be thorough in describing why the topic is important and why you should write it. Sell the idea and yourself.”
Garrett’s magazine is looking for people who have experience in the industry. “We present very targeted information designed to help these professionals do their jobs and run their departments efficiently,” Garrett says. “Thus, the writers we hire must have a thorough understanding of law enforcement work.”
The same is true with Aircraft Maintenance Technology. AMT’s regular contributors are A&P mechanics. They know who our readers are. And their experience in the industry adds to the depth of our editorial coverage. Stephen Prentice writes on the legal angle of the industry, Joe Hertzler covers regulations, Bill O’Brien covers the FAA and regulations, and Jim Sparks covers avionics.
With her busy schedule, Garrett prefers communicating via email. It allows her to keep track of ideas coming in, share with other staff members, and respond quickly.
As a former freelance writer she knows all the excuses for an article being late, so if you’re interested in writing be sure to follow through and meet deadlines and deliver what was agreed upon. If an article is too long, too short, or the subject too vague she’ll send it back. If an article requires too much editing you will be less likely to be considered for future articles.
Not all publications have writers associations tied in with their industries. But Law Enforcement Technology does — the Public Safety Writers Association. Garrett gave a presentation at one of its meetings on what she looks for. This presentation educated members and provided her with writers to consider for future articles.
The first step is to send a letter or email to the editor of the publication you’re considering. Don’t send a completed article to a publication until you first get an OK to proceed and get feedback on what the publication is looking for.
Your choice of publication should include some research of what the publication covers and who it reaches. Looking at web sites and editorial calendars will give you the background and editorial topics covered so you know what’s coming up and what has been covered already.
Some publications include writer’s guidelines and archived articles so you can study past issues and the style of the magazine (length of articles, tone, etc.). Most publications want to educate the reader and steer clear of company or product profiles that may appear as advertisements. Editors want articles that cover a critical issue in the industry or a new technology.
Your initial letter of enquiry should include your topic, sources, and experience. A topic may have been covered before, so let the editor know what your slant will be to make it fresh to the readers. A lot of mail comes across an editor’s desk so you want to be short and to the point and grab their attention from the start. Include contact information so the editor can reach you if he or she has any questions. And be patient. Editors are ruled by deadlines and if you want to be considered as a good resource, be flexible according to their schedules.
Editors want contributed articles that make their life easier: they come in on time, they deliver what was promised, and include images, captions, your bio, and resources if readers want to find out more. And editors prefer articles that only run in their publication. Articles lose their impact if they are seen in several publications at the same time.
Once you have gotten the OK from an editor to proceed, make sure you meet the deadline and specifications agreed upon. If you overpromise and underdeliver you won’t be as likely to be a contributor in the future. Deadlines give editors time to review material and evaluate its suitability for an issue. Publishing is a time-critical business so editors like to plan ahead of time, usually several months.
If you have problems in completing an article or contacting the resources initially targeted, let the editor know early in the process. Things can be shuffled around but editors don’t like last-minute surprises. And in some instances the editor may be able to provide additional sources to help you complete the article.
Most editors prefer to receive articles via email in Microsoft Word so they can be easily transferred to the software used in publishing. Photos can be 35 mm slides, color transparencies, color prints, or high-resolution (300 dpi) digital images. Digital images should be in JPEG or TIF format and sent separately and not as part of the Word document.
Accuracy is important so have your stories fact checked by your sources if applicable. Also check dates, spelling of names and places, and run the article through a spell check or have someone else read it through. Reducing errors and spelling mistakes makes it easier on the editor.
If you want to stay on an editor’s good side, deliver more than what is required. Great photos that apply to the story, sidebars (short articles related to the main topic), and that extra in terms of attracting the reader with a good headline, making a subject come alive, and using humor or attitude will put you on the editor’s list when future opportunities arise.
So if you have a story to tell or want to share your expertise, take a look at the magazines in your field and expand your career options.