Margo Aaron, Founder of That Seems Important, says:
Most people tell you to pitch a few ideas to an editor. I can’t come up with ideas for my life. Because I’m a writer, I always start with a piece I have written already and then look around for places where it might be a good fit for their audience.
It doesn’t matter if you have the piece already or not—it matters that you have a MATCH.
There has to be a match between what you’ve written (and how it’s written), what that outlet produces, and what their audience wants.
There is no way to shortcut this. You need to be familiar with what that outlet publishes and what kind of audience they target. My readers and subscribers tend to be more educated, so I look for publications that clearly target a well-read crowd who self-identify as smart and cultured.
Once I have my article and my publication, I search for the “masthead” so I can get the names of the editors. Sometimes their emails are public, other times I need to stalk them on LinkedIn, Rapportive, Twitter, and their website.
8 out of 10 times, I can find their email. If I can’t, I move on deciding it wasn’t meant to be.
This time, I was shocked to discover Ryan Holiday was the editor of the section I wanted to pitch. This was awesome since I’m a fan but also terrible since I’m a fan.
As I drafted my pitch, I forced myself to answer: What’s in it for them? Why would an editor care about an unknown writer and WANT this piece?
What’s the #1 thing a publication wants? VIEWERS.
I had to convince them that I could deliver. I have basically no audience so that wasn’t going to work. I had to think outside the box.
I made sure to earmark all the places in my article that the Observer could add backlinks to their own pieces—saving them a LOT of time and indicating I’d done my homework.
These editors are busy and are used to being screamed at and spoken to by entitled PR people who don’t do their homework. So I added this line at the end:“If you think it’s not a good fit, not a problem, I will find it a home elsewhere. It’s a privilege to get the opportunity to write you.”
Ryan never responded. But his editorial assistant did, saying Ryan had passed along my piece and they wanted to publish it—which was good enough for me.
They got back to me within a day and the piece went live. I sent a Thank You email to Ryan expressing my gratitude for being admitted and used Ramit Sethi’s “No response necessary” tip (and I meant it).
I got this in response:
“My pleasure. Hit us up if you have more