Pitching a publication is 1% of the process.
Once you’re in a publication, then the real work starts. Many writers do not understand how to manage a relationship with a publication. The word relationship and publication don’t even go together in their mind. This scares the hell out of me.
If a publication doesn’t like you they won’t publish your work. The more a publication likes you the more they will publish and promote your work.
A publication is run by human beings. Treat human beings well and publications will show your story love. If you take nothing else away from this article then let it be these two things:
- Showing your ego to a publication will scare them off. The damage can’t be undone.
- Acting like a needy romantic partner that always has wants, desires and another round of hand-holding is exhausting for a publication.
This is how I’ve worked with publications and reached more than 100M people as a result (mostly, it’s because of the way I’ve managed the relationship).
Your job as a writer
When you make it into a publication your job is to make that publication successful, not yourself. How? Publications need readers. Readers read a publication when it has good content.
So if you want a publication to love you then write good content. Focus on the quality of your work rather than mystical fantasies about algorithms and shortcuts to millions of fans that don’t exist.
A publication wants you to be successful so they can be successful.
Getting in a publication is easy
Don’t pat yourself on the back when you make it into a publication. It’s not hard. The hard part is making it through the round of unofficial layoffs that occur later on.
I have been laid off from a few publications over the years. I never got told that, though. The firing was disguised with “we’re focusing on…” or “we have too many writers.”
The truth was my 4 AM wake up preaching was exhausting a couple of them and they’d had enough. In hindsight, fair enough.
If you don’t respect a publication they will eventually fire you.
They will do at least one edit to screw up your life
Publications will occasionally edit your work poorly. It’s going to happen. The key is to expect bad edits every so often. It’s not personal.
If you were an editor at a publication editing thousands of stories you would make mistakes too.
They will make mistakes
A publication will do the following:
- Take time to publish your work
- Get overloaded at certain times of the year
- Not respond to all of your messages
- Change editorial standards and forget to tell you
- Not prioritize every one of your articles (even if you’re Ryan Holiday)
Let publications off the hook. Don’t have rules for publications.
Publications are getting overwhelmed. The slot tactic is common.
Publications can limit how many stories they publish of yours by taking time to edit them. This is called the ‘slot method.’ By slowing down the process, a publication can limit how many times per week you publish.
One reason for this is a publication doesn’t want their homepage full of the same author. This is annoying for the readers. It makes readers think a publication is biased if all they see is one writer’s name.
Expect the speed of your content being published to slow down. Give the publication less stories and higher quality, if you can.
You are replaceable
It pays to be a nice person.
Why? Writers are a dime a dozen. Everyone wants to be a writer/blogger. If you can write an email you can publish a blog post on the internet. So it’s worth knowing you’re replaceable. No matter how much success you’ve had as a writer a publication can always find another writer just like you.
Writing for a publication is a privilege.
This Is How to Build a Relationship with a Publication like a Pro
- Expand your reach across many publications if you can.
Just like with investing, diversify where you publish your work. Publish in multiple publications. You will be less needy as a writer when you have more places to publish your stories.
When you get a rejection, like I do weekly, you’ll end up submitting the same story to a different publication and not break a sweat or shed a tear.
- The right content for the right publication helps.
Publications love it when your content is hyper-focused towards their audience. The way you discover what a publication wants is by reading lots of stories they accept and seeing which ones readers engage with the most.
- Create your own publication.
While you submit to publications you can also build up your own. When you own the publication you make the rules. If you’re a control freak then this strategy can help you a lot.
- Schedule phone calls with editors.
As you write a bit for a publication you can work up the courage to ask the editor to do a quick Zoom call so you can get to know each other. I have done this with many of the main publications I work with so I’m not just another name on their ever-growing list of writers. On the call, find out how they like to work. Ask this question:
“How do I make your life easier?”
You can also find out what you can improve on and what the editor would do if they were in your position.
- Let your stories do the talking.
When your stories are successful the relationship with the publication improves — trust is increased. Successful stories are the life-blood of a publication and if you’re one of the writers consistently doing that then they will take notice and perhaps give you a few perks like a feature, or even your own column.
Focus on writing quality stories.
- Leave notes on your stories.
This is a not so common writing hack. I leave notes on my stories for the editor. The goal is to make their life easy. If I write an unusual phrase like “debt card” instead of “credit card” I’ll tell them why so it doesn’t look like an accident they have to edit. You can even ask the editor how they’re going in the notes. Remember rule #1: Be a good human.
These are the tactics I’ve used to get featured in major publications and build relationships with editors.
If you publish quality stories and make that your focus then the publication will do well and you won’t have to beg them to take care of you.
If you focus on making an editor’s life easier and being human in the process then they will feel drawn to your work and support your growth as a writer.
The trick to working with publications all comes down to this: it’s not about you. It’s about the reader. Show a publication you care about readers by giving them the best writing you possibly can.