Monday, June 28, 2010

Ask A Writer: How To Get Your Work Noticed by Magazine Editors

Katie asked: Writing is who I am and what I love to do. I’m trying to get my articles noticed by entering online contests and sending my work to magazines, but most of the time I don’t get any response. How can I get my stuff out there? What do people like to read?

Ned Said:
In terms of getting your writing noticed, you asked "What do people like to read?" The first thing you need to do is answer that question yourself: what do you like to read? If you love reading about cars, then maybe you should be submitting pieces to Road & Track -- but if you're into gardening, that might not be the best choice. Nothing annoys a magazine/newspaper editor more than getting a submission from a writer who hasn't read the magazine or newspaper! You need to be intimately familiar with the writing you enjoy and want to emulate to start doing it professionally.

Then, if you're submitting to magazines, you may not be doing it right. It's a complicated process so I'll outline the steps for you: make sure you are following them chapter and verse.

First, if you have any kind of personal connection to the magazine (your parent went to college with the editor; the editor's daughter is on your swim team), contact the person you have a personal connection with. Don't be afraid to use the connections that come your way -- in the future, when you're successful, you'll have the opportunity to give back and help other people personally. Create a spreadsheet on your computer listing all of the people who you know who are involved in publishing/media. Keep their addresses, phone numbers, and emails in this central spreadsheet, as well as the last date you talked to them, a "history" of what you've done together, and a "current status" as to where your relationship is now.

Second, if you don't have any kind of personal connection to the magazine, contact the slush mail address given in the masthead. The masthead is the part of a magazine that lists all the staff and business publishing info; it's usually found near the front, after all the ads, and it will begin with "Editor In Chief" or "Publisher". At the bottom of a masthead is an address -- this is the "slush mail address." It's the general address of the magazine to which you can send unsolicited submissions.

Write your article. Make sure you know exactly WHERE in the magazine it would go; don't send in any revolutionary new ideas!

Format it properly and include a cover letter (NOT a cover letter like for a job, just a simple letter with your return address that says:


Included please see my story for SECTION. I
hope you enjoy it! Be in touch anytime at YOUR CONTACT INFO.



Then -- wait. Send a follow-up letter in two months if you don't hear back. That's really all it takes to get published in magazines. There's one thing that you might want to do to psych yourself up for the process -- pull a little Jedi Mind Trick in your head for a moment. Here you are submitting your writing to a magazine. That magazine is a big scary place that doesn't need little writers like you. Now -- Jedi Mind Trick -- picture yourself as the editor of the magazine. You have to put out a new magazine every month, or week, or, if you're a newspaper, day! You're desperate for new content and new talent. So really it's YOU, the writer, who has the power.

Finally, in terms of supporting young writers, I'm a big fan of Teen Ink, a nationwide magazine that publishes work by teenagers, and New Youth Connections, a New York City-wide newspaper written and edited by teens.

Have a question about the writing world? Ask Ned! You can e-mail us at askned(at)artandwriting(dot)org, or you can learn more about Ned at

Image credit: Shawn in commons 6. Shawn Glover, 2010 National Gold Medalist. Art Portfolio.


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