If you want to increase the odds of getting your article published, don’t send it to more editors, send it to the right editors.
The “right editors” are the ones whose subscribers look like the reader you had in mind when you wrote your piece.
You had a specific reader in mind, right?
You should. Always.
Because when you do, it’s much easier to identify publications where your article could fit.
So let’s take the Svalbard archipelago up near the Arctic Circle. Who would be interested in an article about a cruise there?
I could imagine a number of different audiences — like people interested in arctic biology, cruise-lovers looking for something a little “off-beat,” eco-travelers, kayakers, folks who enjoy hiking, dog-sled enthusiasts, photographers, and so on.
For each kind of reader, I imagine a different article. Perhaps you’d include much of the same information in each one. But you’d have it unfold in a different way.
You’d craft a certain lead to grab the attention of an active, 30-year old male who works a well-paying desk job during the week but spends every Saturday he can off the coast of Maine with paddles in the water.
By contrast, you’d write something entirely different if you were speaking to a cruise-loving woman in her early 70’s, somebody who takes a real interest in the culture and history of the destinations she visits, prefers smaller ships, and likes sailings that include not just excursions on shore but lectures on board, too.
Your target reader dictates the angle you take with your story and the details you include in it.
But once you have that reader in mind, it’s relatively easy to figure out which editors would be most interested in your piece.
You simply ask yourself: What does my reader read? What publications does he subscribe to? What online e-zines does she get?
Now, if you share lots in common with the reader you’re writing for, then it’s pretty easy to answer that question. What do you read? Where do you get your travel ideas? But if you don’t know your target reader well, you’ll need to do a little research.
Say you’re writing for that 70-year-old cruise enthusiast. Go to Google and search “cruise magazines.” I just did. And the first link took me to a list of ten, from Porthole to Avid Cruiser to Cruise Gourmet.
Another place to look for possible outlets is online at writersmarket.com ($39.99 for a year’s subscription). The searchable database there includes 6,000 publications.
Once you’ve narrowed down the possibilities to a handful you think may be what your target reader flips through when she’s sitting on her couch, dig into them to be sure.
For each, read some back issues. Read the website. Read the writer’s guidelines. Read the media kit. (The media kit is the package a publication puts together to attract advertisers. It usually includes very specific information about who their readers are. And you can almost always find it on a publication’s website under “advertise with us” or something along those lines.)
Next, figure out if there’s a specific department or section of the publication where your article really belongs. And tell the editor that in your cover letter (if you’re attaching your piece) or your query (if you’re simply “proposing” the article).
Now, I’m willing to bet that if you’ve written your article already — with a specific reader in mind but maybe not a specific section of a specific magazine in mind — you may need to edit it a bit once you’ve found the right “spot” for it.
Because — and the writer’s guidelines will tell you this — your article might be too long. Or it might not include a sidebar. Or it might need some subheads added to it. Or it might need an “If you go” box.
The more perfectly matched you can make your piece — first to a reader and then to a publication that reader likes — the easier it will be to sell your article.
An editor will see what you’re up to. And she’ll like it. And she’ll pay you for doing the legwork too many freelancers ignore.
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]