Editors are interested in sourcing the best possible stories for their readers. They’re much more concerned with getting a story that excites them, and which they feel will engage their readers, than they are with the level of experience the writer has under his or her belt.
If your story is on-target and constructed soundly, and it’s something that fits into the editorial calendar, that’s what will sell it.
I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve received story pitches from well-established writers that were either about topics that made no sense for my publication or stories that were all about the writer, assuming, I suppose, that I’d be so impressed with the qualifications itemized in the letter that I’d be begging them to write for me. Not so.
“Will this story work for me?” That’s the question editors ask themselves every time they open up a query letter.
So, it’s your job as the writer to a) understand what an editor is looking for, and, b) design a story to meet those needs.
How do you do it?
1) Read the publication’s writer’s guidelines (these are almost always posted online).
2) Familiarize yourself with the publication by reading recent issues.
3) Gain a clear sense for who the publication’s readers are.
4) Think about how your experiences can be packaged to appeal to those specific readers.
The publication’s audience is key. When putting together a story, ask yourself, “What about my experience would this specific reader enjoy learning about or find useful?”
Think about it this way: You’d make one recommendation about your local museum to a reader who’s a young mother interested in introducing her kids to art and another altogether to a 70-year-old who’s an old hand at museums.
Slice and dice your ideas based on who you’re targeting—that’s a smart way to narrow down what you’ll include in a piece and ensure you’re speaking to an editor’s readers directly.
When you do that, you instantly up your chances for selling your article. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first piece you’re offering or your 100th.