How To Introduce Yourself To An Editor — 5 Do's and Don'ts For Making A Positive Impression
It's hard out there for writers. One would think that being a polite person with a practiced voice, commitment to deadlines, and journalistic integrity would be enough to get a consistent writing gig or two. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Writing, like many industries, is a lot about who knows you because knowing important people doesn't usually mean much if they don't know you. Unless you live in New York or LA, the chances of you having access to magazine and web editors, or editorial directors, are slim to none, unless you're looking for local gigs (which is also totally cool). That's why it's so important to know the do's and don'ts of introducing yourself to an editor.
Because editors are often swamped, or presumed to be swamped, with emails from aspiring writers, it's important that your first impression is a good one. We all know how easy it is to delete an email, especially when it's from someone you've never met. You don't want to be that deleted email.
I'm by no means an expert on working with editors. This isn't a comprehensive, step-by-step of how to get editors to fall in love with you. It's just advice from a freelancer who has some decent, reliable writing jobs while living in Philadelphia and who has never gone to a formal networking event. I also didn't go to any prestigious schools or have friends and family introducing me to professional contacts.
I started where most writers do, writing for free and submitting completed pieces, never knowing if all your work was for nothing. Now, I'm freelancing full-time and I'm still alive, so maybe my advice could mean something to someone. With all the prefaces out of the way, let's jump right into this list.
1. DO: Know who you're emailing
Find their title and do a basic Google search on what that position typically entails. Try to get an idea of what sort of stuff they do and don't do, because there is nothing more embarrassing than introducing yourself to an editor and talking to them about something they don't do. It shows them you didn't take the time out to read up on them, but that you want them to take out time to get to know you, which isn't a good look and pretty much ruins the introduction.
2. DON'T: Be too casual
Remember, you're emailing someone you're trying to write for, work with, or someone whose radar you're trying to get on. You don't have to be uptight, but at least take things seriously and present your best self. If you try to be casual to look cool, you will probably fail.
3. DO: Follow-up
In most cases, it's perfectly acceptable to follow-up, unless the editor(s) ask that you not do that. The general rule of thumb is that it's safe to email again after a week. Don't give up until you get an official 'no' or you've followed up and still got nothing in return (sometimes you just gotta let it go).
4. DON'T: Blow up their inbox or say "Sorry for pestering you"
Following-up does not mean checking in the next day because they didn't answer you within 24 hours. Give them time. And whatever you do, please try to refrain from saying "Sorry for pestering you." It isn't helpful and sort of puts it in their heads that you're being a bother. If you're going to follow-up, own it.
5. DO: Check out their social media
Editors use social media just like us, so be sure to peek at it from time to time to see what sort of stuff they're posting. Doing this will help you get to know what they enjoy and/or what they're passionate about, making it easier for you to see whether or not you'd be professionally compatible with them and their brand.
6. DON'T: Use social media to pitch editors
Unless an editor welcomes it, or you've built a strong relationship with them, social media should never be a place where you send pitches, ideas, and introductions. If you do, I can almost guarantee that they will not appreciate it. They have email for a reason.
7. DO: Be brave
The best way to stay anonymous is by never introducing yourself to anyone. Every time you tell yourself you're not good enough, a cis-gendered, heterosexual white male sends an email or submits an application for gigs and positions because they're not taught to doubt themselves like people of other identities are. The worst thing an editor can do is ignore you because it's highly unlikely that an email introduction could provoke a malicious attack.
8. DON'T: Introduce yourself to editors whose publications you know nothing about
They will be able to tell if you know nothing about their work. If you don't know video games, don't try to connect with video game publication editors. If you don't know fashion, don't try to reach for Vogue. Be realistic and be honest.
9. DO: Create a bio template
Learning to talk about yourself, especially through email, is an art form and a science. There are so many ways to do it wrong. I can't give you a one-size-fits-all approach to talking about yourself. Read up on the web and do some research and find what works for you. Don't wing it because giving someone you've never met an accurate picture of who you are, while being cool and concise, is much more difficult than it seems.
10. DON'T: Brag too much
If you've written for some cool places, and you're trying to sell yourself to an editor, try not to list every website and publication you've ever written for. It drags on and looks tacky, almost as if you're using big names as floatation devices. It's OK to drop some names, we all do it in networking, just don't overdo it. Shout out the publications you're most proud of working with or the ones most applicable to the editor.
Images: Giphy (10); Mary Rabun/Bustle