Which Editor in the Masthead Gets the Query?

May 21, 2013

If you want a magazine to buy your article, you need to make sure your query letter gets to the right person. You begin by looking over the masthead. There is no standard masthead so you have some decisions to make. Here are some tips to help you.

  • Since job titles are cheap, look at both title and where the name is positioned in the masthead lineup.
  • Larger magazines put the Editor or Editor-in-Chief at the top–that’s too high to bother with your query letter.
  • Read on down the masthead and find the editor who handles what you’re selling–Articles Editor, Features Editor, Beauty Editor, Fashion Editor, etc.
  • If there’s no specific title such as Articles or Features, look for the Managing Editor.
  • If there’s no Managing Editor, the third name down the masthead is a good bet as the person who makes the buying decisions.
  • You’ve gone too far down the masthead if you run into Senior Editor, Contributing Editor, Associate Editor, or Assistant Editor. These are hard-working folks, but chances are they don’t have the purchasing authority you seek.
  • Smaller magazines may have only a handful of names on the masthead. If that’s what you discover, go ahead and address your query to the name at the top since that’s probably the person with purchasing authority.

With all that said, don’t overlook the value of connecting with editorial staff even if they don’t have purchasing authority. Sometimes the only way to get your foot in the door is by connecting with someone a bit lower on the masthead.

Finally, if you absolutely cannot determine which name should get your query, go ahead and call the main number of the publication and ask. This is a last resort, but it’s better than sending your query without a person’s name on it.

If you make the sale, it’s your job to listen to whatever the editor tells you–point of view, deadlines, word count, etc. are all things the editor could cover. Professional writers deliver quality writing on time. That means the article requires little editing. Once your reputation for professionalism is noted, you’re on your way to developing a good working relationship with your editor. And, as in any industry, editors move on to other publications and take their contacts with them, which could be great for you.

Writers who stay within word count, meet deadlines, and require little editing are harder to find than you realize. That’s why so many magazines are staff written. Prove you’re one of the elite who delivers and you’ll be freelancing as much as you want.

Happy writing!

What Makes a Good Editor?

April 6, 2010

When I teach my writing and publishing classes, I often get students who tell me they’ve always wanted to become a writer. I also get students who tell me they love finding errors in books and magazines when they read them. Then they tell me they think they want to become editors.

What makes a good editor?

A good editor is well read in many areas. To limit one’s expertise to one or two topics is to limit one’s ability to edit well to those few topics–at least if one wants to do more than edit for grammar or punctuation.

A good editor also needs to be adaptable. Authors have their own voices, and those voices won’t necessarily match the editor’s. Too often editors inflict their preferences on how to word something rather than accept the author’s wording. A good editor may suggest a better way to say something to make the writing more clear to the reader, but does not inflict his/her own voice onto the author’s work.

A good editor should be a bit compulsive. To be overly compulsive is to be disabling, but there’s merit in being compulsive about finding punctuation errors, incorrect word usage, and striving for clarity in writing.

A good editor understands the medium he/she is editing and uses the correct manual for editing that medium. For example, the book publishing industry uses The Chicago Manual of Style. Academia relies on the American Psychological Association (APA) for business and management, but on Modern Language Association (MLA) for other academic disciplines. Periodicals use the Associated Press Stylebook.

Finally, a good editor is self-disciplined. By that I mean a good editor understands the importance of deadlines and works to make sure every deadline is met. Sometimes that means shifting work priorities. Sometimes that means working long hours. Sometimes that means giving up lunch or a weekend event.

Whether you aspire to become an editor or are searching for an editor, you now have more information on what it takes to be good at editing.

Happy writing!