In my interview with Sharon Crawford, freelance writer, editor and writing instructor, I learned how to "hook" an editor with a story idea - the first step to being published in print.
It all starts with a query - literally asking the question, "so, are you interested?"
Before you even get to that stage, though, take some time to look through a few issues of the magazine that you're pitching the story to. Visit the website or call to find out whether they accept freelance submissions, and for their submission guidelines.
Sharon recommends that your query be no longer than one page. Here is her breakdown of a winning query, paragraph by paragraph:
Paragraph 1: This is where you really need to hook them in to keep reading. Make sure you offer some kind of quirky, unusual twist on the story you want to tell. Show how your story could tie into a current event, piece of news, research study or societal trend. This paragraph will often end up in your full article.
Paragraph 2: Now, you pitch the specifics, "so, how about an 800-word article about __ (topic)?" List the things you could talk about, with examples, and show the editor you've already put some thought and research into it. Point form is appropriate for this section.
Also, show that you're familiar with their specific publication, and suggest different sections where the article could fit. Talk about why their readers, in particular, would be interested in reading your story. Point out how your story idea matches their editorial schedule.
Paragraph 3: Describe your subject, the person you could interview for the article. That means that before you even sit down to write your query, you need to have chosen someone, spoken to them briefly and they've agreed to be interviewed.
You'll also want to mention any other people you could interview, such as people who know your main subject and can offer a different perspective about them or the experience you're interviewing them about.
For example, if you're going to interview someone who has achieved success from hiring a life coach, you could also interview that person's spouse, boss, colleague or friend to hear about the changes they've witnessed from the outside.
Paragraph 4: Why are you the best person to write this article? Here is the place to talk about your credentials, and the personal and professional experiences that make you uniquely positioned to tell this story. Cite examples of any previous articles you've published, particularly on the same or similar topics.
Paragraph 5: As you're closing your query, make it clear that you're willing to work with the editor's suggestions. Notice how Sharon suggests you use the word "could" throughout the query. The more open you are to questions, revisions and rewrites, the more likely it is that you're query will be accepted.
Finally, let the editor know that you're going to follow up, and when. And by all means, do it! If you show them in the query process that you're responsible, committed and true to your word, they'll be more interested in working with you. Deadlines count!
Thanks again to Sharon Crawford (http://www.samcraw.com) for providing this great information!