Steps for Getting Published
Publishing in national news and trade publications is a great marketing tool for attorneys. It can help boost your online visibility. The more you publish the more you are going to be seen and shared on the web by other people, which can translate to increased page views, conversions and sales.
There are five steps to getting an article assignment:
- Identify the publications to pitch
- Research the submission guidelines
- Develop a strong query
- Write the article
- Build relationships with editor
Review the key slides below and download the full presentation for a detailed explanation of each step.
Sally Kane: Good afternoon. I think it’s noon now so I’m going to get started. Welcome to today’s webinar, How to Get Published in Major Media Outlets. My name’s Sally Kane, and I’m the content director for PaperStreet. And today I’ll be providing some tips for lawyers and legal professionals on how to get published in national publications. A little bit about my background. I’m a former lawyer turned writer-editor. So I’ve seen the publishing process from both sides. I’ve seen it from as a writer, I’ve published a number of articles in print and on the web. And I am the former Editor and Chief of a legal publication, so I’ve also seen the publishing process from the editor’s side.
So today we’re going to cover a number of topics. And let me just try to advance to the next screen. Having some issues with the live presentation, bear with me one minute. It appears that my screen is frozen and I apologize. Okay, sorry about that. Alright so some talks we’re going to cover today, first why publishing is important for attorneys. Some steps for getting published in major media outlets. And the focus here is going to be on high profile national publications rather than your local newspaper or association newsletter.
I’m also going to discuss how to pitch article ideas, and steps for writing a powerful query letter. And at the end, I will provide a list of legal publications, and potential markets to help you get started if you’ve never published before. Okay, so I want to talk a little bit about why publishing is important. Publishing in national news and trade publications is a great marketing tool for attorneys. First of all, it can help boost your online visibility.
Most publications today have some type of online component. So the more you publish the more you are going to be seen and shared on the web by other people, so it’s really going to help boost your visibility online. It’s also going to help you gain professional credibility. It’s one thing to say that you’re experienced and knowledgeable in your practice area, but it’s another thing to have proof of that by having a number of published articles in your practice niche. Also your article might be mentioned by others in the media, and those media mentions can really help you build a stronger reputation.
Another reason publishing is important is it can help you drive traffic to your website. I always advise to include a link back to your website in your article, either in the article itself, or somewhere in the bio. And this can help funnel traffic to your site. The next reason and increase search rankings is kind of related to number three. Because the more you’re driving traffic to your site, that’s going to help raise the site’s authority in the eyes of Google, and it’s going to help raise the search rankings of your site.
And then finally publishing can help you build your platform. It can help establish you as an expert in your practice niche, and this in turn can lead to a lot of great other opportunities. Like speaking engagements, or publishing opportunities, and even new clients. So publishing is definitely an important marketing tool for lawyers.
So next I want to talk about the steps for getting published. Getting published in higher profile publications, things like Wall Street Journal or New York Times, this involves more than just simply submitting an article. Since the national publications receive such a high rate of submissions, they can be very, very selective in the articles they accept.
So in most cases you’re not just going to write an article and submit it, instead you’re going to pitch your platform and your story idea to an editor and then they’re going to assign the article to you. So here’s some five steps to getting an article assignment. First you’re going to identify the publications to pitch. Next you’re going to research the submission guidelines. You’re going to develop a strong query. You’re going to write the article and then build relationships with editors. So I’m going to discuss each of these steps in a little more detail.
The first thing you’re going to want to do is identify publications and media outlets that fit your practice focus. And you know fit the type of articles that you want to write and that you’re qualified to write. So what you want to do is first of all look at recent issues. They can give you clues about the types of articles that media outlet publishes, the format, the length of the articles, and popular topics that are covered. Most publications have a website with an About Us page. The About Us page is a great resource. It can tell you a lot about the publication itself, about their target readership, and the type of articles the seek.
If you’re looking at a print copy of a publication you might also check out their masthead, and Letter from the editor. The Editorial Calendar is another great tool for potential writers to examine. It’s usually found somewhere on the website. And it’s going to tell you what type of articles they are looking to feature in upcoming issues. And sometimes there’s themes for each issue. For example in the magazine I ran I had a litigation theme, a corporate theme, a technology theme, so I tried to assign articles that revolved around those different themes. So checking out the Editorial Calendar before you pitch your idea is a really good idea.
Next Media Kit is also useful, this is something that’s sent to advertisers, and again you can usually find it on their website. And it tells you about the size of the publication’s readership, about their demographics, and their target market. Of course the articles themselves are going to give you a lot of clues, you know about the length, the style, the tone, and the voice of the publication, and the types of topics that they cover. Author Bios are also important, it’s going to tell you who their typical contributors are, what their backgrounds are, and whether you have the qualifications to write for that particular media outlet.
And then finally advertisements can tell you a lot about the type of reader that the publication is targeting. So once you have developed your list of potential publications that you want to approach, the next thing you’ll want to do is research the submission guideline. Every publication has a different submission guideline, and the more prominent the publication generally the more hoops you’re going to have to jump through in order to get published there. But the submission guidelines are going to tell you what type of articles they accept, the process for submission, style guidelines, and then what materials you need to submit. Most often that’s going to be a detail bio, a portfolio of published clips, and clips are your links to any articles that you’ve published on the web, or PDFs of articles that you published in print.
And finally you’ll need a query letter. And that’s your story idea, or article pitch. So we’ll talk about query letters in more detail later. So Submission Guidelines aren’t always easy to find, and they’re not always called Submission Guidelines. So you might have to do a little bit of digging. You can google submission guidelines, or author guidelines, or writer’s guidelines, and then the name of the publication. Put that in your browser and sometimes that’ll bring up the guidelines. Another thing you can do is go to the webpage and check out the footer.
So say for example you want to publish an article in the ABA Journal. The ABA Journal is a magazine published by the American Bar Association, and it’s read by about half a million attorneys every month. So here’s a screenshot of their homepage, and if you scroll down to the footer there is a link to tips and pitches. So clicking on that will bring you to their submission guidelines. So here’s the tips and pitches page, and this is very typical of a lot of submission guidelines, it’s going to tell you what they don’t accept, they don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. So that tells you that you’re going to have to pitch…you’re going to have to send a query letter and you’re going to have to pitch your idea. They also don’t accept byline articles, instructional essays, law review commentaries, or op ed pieces.
This also tells you who writes for them. They say staff reporters, and freelance journalists, professional writers, and writers…potential sources who wish to contact them regarding subjects that might be of interest. So this says that you might, you know if you’re interested, be able to pitch an idea to this publication. What you’ll need to submit is your resume, your published clips, and your query. And then finally it provides some style guidelines that says please include only articles that conform to journalistic standards with multiple sources or opposing points of view. I’m not sure if you can read it, it’s not very big on the screen. But just again it’s right on their webpage and the URL is at the top.
So once you figure out how to submit to the publications of your choice, if they don’t accept unsolicited articles, and again those larger, national publications most likely don’t, you’re going to want to develop a strong query letter. Major media outlets receive hundreds of these every week. So you really need to make yours stand out. And the key is developing a pitch that’s targeted to your publications. Pitching is really an art, I mean there’s entire books written about this process. So there is a right way to pitch, and a wrong way to pitch. And we’ll talk a little bit more about the right way to structure your query letter. But as I mentioned earlier it’s really best to pitch the article first before writing it.
If you write your article first and send it in, you just might be wasting valuable time creating an article that’s ultimately going to be rejected. So here are the five elements of a query letter. And I’ll go over each in a little more detail. But the five elements are personalization, hook, synopsis, platform and closing. Personalization is a lot like writing a resume and a cover letter. You want to do a little bit of research on who you’re sending it to. And if you can find the name of an editor, a particular editor that you want to pitch your article to, that’s really ideal. And of course you’re going to want to make sure that you always follow the submission guidelines.
When I was an Editor I received dozens of pitches a week, and a lot of those pitches were very generic. And some of them were not targeted to a legal publication at all. So it’s really important to personalize your letter and make sure that it’s well thought out and targeted to the publication. So one of the most important aspects of a query letter is your hook. A hook is a strong opening sentence that grabs the reader. You want it to be sure and concise, and the goal here is to entice the editor to read the entire query letter. Again they get hundreds of them, a lot of them go into the garbage. So you want a strong opening sentence that grabs the reader. You want it to short and concise. And the goal here is to entice the editor to read the entire query letter.
Again they get hundreds of them, a lot of them go into the garbage. So you want a strong hook that really going to grab them. Some ideas for strong hooks are breaking news, or controversial angle, or an inside scoop, or just a fresh approach to a popular topic. Your hook should be one paragraph, and ideally one sentence, but really no more than one to three sentences. So here’s an example of a weak hook and a stronger hook. And this is a pitch to a legal publication that is distributed to all the law schools in the country about changing trends in law school education.
So a really weak opening sentence would be I’d like to write an article for your publication about new trends in legal education. This is not very exciting, it’s not very creative, and it doesn’t entice that reader to want to learn more. A better hook would be a quiet evolution is occurring within the nation’s law schools. A change in legal climate, fiscal constraints, and a burgeoning caseloads are creating a market for law graduates who can hit the ground running. So this hook is a little more specific, and attention grabbing, and you know it is a little on the wordy side but again the idea here is to raise the Editor’s interest, and encourage them to read a little bit more, and ultimately assign you the article.
So the next element of a query letter is the synopsis. The synopsis is an outline of the proposed article. And in this section you are going to elaborate on what your article’s going to cover. So you might propose a title, you’ll discuss the topics that you’re going to cover, you’ll discuss expert sources that you’re going to quote. You might suggest the word count, you might even suggest potential sidebars that you’ll feature. And you also might want to suggest where it’s going to fit within that publication, or on the publication’s online channel. So for example if you’re writing a career piece you might mention that it would fit well in their career column.
The idea here is to make the Editor’s job easy and convince them to assign the article to you. So the synopsis is really the body of your query letter, and it should be one to three paragraphs, three short paragraphs at the very most. This is just an example of a synopsis and it says “My proposed article Education Innovation will discuss the new breed of legal education, incorporating insights from students, educators, and law graduates. I will discuss some of the news, skills, intensive offerings, the reasons behind this departure from docturnal courses, and how graduates of these programs are fairing in the legal marketplace. The article will also highlight a number of law schools that espouse this new breed of legal education.
So here a title’s been proposed, they’ve outlined what will be discussed, they’ve suggested some sources, students, educators, law graduates. They suggested a sidebar. Just kind of gives you an idea of how to structure the synopsis. The next element of the query letter is the platform. You know this is why are you the right person to write the article. And this is essentially your bio. You’re going to want to market yourself in a way that’s going to convince the publication that you are the right person to write on this topic. So you know a one size fits all bio is really not the best approach here. You’re going to want to customize your bio for each publication, so that you can emphasize the most relevant and compelling aspects of your background.
Some things that you can include is a discussion of your experience and background, links to your published clips, you might mention any honors, or awards, or accolades you’ve received, your education. And some publications want a professional photo as well that they’ll publish with your bio. And again the whole idea of this is to convince them that you are the right person to write this article, so they don’t assign it to another person if they like the idea.
So finally the last element of a query letter is the closing, and this is just a brief sentence thanking the editor for considering your query. The goal here is to make a strong impression, and convince the editor to assign the story to you. Your entire query letter really shouldn’t be more than three or four paragraphs and you never want it to be more than one page long. It’s kind of like a cover letter, you know you want to grab them, keep it on one page, or it’s just is not going to be read. So say like you’ve pitched an idea to a publication and they assign the article to you. That is really the hard part, that’s the biggest hurdle, writing the article is the easy part. Because you’ve already done all the research, the preliminary research, you’ve identified your sources, you’ve outlined what you’re going to write about. Now it’s just about writing the article itself.
When you’re writing it, just a couple of tips, always follow their writing guidelines if there are any that are forwarded or online for the publication. You also want to make sure that you’re following the publication’s word count requirements. That’s very important especially for print publications. You also want to study other articles in the publication on their website to make sure that you’re matching your style and tone to the publication. Every website and every publication has their own voice. So you want to make sure that your voice is matching theirs. That makes the editor’s job a lot easier. So unless you’re writing for a scholarly journal you don’t want to write a law review style article with dense footnotes.
Again think about the publication’s target audience when you’re writing. Always think about your audience when you’re writing your article. You also, as I mentioned earlier, you want to include links to your website, and social media accounts where ever you can. If that’s in your bio, or if that’s in the body of the article, you know if you can include those links that’s a real bonus. So you know finally you don’t ever want to miss a deadline. That is a cardinal rule, and you know submit it early if possible, that can earn you some bonus points.
Making your article easy to edit, and being easy to work with is really going to pave the way to publishing other articles with that media outlet. So the final step in getting published is building relationships with editors, and journalists and staff writers. This is an ongoing process, it takes a little time but it really can bring a lot of rewards. There’s three rules here, again never miss a deadline, always follow the instructions, and being easy to work with. And those three things are really going to set you apart from a lot of other writers. So again you know relationship building takes time but it’s definitely worthwhile because other publishing and guest posting opportunities can grow out of these relationships.
The final thing that I want to do is just offer a list of legal publications that accept articles from practicing attorneys and legal professionals. This is not a comprehensive list of every legal publication out there, but it is definitely a starting point. So you might want to check out some of these publications and determine if they’re a good fit for your interest, and your practice focus. And you might want to try pitching these publications and start building our own portfolio of published works. So that concludes the seminar for today. We are going to be posting the webinar on our blog within the next couple of weeks, so you’ll be able to see the slides and view the presentation there. So here is the URL for our blog. I’ve also listed our Facebook page, and our Twitter account if you’d like to visit our social media pages. And if you want to contact me with any questions I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So I hope this webinar was helpful. Thanks for joining me today, and I hope you enjoy the rest of your day. Again any questions feel free to reach out to me by email. Bye bye.
Transcription provided by Speechpad.