What follows is common sense, but you’d be surprised at how many novice writers skip too many of the suggestions on this list. You can get a leg up on the competition by following these to a T. And if you’re primarily a fiction writer, you’ll find much of this advice applies to short stories too. – Jerry J.

Guest blog by Karla Dial and Diane McDougall

1. When pitching for the first time, study the publication to make sure your idea fits their mission.

2. Find and follow their writers’ guidelines (most will be online).

3. If your pitch is not accepted, thank the editor for considering it.

Be known as someone enjoyable to work with.

4. If your pitch is accepted, make sure you’re clear on the deadline and word count.

Be prepared for rewriting requests.

5. Study the publication again to see how stories are formatted.

  • Do they all have titles?
  • Decks and/or bylines?
  • Do they break up the copy with subheads?
  • Do they include footnotes or taglines for the author at the end?

Whatever you see, DO THAT. The easier you make an editor’s job, the more likely he or she will keep hiring you.

6. Remember, if you submit your piece after close of business on the day of the deadline, you’ve missed the deadline.

If you think you’ll need more time, let the editor know as early in the process as possible. Nobody wants to scramble to fill a hole at the last minute.

7. If an editor sends back edited copy for more information or revisions, work with the edited copy, not your original file.

Don’t make the editor do the same work twice.

8. Don’t be a diva.

Learn to graciously defend your work, but also know when to let things go.

There’s room for discussion, but in the end, the editor is on your side, while also being responsible for preserving missional integrity as well as the publication’s standards.


Compiled by Karla Dial, editor of Citizen magazine, with input from Diane McDougall, editorial director for Journey Group. Adapted with permission from EPA Liaison, Winter 2017-2018.


In the Comments, tell what you learned or were reminded of from this list.

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