Secrets of a Trade Editor

I know you’ve heard it before, but editors are just people. How do I know this? Because until last month I was an editor. I worked for Pet Business Magazine, a trade magazine covering the pet industry for independent mom and pop pet storeowners.

 

Trade magazines, also known as business-to-business publications, are an under-exploited opportunity for freelancers. Many have an itty-bitty staff, which means a large portion of the magazine is freelanced.

For example, Pet Business’ editorial team was three people strong, and we produced Pet Business (the company’s main pet publication and a monthly), Grooming Business (a sister publication for pet grooming businesses and a bi-monthly), The Pet Elite (a quarterly publication for elite pet boutiques) and The Pet Aisle (targeted at mass and grocery channels and produced three times a year). In addition to handling a variety of magazines, we were responsible for producing supplemental editions–five annual publications that mailed along with Pet Business covering niches within the industry in greater detail.

That’s a lot of articles and a lot of words for three people to produce. In fact, it’s more than three people CAN produce. So the majority of each of our issues was freelanced out.

Writers can figure out if this is a case at a trade magazine by checking out the publication’s masthead. This also serves another purpose–it tells you who to send your pitch to.

Every publication handles things a little differently, but generally trade magazines don’t try to hide their editor’s emails nearly as well as consumer magazines do; they are often printed right there in the masthead.

Once you’ve found the editors’ email addresses, you can figure out which sections of the magazine to pitch by checking the Table of Contents (TOC). Most magazines include each article’s byline right there in the TOC–compare a few issues and see which sections are always written by the same person and which change from month-to-month. The more often and varied the byline for a section, the more likely it’s open to freelancers.

Once you’ve figured out who to pitch and what sections you can pitch pieces for, you need to figure out what kind of stories to pitch. Hopefully, if you’ve figured out which sections you can pitch for, this step is fairly easy, but the number one mistake freelancers make when pitching trade magazines is misunderstanding the audience.

Not all trade magazines go out to all types of professionals within that industry. For example, Pet Business was not targeted at veterinarians and we had a separate magazine for grooming businesses. We were also not targeted at publically traded major chain stores, like PetSmart or Petco–although independently owned chains were considered within our audience.

If you can get your hands on a magazine’s media kit it will likely tell you exactly who the magazine’s audience is. If you can’t, check out the company’s website and look for any information targeted at advertisers. The magazine will typically include information on its readers there.

Finally, when you pitch the editors remember: they’re just people. Some prefer to hear from you via email while others prefer a phone call. Try one thing and if it doesn’t work, try the other. Be friendly, but professional–and before you know it, they may be calling you with assignments.

Anything you want to know about pitching trade pubs or what it’s like working for one? Ask away in the comments’ section!

 

Photo Credit: B R E N T

Melissa Breau

Melissa Breau spent the last three years as an editor at a magazine but in 2011 decided to launch full speed ahead into the freelance life. She currently offers copywriting for small businesses and professional editing for authors, as well as blog posts on each of the above, over at melissabreau.com.

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