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If you want to get your work into Time magazine, here's some good news: You've got a shot. The magazine employs a pretty compact staff of writers and editors, so it relies on freelance contributors for much of its content. Here's how to throw your hat into the freelance ring.
You want to fire the starting gun on your article long before you pitch it. Make some of the most important phone calls; get your biggest questions answered, and begin to form a picture of how you want your article to be structured. This will help you make a stronger pitch and show your editor you're serious about this story.
Remember that monthly magazines like Time work at a slower pace than other types of news platforms, so make sure the story you're pitching is fairly evergreen. If your story idea won't be relevant three to six months after you've pitched it, that's not a good start. Pick a topic that lasts.
Construct a Pre-Pitch Email
Harry McCracken, former editor-at-large for Time magazine, raised eyebrows in 2013 when he published some particularly bad pitches on his Facebook page. These were story ideas pitched by public relations professionals, but the advice he later gave about them can apply to all types of pitches: McCracken said he wouldn't read a pitch with an irrelevant email subject line or one that didn't get to the point as quickly as possible.
Avoid those mistakes with a pre-pitch email, in which you give an editor a brief, basic idea of the story you're working on. This is also a great opportunity to name-drop if you have a connection or referral to the editor you're emailing. Ask the editor to let you know if she wants the full pitch – if she does, you can send a longer, more detailed email.
Find the Right Editor to Pitch
Time lists the names and positions of its editorial management and editorial staff in its media kit online. Their email addresses aren't directly listed there, but the magazine generally uses the following email address format: "Firstname_lastname@timeinc.com."
Peruse Time's editorial management staff to find out which editor is most relevant for the story you're pitching, and then go forward with the pre-pitch email.
Follow Up With a Full Pitch
If the editor responds positively to your pre-pitch, send over the full idea. A full magazine pitch should be around five paragraphs long, reaching one or one and a half pages in length.
Construct your pitch something like this:
- Paragraph 1: Hook the reader, and prove to the editor that you can write in a compelling fashion.
- Paragraph 2: Convince your reader that the story is important.
- Paragraph 3: Convince your reader that the story affects (or is relevant to) real people in real ways.
- Paragraph 4: Detail your plan for reporting the story, naming specific sources. If you have travel plans for the reporting, say so.
- Paragraph 5: Remind the editor what question your story will answer and why the answer is important to the world – and, more specifically, to Time magazine's readers.
Editors are some of the busiest people out there. If you don't hear back for a week or two after sending your full pitch, follow up. You don't have to send the pitch again, but email the editor asking whether he's had a chance to read through it yet.
Keep following up until you get an answer – and if Time ends up turning you down, take your pitch elsewhere. Persistence is key.
Brenna Swanston is a freelance writer, editor and journalist. She previously reported for the Sun newspaper in Santa Maria, California, and she holds a bachelor's in journalism from California Polytechnic State University.