5 Steps to Capture and Keep the Editor's Interest

Editors are busy, busy, busy people. 

So you'll want to capture their interest quickly. 

But how do you do that? 

The 5 steps listed below may seem obvious, but you'd be surprised at how often writers do not follow these steps.

1. Analyze the magazine or publisher before you submit. An article about training your dog wouldn't be of much interest to Cat Fancy, unless it was about training your dog to get along with your cat. Know the topics the magazine covers, their tone and slant, article length, style, and their target audience. For a more in depth explanation, read "How to analyze a magazine." 

If you are submitting a manuscript to a publisher, study their catalog (sometimes available online) or the titles listed on their website, or visit the local bookstore and study the publishers who publish your genre.

2. Write a proper query letter. Simply writing “Here is my submission” is a definite no-no. And believe me I have received just such emails.
  • Address it to a specific editor
  • First sentence should hook the editor just like the first sentence of your article or story should hook the reader
  • Second paragraph a bit more about the article and why you are the one who should write it
  • Third paragraph is your publication credits, if you don’t have any don’t mention it

For more, read “Do You Query Properly?” Additionally, there are whole books written about writing queries. Check your local library.

3. Study the writers/submission guidelines and follow them to the letter. An industry standard is
  • Name, address, and contact info to include your email and web address if you have a website
  • Times New Roman
  • 11-12 pt. font
  • double spaced
  • 1 inch margins all around
  • word count of article

A serif font (like Times New Roman) is easier to read than a san serif font (like Arial).  Remember, editors read manuscript after manuscript and their eyes grow weary. These guidelines are designed to make reading and editing easier for the editor.

Many magazines state how a submission is to be made, the specifics of their columns, what research is required, what they do not accept, and much, much more. So read them thoroughly.

Many publishing houses do not accept unsolicited manuscripts, but require manuscripts to be submitted by a literary agent or agency. 

So save yourself time and heartache by submitting correctly and to place that want your topic/genre. 

4. Write a proper book proposal if you are submitting a book manuscript.
What publishers want in the proposal varies widely. Most common items are a
  • cover letter written much like a query letter
  • synopsis of story
  • the target audience for your book
  • market overview or competition
  • marketing plan
  • bio of author
  • chapter outline (for nonfiction primarily)
  • sample chapters

Writing a book proposal can be more difficult than writing the book.

5. Before submitting, review your article. Look for
  • correct spelling (do not rely on spell check)
  • grammar
  • punctuation
  • word count within the specified guidelines
  • written in the tone, slant, and style of the magazine you’re submitting to

Know your craft. Do not submit the first draft you write thinking an editor will fix it. Write the best article (or book) you can and submit that. 

These 5 steps don't guarantee your article idea or manuscript will be accepted, but they most certainly increase your chances of the editor asking for the full manuscript.

Debra L. Butterfield is a freelance editor as well as the nonfiction editor for CrossRiver Media Group. Her most recent book, Carried by Grace: A Guide for Mothers of Victims of Sexual Abuse, releases in late 2014. She is a contributor to Miracles and Moments of Grace: Inspiring Stories of Survival, 2014 Penned from the Heart, and The Benefit Package. Her editorial credits include the award-winning teen devotional This I Know. Visit her blog at DebraLButterfield.com


  1. Lots of practical advice. Thank you for insight into an editor's mind.