How to Approach a Publisher with Your Ideas

“Michael, what is the best way to approach a publisher about a piece you want to write? I have in mind writing a paper on the benefits of renovation, including the use of ‘green’ technology, as opposed to selling an existing home and buying a new one in today’s mortgage/credit climate.

“Would it be better to write it and then try to shop it around? Or ask first and write later?

“I have gotten much out of your pieces in ETR, and hopefully will for years to come.”

John C. Lee

San Diego, CA

Dear John,

First of all, getting an article published depends partly on how long it is and where you want to place it. Every publication has its own guidelines. You can find out what they are simply by calling or e-mailing and asking. That gives you a foot in the door and a name to reference. Follow the protocol the publication requires.

This makes sense for two reasons: (1) Your article (or article idea) won’t be rejected because you have insulted the editor (by not knowing the guidelines). And (2) you will have a much better chance of getting your article in the publication if it is written in the style and expresses the viewpoint that the editor favors. Trying to get an article published without knowing the publication is amateurish and nearly hopeless.

When pitching your article, stress your qualifications. Also explain exactly how the article is going to add to what the publication has already said on the subject. (You won’t be able to do that unless you know the publication.) Finally, indicate why you think the article should be popular with that publication’s readers.

If that sounds like a lot of work, it is. So take a step back and ask yourself why you want to publish the article in the first place. Are you simply trying to get your idea in print? Or do you want to further your career by establishing yourself as an expert in your field (a subject we’ve covered several times in ETR)? If so, you’d better have good credentials to begin with. Otherwise, start a blog.

– Michael Masterson

[Ed. Note: Send your questions to Include your full name, your hometown and state, and the ETR team may answer you in an upcoming issue.] [Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]