Feature Writing: Commissioning Features

Research Your Publication

When pitching a feature, you must make sure what you want to write will fit with the publication you want to write for. Make sure you have read and are familiar with the style of the publication.

Check that your feature is original and that nothing similar has been covered by the publication already.

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Check that you can practically carry out the research for the piece, that you can interview the people you need to and that you have time to write your piece.

Target the right person at the publication you want your feature to go to. You can call the newsdesk and ask who that might be. Prepare a summary (explain briefly the synopsis of the story, who you will be interviewing, and what the angle or peg is) and submit it to that person. Be careful not to give too much information away though, it has been known for publications to steal ideas without crediting the correct person.

Think Timing

If you want to do a piece for Valentines Day you need to make sure you send your idea to a publication early enough to be considered but not too early that it isn’t relevant yet.

If you have a piece about smoking and know that National No Smoking Day is coming up, make sure to have it sent to a publication a few weeks before that day.

Timing is everything.

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Your Commissioning Editor

Make sure you have all the details of your commissioning editor including their name and job title with correct spelling. If you can’t get these right, how can you expect the editor to pick your work when their could be further mistakes?  Also check how you are meant to submit your piece: via email, post or fax?

Accepted

Once you have your idea accepted by a commissioning editor, you need to know how long the feature should be and your deadline for writing it. The editor may give you a specific angle to work with or other ideas that fit in with what they are planning for their publication. If you are given a brief ensure you understand what is expected of you.

Contacts

As has been said in previous posts, it is important to have an up-to-date contacts book with people that can help you when it comes to researching your feature. It may be helpful to list commissioning editors who have used your pieces and been particularly helpful  and approachable. Perhaps keep cuttings of the features you get published too.

Getting Paid

Once your idea has been commissioned you should ask how much you’re being paid and when. Do not expect to get paid until after publication of the feature. You may have to chase unpaid invoices until you become a regular contributor for the publication (since you won’t be registered on their accounting system).

Don’t Take Rejection Personally

With strict timings and many other writers pitching their ideas too, competition is high and time will run out – it’s important not to feel knocked down. If an idea doesn’t get used file it for another time and try again later.

NOTES IN THIS POST ARE FROM: SUSAN PAPE AND SUE FEATHERSTONE, 2006, FEATURE WRITING: A PRACTICAL INTRODUCTION, LONDON: SAGE. P140 – 149 (CHAPTER 11)
I DO NOT OWN THE ABOVE IMAGES, THEY ARE FROM: http://www.wisegeek.org/what-is-magazine-advertising.htm and http://associationsnow.com/2013/02/the-different-shades-of-magazine-publishing/.
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