Posts

Stop submitting articles as PDFs!

Please don’t submit your unsolicited articles to editors as PDFs. In my role as the editor of a monthly magazine, I find PDFs frustrating. They tempt me to trash an article immediately. (Of course, ignore my advice if a publication asks you to submit articles as PDFs.)

Why do authors send PDFs?

None of my writer friends could understand why authors would submit articles as PDFs. I imagine that perhaps the writers want to protect their intellectual property. I think this because before sending me a Microsoft Word document, a writer has—very rarely—asked me to swear that I won’t use their article without their permission.

A PDF offers some protection because copying an article from a PDF can be challenging if the author has locked the PDF with a password. Even if there’s no password, it can be time-consuming to copy-paste from the PDF or to fix mistakes that sneak in when a PDF is converted to a Microsoft Word document.

Or, perhaps the authors want to preserve their articles’ formatting. That formatting doesn’t matter to me—at least not when I’m assessing whether an article is potentially publishable.

Why I prefer Microsoft Word

I want an article that’s easy for me to edit/rewrite, format, and rearrange. Microsoft Word is much better for all of that than Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is the Adobe program most often used by writers and editors. I’ll often move blocks of text in my quest to make an article publishable. I can’t do that in a PDF.

PDFs are useful later

However, PDFs are useful once the production staff formats articles for publication. Then, they offer the advantage of letting me see how the article will look once it’s professionally printed (or distributed as a PDF or published to a website). They also make it somewhat easier to track who suggests which changes.

I couldn’t live without PDFs when I’m reviewing the layout of the monthly magazine that I edit. But, please don’t send any editor your articles as PDFs unless the editor has asked you to do so.

 

Managing magazine articles

As you may know, I edit a monthly magazine for financial advisors. I’m typically juggling tasks for several issues of the magazine at one time. In case you’re struggling with a similar project—for example, managing a multi-contributor blog—I’m sharing my checklist for each issue of the magazine.

I create a checklist that lists all of the articles in the left-hand column, and all of the steps that an article can go through across the top.

Here’s an image of the top of my checklist. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Monthly Checklist

Here’s what each column means.

  • Word count” is in the second column because length affects how many articles I can squeeze into one issue.
  • The “author” column tracks whether I’ve sent an article to the writer for clarification. You’ll notice there are two columns labeled “author.” I sometimes contact authors before sending an article to my assistant editor to review. I typically send articles to the authors after my assistant editor has reviewed them in addition to me. Unless our changes are minimal, I give authors a chance to check that our edits haven’t introduced inaccuracies into the articles.
  • The “assistant editor” column tracks if I’ve put the article in my email outbox to wait until I’ve collected enough to send them to my assistant editor for review.
  • I don’t always have time to “read aloud,” as mentioned in the sixth column, but it’s a great way to find mistakes that our eyes often gloss over. It’s a technique that I discuss in “Why I love Adobe Acrobat Pro for proofreading” (note that I now use the text-to-speech feature in Microsoft Word instead of converting to Acrobat).
  • Spell check” refers not only to the spell-checking feature of Microsoft Word, but also to the tools I mention in “My three main software tools for proofreading.”
  • The “NOTES” column I make notes for the person who oversees the magazine’s production.

 

I hope you find this table helpful in managing an important process in your work life.

Quit sending irrelevant press releases!

As the editor of a monthly magazine, I receive many irrelevant press releases. All that those press releases achieve is to annoy the heck out of me. Your lesson from this? Quit sending irrelevant press releases.

Learn what topics are relevant

How do you learn what’s relevant?

Of course, the fastest solution may be to phone the magazine to ask, but you can do less-personal research. First, look at a sample or two of the magazine to figure out if it covers topics relevant to your organization.

If flipping the magazine’s pages doesn’t answer that question, look for the magazine’s information aimed at advertisers, which may be called a media kit. These materials often list the topics covered by the magazine. Plus, they typically describe the magazine’s readership giving you an idea of whether those readers are an attractive target for you.

Figure out if the magazine has a place to use your information

Your next hurdle is to figure out if the magazine might do something with your press release. Just because your topic is relevant to the magazine doesn’t mean the magazine can use it.

Earlier in my career, I worked for a publication with a column that ran snippets from press releases about new products and the like. There was also a press release-fueled column about new hires and promotions. If you find a similar column in your target population, add it to your press release list. If you don’t find a column that relies on press releases as fodder, look at the magazine’s articles. Are they written by professional writers who interview sources like you? Then the magazine may be an appropriate target.

In my current role, I don’t have similar columns, except for a column that highlights media mentions for members only. Also, the magazine relies on articles written by financial services experts, so I’m not going to interview your experts for an article. I’m a bit cranky about the many press releases I receive because there’s virtually no press release or interview pitch that’s appropriate for me.

The organization that I work for has filters to screen out press releases. If your press release sneaks through, I set up a rule to direct your future emails into a PR folder, never to be seen again.

A realist’s perspective on irrelevant press releases

I’m a realist. I figure you’re probably going to continue sending press releases. However, realize your releases may get ignored, or even marked as spam. But, occasionally, you may get a good results that makes it all seem worthwhile.

 

For another one of my cranky posts about press releases, read “Quit sending press releases as attachments!