The ATA Chronicle, Sept./Oct. 2016
Who hasn’t daydreamed about making the cover of a magazine? Admit it. Most of us have done it at some point in our lives, perhaps to momentarily escape the routine or the stresses of daily life, or simply out of curiosity to try and imagine what it would be like. Perhaps you saw yourself as a movie star, a writer, a political leader or an inventor, and for a few moments you dared to dream.
What if this dream could come true? From trade publications to arts & crafts magazines to local newspapers, the world abounds with publications that are keen to share inspiring, thought-provoking stories and ideas. Opportunities to be visible and share your stories and ideas are just a few steps away.
Such an opportunity was given to me a few weeks ago, when the ATA Chronicle — the official publication of the American Translators Association (ATA) — asked for my permission to use one of my photos on their cover. This was an immense honour. With readers in over 100 countries, the magazine instantly raised my profile in the industry and recognised over a year of work on a topic I feel passionate about.
I hadn’t planned to appear on the cover of a magazine, but with hindsight I was able to identify the various steps that led to this fortunate outcome. I’d like to share these steps with you today to help you to make your own mark with your own stories and ideas, be it locally, nationally or perhaps even internationally.
10 TIPS TO MAKE THE COVER OF A MAGAZINE:
1 – FIND YOUR TRIBE
Sometimes it pays to be a big fish in a small pond. It’s certainly a valid business model, and it applies here too. Targeting a specific audience or “tribe” will make it easier for you to stand out from the crowd, establish yourself as an expert, build trust and make yourself heard.
After working for 15 years as a French translator, I decided to follow my second passion and qualify as a coach. Rather than offering my coaching services to everybody and anybody, it made sense for me to target freelance translators as my tribe. Just 6 months after starting a blog, I received an invitation to talk at a translation conference in Norway. This was quickly followed by other invitations to talk around the world, which soon led to the cover illustrated above.
My tribe has now expanded to include other freelancers and passionate people, but it remains a tribe. What is your tribe? Who do you share ideas and values with?
For more information about tribes, see Seth Godin’s TED Talk.
2 – SHARE A STORY
Story-telling is intrinsic to human communications. We told stories and learned from listening to stories long before we could read and write. In today’s information age, story-telling is still in our DNA.
Telling a story will help you to connect with your readers and inspire them, especially if they can relate to it on an emotional level. In the first few paragraphs of the article that made the cover of the ATA Chronicle, I tell my readers about a night I spent thinking about becoming a public speaker. I chose to tell a personal story, but your story doesn’t have to be personal. It can be the story of someone you know, a well-known figure, or a case study.
What has surprised you or inspired you lately? What can you tell us about it?
For more information about the secrets of story-telling, see Carmine Gallo’s Talk at Google.
3 – OFFER A NEW, UNEXPECTED ANGLE ON A TOPICAL ISSUE
Today’s world is bursting with information. From official news sites to blog posts and tweets, information pours into our lives throughout the day, and even the night. How can you make yourself heard in such a noisy environment? How can you catch people’s attention?
One way to attract a large readership is to write about a topical issue, i.e. a topic everybody is talking about within your tribe. However, this alone won’t make you standout. The Internet is full of posts that are simply saying the same thing over and over again. To stand out from the crowd, you need to offer a new, unexpected angle.
I chose to write an article about change in the translation industry, including change brought by machine translation (MT). This hotly-debated topic among translators is widely covered by blogs and articles that tend to either promote the latest advances in MT or ridicule them. As a coach, I approached the issue from three different angles: the technological side of change, the human side of change and the business side of change. As far as I was aware, no one had done it before.
What is your tribe talking about? What are they interested in? What new perspectives can you bring to the debate?
4 – DON’T BE AFRAID TO UPSET A FEW PEOPLE
“If you can’t please them, upset them”. This piece of advice is often given to people who want to make some noise and get noticed, but I wouldn’t recommend you upset people deliberately. Having said that, don’t be afraid to upset or anger a few people with your ideas. Writing banalities and clichés won’t get you anywhere. Besides, you can’t please everybody. Some people won’t like what you say but as long as you say it in a manner that isn’t meant to be offensive or hurtful, it’s OK.
Writing about MT was slightly risky. This topic angers quite a few translators and, as expected, I received a few negative comments. That’s absolutely fine. I don’t claim to be the truth-bearer, I’m only interested in introducing people to different perspectives. They have a right to reject my ideas.
What ideas might stir up some emotions among your readers? How can you present them in a way that encourages a constructive debate?
5 – WRITE WELL OR FIND SOMEONE WHO CAN
It goes without saying that your article should be well written. If writing isn’t your forte, you can either ask someone who can write to edit your copy, or ask someone else to write it for you (depending on how much work they put in, it may be appropriate to mention their name as the author or co-author of the article). In most cases, your article will also be edited by the publication’s editor who will send a revised copy to you for your approval.
One of the challenges of our time is information overload. Conciseness is widely appreciated. Keep your paragraphs short and to the point, and structure your article in a way that makes it easy for the reader to follow your thought processes. Let someone read your article before you submit it, and ask for feedback.
Who could help you to write your article? Who would be happy to read it before you submit it?
6 – POLISH YOUR IMAGE
“Image is everything”. This may not be true, but when it comes to making the cover of a magazine, image is certainly important, and it isn’t limited to what you wear. Your body language, your posture, the tone of your voice (and of your text), everything will need to reflect what the publication is looking for.
Of course the clothes that you wear are important too, and the occasion will usually dictate the dress code. One of the benefits of writing for your tribe is that your style is likely to match theirs. If you write for a gardening magazine, casual clothes, and perhaps a pair of wellies, will do the job nicely!
How would you describe your image? Does it match the style of your tribe? Of the magazine?
7 – PROVIDE A HIGH QUALITY PHOTO TO ILLUSTRATE YOUR ARTICLE
Another way to catch readers’ attention is to provide images with your article. Ideally, your photo will show you in action. It is so easy to take snaps these days, but for your photo to be selected for the cover of the magazine, it will have to be of a professional quality. The resolution will need to be high enough to allow printing on an A4 cover, or in any other format.
If someone else took the photo, you will need their permission to publish it. And if other people are in the shot, you will need their permission too.
What kind of shot will best illustrate your article? How can you ensure it is of a high quality? Can your photo be easily cropped for printing on a cover?
8 – BE POLITE AND HELPFUL
Magazine editors receive a lot of emails and have to work against tight deadlines. Submit your piece on time, follow any guidelines, approve the edits unless you have a valid reason not to (in which case explain politely why you’re rejecting them), and check the final proof promptly. If you can, provide your own photos, as this will save them having to pay for stock images.
This will go a long way in helping you to build a strong and long-lasting relationship with the magazine and be selected for a cover feature.
9 – BE PATIENT
“Rome wasn’t built in a day”. It may take a few months before your article is published. This is because the magazine may have specific topics they wish to cover with each issue.
I was given a deadline for publication the following month. However, by the time the issue was published (without my article), I still hadn’t heard back from the editor. I emailed him to let him know that I was considering publishing my article on my blog if my chosen topic wasn’t suitable for the magazine. No answer. I assumed my piece had been rejected.
I prepared to publish my article online, but then decided to wait. Thank goodness! Two months after the submission date, I finally received an email from the editor. He wanted to use my article as a cover feature for the next issue. Had I rushed into sharing it online, I might have ruined my chances of making the cover.
If your article is rejected by a magazine, this isn’t the end of the world. Don’t give up. Write more articles, submit the same article to another publication, or publish it online and promote it via social media. Your tribe will appreciate your contribution.
10 – Have faith
Things often fall into place in an unexpected act of serendipity. You’re in the right place, at the right time. A chance encounter leads to a fruitful collaboration. A door closes, only to let a better one open.
I hadn’t planned to write an article for the ATA Chronicle. I had in fact submitted a proposal for a talk at the next ATA conference, where over 1,500 delegates were expected. It was sadly rejected, and the committee suggested I write something for their magazine instead. Disappointed, I nonetheless obliged, deciding that it was better than nothing.
I had already given the talk at another conference in Prague, Czech Republic, where the organiser had arranged for professional photos to be taken for marketing purposes. I sent one of the photos to the magazine in case they might want to print it with the article. Then I completely forgot about it.
As it turned out, ATA had asked the magazine to use photos of real translators on the cover whenever possible. My photo fitted the bill perfectly, and with it three parties were granted their wishes: the magazine featured a real translator on its cover, the organiser of the Prague conference was delighted with the exposure, and I was introduced to over 10,000 readers — far more people than I would have reached through a talk. It was as if Life had had a better plan than mine all along.
When did you last experience serendipity? What happened? What could you do to increase your luck?
If you would like to read my article in the online version of the ATA Chronicle, please click here.
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