A Designers Guide to Getting Published

By:  Robert J. Klob

One of the most effective methods to market your design abilities is to have you or your business published in a magazine.  The publication lives on in perpetuity and can be used to give you credibility over your competition.

Many designers don’t feel they can be published or their work isn’t good enough.  Do you have a client success story?  Did you have a positive experience working with a product or service?  Does your business do something different than other design professionals? Have you won an award?  Can you write about your experiences?  If you said yes to any of these questions, you are qualified to be published.

My first publication came about by accident.  I called a local Builder/Architect magazine in 2005 to inquire about placing an ad.  I quickly found out the cost of advertising, and that an ad needs to be in the same location, issue after issue in order to get noticed.  Think about how many times you have skimmed one of the many publications we all get every month – how many of those ads did you really notice or pay attention to?  All I saw was dollars going out the door with only hope that some would come back.

When I discussed what I do with the editor, she said that she was looking for new content for an upcoming issue and asked if I would be interested in writing an article.  I said I wasn’t qualified because I had never written an article before – she said that’s not a problem.  Their readers wanted something real, not something a “for hire” professional writer does.  She was more interested in actual experience than a Pulitizer.  She also said that I could have 3 pages, with pictures and a full contact area within the article.  I quickly did the math – ¼ page ad for thousands of dollars, or 3 full pages for free.  It wasn’t a hard decision.

This has turned into nearly 50 articles in about a dozen regional and national publications.  I have a regular design related article in a national magazine and have been featured on several cover stories for another (your image is on the cover and it is the main story in the magazine).  I was interviewed by Smart Money Magazine about home building and just this year was a contributor for an article about Disaster Proof Housing for Popular Sicience.  Bottom line, my phone rings EVERY time a new article is published with my name and contact in it…and it has only cost me a little bit of my time.

How do you get started?  There are magazines for EVERYTHING!  The big national, general purpose magazines can be difficult to get in when you are starting out.  Publications like Builder, Custom Home or Remodeling rarely have a lack of content – they have the most seasoned professionals vying for their attention.  The easiest magazines to get published are small regional publications or specialty magazines.  Find one that shares a common interest in your business.  Maybe you have a local magazine for building, design or remodeling.  Another idea are regional real estate magazines.  Have you designed a “Man Cave” or a unique garage?  What about Audio Visual or an automotive magazine?  Did you design a unique roof for one of your homes – there are many roofing magazines. Think outside the box.

Once you have narrowed down the types of magazine you want to be published in, you need a relevant topic.  Find something that makes you or your designs unique or find a product that you really enjoy working with.  You need to be able to show a passion and excitement in your article.  You need to talk about the pros and cons.  What did you do that worked where others failed?  You want the reader to be educated by reading it.

Here are a few tips for writing your article:

  • Provide pictures if possible – professional preferred, but not always required.
  • Get permission if you are using any names or pictures you didn’t personally take.
  • Write with limited technical terms – make it easy to read and follow for your audience.
  • Write in small paragraphs, 100-200 words if possible.
    • It makes it easier to read and doesn’t make the article visually overbearing
    • Editors can get creative with the layout and adding graphics/pictures/bullets
  • Proofread, check grammar and punctuation! Use Spellcheck!
    • Have a friend or spouse that is not in the business read it and offer critiques.
  • Meet or beat your editor’s deadline!!!
  • Have fun with it!!!

Although your ideas are probably much different, here is an example scenario:  Let’s say you have done a lot of historic remodeling projects.  Find a regional magazine that also focuses on historic remodels.  Go on their website and get the contact info for the Editor.  Call him or her directly (I get more response with calls than emails).  Let them know you are working on a 1500-word article (2-3 pages) on historic window replacement and felt that their publication would be the perfect place to publish it.  Do some homework before you call so you can butter them up a bit.  Let them know how you worked with XYZ windows and they did a fantastic job matching the historic trim or muttins while offering all the benefits of modern technology.  While you don’t have to name them specifically in your article, it could be an opportunity for the magazine to do a feature on historic windows.  ALL magazines make money on the ads, not the articles.  Show them how they can make money on your article by selling ad space to window companies that do historic work – possibly even XYZ windows.  All you request is that you are able to include some images, your name, business, website, phone and email in the body of the article.  Let the editor also know that you are open to ideas for other content if your topic isnt what they are looking for at the moment.  Show you are flexible.

The worst thing they could say is No.  If that happens, call the next publication.  Be persistant.  If it’s a publication you really want to be in, keep calling back every month or two with a different pitch.  Sooner or later they will probably agree to something.  When they say Yes – you just hit the jackpot.

As soon as its published, you just became an expert in your field and/or area. Now you need topromote it.  Get extra copies and pass them out to not just new clients, but old ones too.  They can be your best source of getting the word out.  Post a link to your article on the AIBD Facebook Page.  I usually get a PDF of the cover and article from the publisher.  I make a PDF of it and add my own ad in the body of the PDF.  I can then place a link on my website, FaceBook, or email of the article.  I have one article that is used daily by sales people for a building product across the country.  They hand it out with their marketing.  You can’t buy that type of publicity.

Next step – start working on your next article.  Call the publisher and let them know you are ready to do another.  Same sequence as before.  Have a pitch and execution plan.  If they say no, or not at this time.  Thank them and call the next publication on your list.  I recommend 3-5 articles a year (or more if you have time).  The little time invested should pay for itself many times over with future work.  I average about 3-5 hours per article to write, research and edit.  Some more, some less.  I have written many articles when an idea came to me while sitting on an airplane – it was done by the time I landed.

It takes time and persistance.  However, it’s a proven fact that experts in a field are in higher demand, they charge higher rates and have less slow periods.  Personally, my rates have significantly increased, I am doing better quality work for better quality clients.  These publications and promotions are the sole reason I survived financially during the recession – my phone kept ringing every time I had a new article published.

What are YOU going to write about?


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