Please welcome to the Editor’s Q&A corner Woman’s Day Features Editor, Beth Dreher.
Q: Woman’s Day is a publication most of us are very familiar with. Can you bring us up to speed on your readers and the types of content you publish for anyone who may not have read a recent issue?
A: Woman’s Day reaches 20 million readers per month with a mix of lifestyle content, including food, health, home organizing/decorating, money, and fashion/beauty. We also tell stories by and about inspiring women, which makes up the bulk of my job.
Q: As Features Editor, what does a typical day for you look like?
A: I live a typical editor’s life of juggling several issues at once. On any given day, I’m fitting copy and writing captions for one issue, giving editing notes to writers on another, and brainstorming and doing research for future issues.
Q: Woman’s Day uses freelancers for specific sections. Can you tell us more about those?
A: Our health, money and inspire sections use freelancers. I edit money and inspire and am often looking for original feature ideas in those sections as well as personal essays. Money pitches should be fresh service in an interesting package. For the most part, our readers are in their 40s and 50s and are looking for smart ways to save and manage money every day—that could mean smart buys at the drugstore or grocery store, free activities to do with their kids, how to create a manageable budget, or ways to avoid overspending around the holidays.
For the inspire section, I’m looking for feature pitches at the intersection of current events and human interest. For example, last year we’d read that many rape kits from sexual assaults were being lost or mismanaged in small towns and big cities around the country, meaning that these potential crimes weren’t being investigated properly. We found a woman in her 50s, the core Woman’s Day demographic, who had this experience and eventually got justice years later. The piece had all the elements that are important to me and to our readers: It was well reported and well told, featured a woman who readers could identify with, and ended with a note of hope.
Our personal essays run about 500 words, so the concept should be narrow with a particular point of view. New writers can pitch a concept, but be prepared to produce the essay on spec. I know this isn’t ideal, but it’s really the only way I can know what I’m getting from a writer I haven’t worked with before.
Q: Are there sections you might steer newer writers vs. experienced writers toward?
A: In terms of what I edit, I’m looking for feature pitches, so they’re probably best for experienced writers. Newer writers might work for money pitches if they have deep knowledge of the topic and/or are able to find appropriate sources.
Q: Let’s talk about features. Stories tend to have a positive take away. Beyond that, what qualities are you looking for in feature submissions?
A: I touched on this a little bit above, but I’d like feature pitches to feel of-the-moment, rather than evergreen. Yes, they should absolutely have a positive takeaway, but I want to avoid anything too saccharin. I want to speak to women where they are and acknowledge that everyone struggles at some point. Our readers have an amazing capacity for empathy and compassion.
Q: Can you give us examples of some feature stories you have published recently that have been a big hit with your readers?
A: We had a piece in the July/Aug issue about a female military veteran who had overcome a near-death experience while deployed—she eventually had both legs amputated. But now she commemorates the anniversary of that dark day with a celebration of sorts. She makes a point to do something on that day, known as an Alive Day in military circles, to defy her doctors’ predictions of activities like running, surfing and skiing, they thought she’d never do again. Our readers have great respect and admiration for the military, and many of them responded with thanks for that story. Several said it was nice to see a female vet depicted in that way.
Q: Where should interested writers send email pitches for features and other sections?
A: They can email me at email@example.com.
Q: As someone who reads pitches daily, what things turn you off when you open an email pitch? What things make a pitch stand out in a positive way?
A: Turnoffs: It’s fairly obvious when a writer hasn’t bothered to read the magazine and those pitches don’t get far. It’s not enough to read our website—the audience and goals of those stories are different. Pick up the publication or find it on Texture.
Another pet peeve is a pitch that is a direct riff on a recent story. For example, we recently did a story on women in tech—inevitably I’ll start getting pitches on other women in tech. We’ve just run the story; we’re not going to revisit that territory for a while.
For inspire features, I like succinct pitches with one or two pictures of the main subject. For money features, I’d like to see your freshest tips on the subject you’re pitching, especially if we haven’t worked together before.
Q: How does the process work once a pitch has been submitted?
A: I try to get back to writers about pitches quickly, but sometimes I get backlogged. Feel free to follow up if you haven’t heard from me in a week.
If we accept your pitch, I’ll work closely with you to determine structure, sources and other details. Most feature stories go back to the writer at least once for revisions.
We usually, but not always, have an issue in mind when we assign a story. If a story comes in and is accepted, I try to get it in print asap because of the often timely or seasonal aspects.
Q: Hearst owns Woman’s Day Magazine and also operates WomansDay.com. I understand that the two are separate, but do you have any insight as to what type of article might be better for digital than print and how writers can submit to WomansDay.com?
A: Newsier articles and opinion pieces with shorter lead times work better for digital as we’re able to publish them faster. We’re also always looking for evergreen marriage/relationship and parenting content, such as: 4 Behaviors That Increase Your Chances of Divorce. Writers guidelines for online can be found here, including contact info for assigning editor
Q: Can you give us any details on pay rates for articles published in print and digital?
A: $350 for personal essays
$500 for reported service articles
$600+ for features, depending on length and scope of assignment
Q: You’ve also worked for Reader’s Digest. What advice can you offer to writers trying to take their writing to the next level with a national publication like the ones you have worked with?
A: My advice is to get familiar with the publication and pitch targeted ideas. I’m partial to writers who show themselves to be solid reporters, so if that is one of your strong points, let me know.
Q: What’s next for Woman”s Day?
A: I’m currently planning money and inspiration features and personal essays for mid- to late 2018. Think seasonal and timely with an inspiring edge.