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Editors’ tips for breaking into business magazines
Monday, May 27, 2013 (All day)

Editors’ tips for breaking into business magazines

On May 23, writers gathered in downtown Toronto to hear insider tips on breaking into business and financial writing. PWAC Toronto Chapter presented a panel of three speakers who shared candid advice about this fast-paced writing niche.

Helen Burnett-Nichols, a Hamilton-based freelancer who specializes in the financial and legal fields, has contributed to Canadian Lawyer, Benefits Canada, the National Post and other publications. She pointed out that freelancing for business and finance publications is similar in some ways to writing for other sectors: writers need to be skilled at research, stay on top of current events, network to make contacts, and engage in continuing education. (Burnett-Nichols, who doesn’t have a background in finance, completed the Canadian Securities Course, and she takes courses and attends workshops.) Work in this area is plentiful, and she encourages writers to specialize in a topic that they’re particularly keen on. For those not yet comfortable with advanced business topics, she suggests starting with the most accessible area, personal finance.

Graham F. Scott is a managing editor at Canadian Business, and he was formerly editor of THIS Magazine and a staffer at Precedent. Dawn Calleja is a senior editor at Report on Business; she previously worked at Canadian Business and the Financial Post.

Scott and Calleja offered their advice in a conversation-style presentation. Their top tips:

• Both Canadian Business and Report on Business regularly hire freelance writers (both pay $1/word). Calleja is also working on a new custom publication, inBusiness, and is seeking pitches. Canadian Business and Report on Business both repurpose print stories for their magazines’ websites.
• When pitching, writers should be mindful of differences between these and other business publications; for example, Report on Business covers blue-chip companies with a net worth in the billions of dollars. Canadian Business is more likely to cover smaller and medium-sized enterprises. Report on Business publishes monthly, so it doesn’t want very time-sensitive pieces, such as event-based stories, while Canadian Business publishes bi-weekly.
• Both magazines have editorial calendars but the editorial team doesn’t adhere to them strictly. Watch for regular themed issues, such as Canadian Business’s annual December list of the richest Canadians.
• Writers should be careful about pitching stories based on information provided by public relations companies. Scott says he isn’t interested in “that kind of single company PR-driven story.” Editors want objectivity. Keep PR jargon out of pitches and stories, and ensure there is depth and an interesting angle – not just a company profile. Scott pointed out that a company’s existence is not a story in itself.
• Getting access to company leaders can be very challenging, even for editors.
• Companies report results quarterly, says Scott. Watch for trends and time your pitch to be newsworthy. Do your homework between reports.
• Great ideas may be buried within a company’s publications. Scott once developed a pitch based on info at the end of IMAX’s annual report, about the company’s expansion in India.
• Research tip: Dig for story ideas using SEDAR, SEDI and EDGAR (for U.S. companies).
• Academics can be great sources of information and story ideas.
• Keep pitches short and make them sizzle. “Make me want to respond right away,” says Calleja, adding that writers needn’t pack “too much” into a pitch – if she’s interested, she’ll discuss the idea with the writer. Scott says some writers make several tries at pitching before they get the right tone and show they know what Canadian Business magazine needs.
• To learn more about finance, Calleja recommends the Khan Academy, a website that offers a comprehensive library of free videos. The CFA Institute is another good option.

With files from Karen Luttrell

Jaclyn Law is the president of PWAC Toronto Chapter. Our professional development seminars return in October – stay tuned!



- Jaclyn Law


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