3 Steps to Get Published During the Coronavirus Pandemic
It is understandably frustrating when you have a really good idea for a piece but seem to be unable to get an editor to accept it. Has this has happened more frequently to you over the past two months? If so, you’re not alone! Although this problem is improving somewhat, the COVID-19 crisis has dominated the news like few things ever have before. As someone who works in the media as an editor and freelancer, I know firsthand that all outlets have to follow whatever news is trending. However, COVID-19 is something unprecedented—and I remember thinking that impeachment was bad at wrecking outlets’ web traffic! For better or worse, many outlets have been focusing almost exclusively on the coronavirus, which means that they aren’t accepting other topics. But there’s a way you can still write about what you want and get published.
1. Your Op-Ed Needs a COVID-19-Related Hook
Yes, I know it is unfortunate, but if you don’t have some way to tie your piece back into the fight against the virus then it is less likely your article will be accepted. This does not mean that you can’t write about culture, economics, foreign policy, or whatever your interest is. What it does mean is that you must have a coronavirus hook in your op-ed’s opening paragraph. That can be a breaking news item, a quote, a statistic, or whatever works to link what you really want to talk about to what the news cycle is talking about. This requires some creativity on your part, but ensuring that your lede references COVID-19 is a must.
For example, let’s say you want to talk about foreign policy developments elsewhere. You might consider how the virus is impacting that country or what America might do in response. Or perhaps you care about education. You could easily work in education reform by looking at whether schools were ready to deal with mass closures and why. Moreover, there’s also no end of cultural commentary you could make about social distancing or how certain economic policies would help America recover.
This hook should be timely or reference the latest coronavirus data. Staying up-to-date with the latest events and data is very helpful. Adding these to your piece will make it easier for an editor to accept it.
2. Your Pitch Also Needs to Include a COVID-19 Tie-In
When writing your pitch, make sure—as usual—to include a suggested title and summary. You should also include the 2-3 main arguments outlined in your article. All of these should include the coronavirus tie-in that you used in the beginning of your op-ed. By doing this, you will catch the editor’s eye and will show that your piece already has traffic-driving keywords such as “coronavirus,” “COVID-19,” “social distancing,” or “pandemic” in the suggested title and summary.
Unfortunately, many news outlets are not getting sufficient traffic to make ends meet with advertisement revenue unless they are constantly talking about COVID-19. Editors will be on the lookout pieces that reference the virus since they are hungry for such content. However, for everyone’s sake, I would strongly advise that you avoid writing pure clickbait. Don’t exaggerate the bad or the good regarding this pandemic just to pitch your articles. Good editors will see that for what it is. Instead, you should be reasoned and well-researched, so you can present an informative piece about something that isn’t completely coronavirus-related.
Also, don’t try to pass yourself off as a coronavirus expert if you’re not. And be sure that you include any relevant disclaimers if your piece contains any health advice. Too many people are acting as self-proclaimed experts in order to get the pieces published. You may have very strong opinions outside of your field of expertise, but be clear with your hyperlinks where you’re getting your information from. By all means, talk about what you want and be honest with your opinions, but be thoughtful when doing so.
3. Editors Are Working Remotely Too—So Please Be Patient
Finally, realize that editors are working from home under similar stresses and concerns as you. Sometimes their technology doesn’t work or they’re asked to do more than normal. Maybe their future employment is unclear or they’ve got kids running around their makeshift home office. Just realize that they’re human too and might take a little longer to get back to you than normal. Treat them the way you want to be treated.
Overall, what editors value are well-written pieces from understanding writers that are going to boost traffic. They want articles that are well-researched and with meaty information and a coronavirus-related tie-in. If you can fulfill all of these, then you can still write on anything and get accepted.
Editor’s Note: To learn even more about how to write effectively and get your work published, apply now for AF’s Writing Fellows Program. Applications for the summer program are due today, May 1.