How To Pitch: Real Simple
Pitch broad to this mag's 2 million plus readers
Circulation: Over 2 million
Background: Laundry. Dinner. Work deadlines. Shopping. A woman's to-do list is never-ending. Thankfully, there's Real Simple.
"Real Simple is the magazine for women who are very busy and want ways to simplify their lives," said deputy editor Noelle Howey. And, since the publication's launch in 2000, Real Simplehas been doing just that, covering every facet of everyday life, from throwing the best cocktail party on the block to improving your credit score.
While the magazine competes with titles like O: The Oprah Magazine and More for advertising dollars, Howey explained that the unique nature of Real Simple's content makes direct comparisons difficult. "We cast a pretty wide net in terms of the areas that we cover, so each one of our beats could theoretically compete with a different magazine," she said, "and we also try to pitch as much of our content as possible to as broad a range of readers as possible."
Real Simple's focus on universality may be foreign to some freelancers used to writing for (or reading) niche pubs with narrow demographic bases, but it's a proven formula for success, nonetheless. Circulation numbers have been above 2 million for some time, and loyal readers range in age from their 20s to their 50s and 60s.
And, of course, the title of the magazine itself also greatly impacts Real Simple's editorial direction. "'Real Simple' is the defining characteristic of the magazine," explained Howey. "We are a service magazine presenting solutions, and the idea is to take complicated concepts and simplify them for the reader."
What to pitch:Though most of Real Simple is pitchable, two sections of the book offer considerably better odds of snagging a byline. Naturally, Howey advises new freelancers to start there. "Money," said Howey, functions as the magazine's front-of-book, which means that there are lots of smaller, less-risky assignments for editors to dole out. Coverage here runs the personal finance gamut, including securing the best mortgage rate and decoding retail industry propaganda. On length, word counts of these service pieces vary considerably, starting around 100 words and going up to 1,000.
"Health" ranks second on the magazine's list of freelancer-friendly sections and, like "Money," offers writers a chance to test the Real Simple waters through a variety of topics. Nutrition, fitness, hygiene, metabolism, weight loss, skincare and more are all covered here and, if you can weave a pitch that tackles multiple health-related subjects at once, even better.
Features are a longer shot for new freelancers, but folks with stand-out ideas should still pitch away. So, what do editors want for these meaty, 1,000-3,000-word articles? "They're somewhat hard to define because we're just looking for really interesting stories about real women," said Howey. Reported pieces, profiles and essays are all fair game, but, take note: Editors want an interesting hook, but they are not looking for sensationalism.
What not to pitch: No section of the magazine is completely off-limits, but Howey cautioned that "Food" and "Fashion" are extremely hard to crack, as is the "Life Lessons" essay column. Regarding the latter, she said that the vast majority of pitches she receives are for this section, but it is by far the hardest to get into. Most "Life Lessons" authors have one or more published books to their credit and/or a ton of magazine publishing experience.
Online opportunities: At its core, RealSimple.com follows the same editorial direction as the magazine, with an emphasis on churning out "smart, helpful, surprising, and beautiful content that makes life a little easier." But, said Kathleen Harris, RealSimple.com's managing editor, "we produce more seasonal content and have the luxury of being able to focus on sought-after niche topics like curly hair solutions, DIY Halloween costumes and how to build a pillow fort.
The site doesn't use a ton of freelancers, but for writers with a novel take on a trending topic that includes a service angle, the best section to pitch is the Work & Life channel. Here, editors want to see creative ideas for time-saving content and work/life balance stories.
Online word counts are across the board (from 500 to 1,500 words for in-depth pieces) and pay rates vary accordingly.
What publicists should pitch -- and when: Editors at Real Simple are open to a variety of pitches from publicists, provided they align well with the publication's mission to make life easier for its readers. They key is to examine each beat in the magazine and fine-tune a targeted pitch. And definitely send a personalized email; general press releases won't have the same impact.
Percentage of freelance-written content: 30-40 percent
Percentage of freelance submissions accepted: Though Howey admitted that the percentage is "very low," she doesn't want potential freelancers to be discouraged from pitching. "If you target the magazine well, you're familiar with the magazine and its voice, and you aim at a section that's open to pitching with a thoughtful pitch, your chances of getting an assignment are much better," she said. She also advises writers to be dogged in their approach. If at first your pitch doesn't succeed, try, try again.
Recent freelance stories pitched and published: In the July 2012 issue, a freelance piece titled "Sole Sisters" told the story of nine women who came together to overcome various physical ailments and learn how to run.
Etiquette: Howey wants to see well-written pitches with a brief bio of the writer. Although clips are helpful, she said that she learns a lot about a freelancer's capabilities from the pitch itself. With that in mind, writers should be careful to avoid spelling or grammatical errors while also incorporating the voice and tone that will be used in the completed story.
One more tip to stay out of the slush pile: Don't use "Pitch:" in the subject line of your email. Editors will think it's a PR pitch and may miss it completely. Instead, include a working title and/or the section of the magazine you're pitching.
Lead time: Four to six months
Direct pitches to the appropriate editor:
Andrea Williams is a freelance writer based in Nashville. Contact her email@example.com.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Though we've updated this article recently, the speed at which things move in media means things may have already changed since then. If you notice any outdated info, email us, and we'll fix it a.s.a.p.]