How to Secure a Front Cover Story
If you picked up a copy of last weekend’s Saturday Telegraph Magazine, you couldn’t have failed to notice the front cover story feature ‘When Lauren Child met Quentin Blake’. We’re very proud to say that this was devised, placed and managed by Cherish’s own Senior Consultant, Sandie Maylor for our client The Folio Society. Here Sandie shares her advice on to secure that exclusive front cover story.
The first stage of developing a potential cover story is identifying what makes a ‘story’. Statistics, a trend, something newsworthy, topical, or new – never done/seen before, all make for a good story. However, for it to be a cover story there has to be more than a news angle. Aspects such as depth, which means a good backstory, access to interviews and the people involved, or surrounding information to justify it making it as a feature and on to the elusive front cover are important.
Once you have your idea, you need to tailor your information and writing style to the individual Editor that you are approaching. Your writing style also needs to correspond with the regular features that run in the publication you wish to target. A good tip is to look at features that they have written, or run before, to get a sense of what has made it on to the cover and what has made a feature before.
Create a pitch as if you were writing an article. Put the most important, engaging points in the first few sentences to capture their attention. Always address the pitch to the specific Editor and make it clear that you are coming to them first, so that they know it’s not a blanket email.
Think about the extras, what can you actually offer aside from general information, what insight can you provide that the public may not have seen or heard about before. Elements such as a possible interview, or interviews that can be done with the subjects of the story, are there exclusive pictures never revealed before can help to nab the attention of an Editor. The more that you can offer exclusively, the more the Editor will think it’s an opportunity that cannot be missed.
Follow up your pitch with a phone call, to discuss what you have presented, make it clear that they can have an exclusive and that you will not release the story to anyone else. Get them excited about who they can speak to and the information they can have access to, to make the feature truly unique. Try to meet the Editor with the materials on offer, such as pictures and where possible, organise face to face interview(s) with the people involved in the story. The journalist is much less likely to back out if the story can be brought to life.
Propose the cover as a possibility the moment you realise the Editor is keen on the story. Often it’s the Picture Editor’s decision, so when you’re sending pictures through to go with the article, take the opportunity to ask about the cover – have they already chosen one, would this be something they’d consider. If none of the pictures you have sent across are what they call ‘cover material’ ask ‘what would you need for it to be a cover picture?’ It may be a long-shot but it puts the idea into their mind and may give you a shot at making it a reality.
Following this process will also give you the chance to set about making it happen behind the scenes. Overall, if you are looking to be in the front cover spotlight, you’re looking for ingenuity – finding something that appears to be an opportunity for the publication. Taking the time to hunt down an angle or story that they normally wouldn’t be offered and presenting it as a package is key. After all, an interested Editor is an interested reader and that’s what it’s all about.