Editors like to write headlines. Or, well, “like” might be overstating the matter. Editors write headlines. Editors write headlines… writers do not.

That is what conventional wisdom tells us.

And, indeed, the vast majority of the time, whatever headline you might put on your story when you submit it to an editor is not the headline that appears on your story when it’s published. The editor will have written a new ditty to go up top.

This being the usual state of affairs… most writers don’t bother writing much of a headline when they submit their stories to editors. “Why bother?” they figure.

Why bother, indeed?

I’ll tell you why: Because when you submit your story to an editor, you have but one fleeting chance to catch her attention.

If you’re sending queries or articles to editors in hopes of having them published, and you’re labeling them “Italy Article” or “Beautiful Merida, Mexico,” or “Panama Uncovered,” then you are squandering your first, best opportunity to sell your piece.

A good headline possesses a furtive power: The power to attract eyeballs, to arrest your reader.

Don’t waste it.

You have just one fleeting chance to entice an editor to buy your piece — about five seconds, in fact. She’s going to glance at it. And she might be eating a bagel when she does it. Or talking on the phone. Or blowing her nose.

And if she can’t tell at a glance whether the article you’re proposing would interest her readers, then she’s not going to buy it from you.

So your job, really, isn’t just to write an article that’s targeted for that editor’s readership…

It’s to SHOW her — with a simple, descriptive headline (big and bold) — that you’ve written an article that’s targeted for her readership.

The easiest, fastest way to do that is to make a straightforward promise in something between five and 12 words.

Just say what your piece is about.

No need to be clever. Simply come out and say it. Just like these catchy headlines do:

** Exploring Kentucky Bourbon at Its Source (NY Times)

** How to Travel Like a Rock Star, According to a Rock Star (Afar)

** A Survival Guide to Times Square: The ‘Hunger Games’ Edition (Conde Nast Traveler)

** The One Game-Changing Sonoma Winery You Can’t Miss (Travel + Leisure)

** The Best Little Dive Bar in San Luis Obisbo County (San Francisco Chronicle)

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