When you’re trying to sell your travel stories to an editor, you’ve got five seconds to catch her attention. If you want to land a by-line in her publication, you’d better use these seven words in your article (see below)…
Director, Great Escape Publishing
May 30, 2010
The Right Way to Travel
Memorial Day Travel Tip – #6: Don’t Underestimate the Power of a Good Headline
THE HEADLINE: YOUR 7-WORD SECRET WEAPON
By Jennifer Stevens in Colorado Springs, CO
My kids know all about secret weapons. That empty paper towel roll? Light saber. That flashlight? Turbo jet booster. That croissant? Pistol.
These objects… they’re all there in plain sight. It’s just that my boys see in them something the rest of us don’t notice. (By “rest of us” I mean anybody not a male under ten.)
Well it’s the same thing with a headline. Most folks understand a “headline” to be a few large-type words at the top of a published page. It’s something the editors put above a writer’s article when it appears in a magazine or newspaper.
But in truth, a headline is a secret weapon. It’s just a matter of looking at it the right way. I’m going to show you how to see — and wield — its power.
And powerful it is. In fact, use it right, and you can go from nuthin’ to a by-line in five seconds flat.
Let me explain…
Most freelance writers assume (quite rightly) that editors like to compose the headlines that appear in their publications. And so these writers offer up their stories to those editors in one of two states:
Their stories are either a) naked of a headline entirely, or b) sport a weak, wimpy excuse for one.
If they’re labeled at all, they say things like: “Italy article” or “Merida, Mexico” or “On the road in Panama.”
Alas, if that’s how you’ve been doing it, you’re squandering your first, best opportunity to catch an editor’s attention. You are leaving your secret weapon on the table.
You’ve got to pick it up and use it. You’ve got five seconds when an editor puts your piece in front of her. Five seconds. 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 headlines do:
** Three Older Women Tackle Mt. Whitney (L.A. Times)
** Escape from New York: 7 Quick Trips Outside the City (Conde Nast Traveler)
** Top 10 Short Cruise Vacations (Sherman’s Travel)
** Eat Like a Local in Rome (Budget Travel)
** Creature Comforts: The Ultimate Cayman Island Family Vacation (Caribbean Travel & Life)
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel. Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]