I met Lisa Mowry several years ago when I lived in Atlanta and she helped me get published. She is a great person to ask about getting published because she works with multiple magazines. In the 27 years she has worked for home & garden magazines, Lisa has produced more than 1,000 features for national and local magazines.
She is the Atlanta editor for such well-known publications as Better Homes & Gardens, Traditional Home and Decor, as well as a dozen more of BH&G’s special interest magazines...titles such as Cottage Style, Elegant Homes and Beautiful Kitchens & Baths. Lisa also serves as the homes editor for Atlanta Magazine’s HOME and has been a contributing writer for Atlanta Magazine for 20 years.
Her many other writing credits include Southern Living, Woman’s Day, Styleblueprint, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Metropolitan Home. So you can understand why I asked her to help answer your "how to get published" questions.
When should a designer submit projects?
In theory, nobody is ever really done with a house, but editors do need it as close as possible. When people submit kitchens and write me, “the barstools and window treatments will be in a month from now,” I ask them to get back in touch with me then. If you only have one opportunity in front of my editors, it needs to be a good one.
What photo quality do I need for the pitch?
That has become a hard one to answer because the reality is that more and more designers are having their projects styled and (professionally) shot, so the lighting and accessories look great. In some cases, magazines can use a project already photographed, so it saves everyone time (particularly if a client might be inconvenienced by a photo shoot.) But…professional photography is expensive, and the angles a designer might choose aren’t always what a magazine would want, so it’s no guarantee of a feature. If a designer is on the fence about professional photography, I often ask them to send me scouting shots to start the process. Occasionally, the scouting shots are enough to sell a project and then the magazine pays for the photography.
How do I get good scouting shots?
Use a real camera to take scouting shots, preferably. iPhone cameras can be better than nothing to show me a few teaser shots, but a lot of times they’re not good enough quality for me to then show my editors. Get a complete set of shots. If you’re sending me your whole house, start with the exterior (even if it’s not “magazine-worthy”) and make sure to include several different angles of each room, so we can see it from different sides. Vignettes and details are good—bookcases, bedside tables…that sort of thing—but it’s best when they’re in context with a room, not so close-up that I have no idea where they are. If you’re sending me a specific project, like a bathroom redo, again...take several different angles and details. For kitchens, we love to see if there’s special storage, so if you have a special spice drawer—let me see it. And always back up—if possible—so I can see table legs and kitchen cabinets all the way to the floor (not cut off half-way). Don’t forget outdoor areas. And if before shots are available and part of the story, by all means, send them on, too.
Do magazines want exclusivity?
Sometimes even if a designer has paid for a set of photography, they might be asked to hold off on publishing it on their website if a magazine is interested in running it. It’s also wise not to have a project blasted all over the blogosphere…editors are starting to ask how many blogs have run something to determine if it’s over-exposed. My advice for including photography of your projects on social media or blogs is this: if you want to get the project published in a magazine, perhaps hold back on showing the "money shot" and/or main areas, and stick with vignettes and details that show your creativity without giving too much away.
Can I submit to more than one publication/editor?
Do not submit a project to more than one magazine simultaneously. It’s okay to ask after a couple weeks about a response, but know that the process can take months to get a final yes or no.
Do I need a PR person?
PR people can be helpful, but not always necessary…it just depends on the individual publicist and the needs of the designer. I’d like to think that if you have a good regional editor who works with multiple magazines like myself, you have someone who can help find the right fit.
What are editors looking for?
That’s a hard question, for sure, because I see interest all over the board: some editors need colorful, modern kitchens, others are looking for a more bohemian, “Fixer-upper”-type look. I would say large McMansions with a lot of beige furniture just don’t have a lot of appeal. Kitchens and baths will always be needed, but they need to have a new twist to them…not just white cabinets and white marble tops.
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