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Last year, I made a mistake. I missed the opportunity to pitch articles to many of the newspapers and magazines that covered summer associate and new attorney issues in 2007. My bad, especially since I teach professionals about getting published and how to use writing for business, professional and personal development. Luckily, my error was simply bad timing.

The keys to getting published are relatively straightforward: develop a strong idea, find the right publication, craft a strong pitch and make your pitch when it is most relevant. Most people find that last piece very elusive.

Here’s the secret to success on that point: study editorial calendars. Editorial calendars set forth in very broad terms the coverage a magazine or newspaper will give to a particular subject over the course of an entire year. I now compile the editorial calendars of several legal publications in January as a resource and often suggest that those interested in writing for a broad audience consult them regularly. For example, if you are an intellectual property lawyer who wants to cover a substantive IP issue, consider focusing on the October 13, 2008 issue of the New Jersey Law Journal or the same week’s issue of the New York Law Journal. Both newspapers are focusing on intellectual property that week and both accept articles written by outside authors. ( The National Law Journal will feature special section on intellectual property law in the May 5, August 8, October 13, and December 1 editions. See the editorial calendar for a full listing of special sections and submission due dates.)

These calendars are generally available on the website of the particular publication and often list the submission guidelines for the publication as well (e.g., preferred length, footnote usage, and editorial style). Reviewing them and timing your article properly will help you overcome any concern over your writing ability. While substance is important, you do not need to be a Pulitzer Prize winner to get published. Relevancy is often more critical than gifted prose.

Understanding an editor’s calendar also demonstrates to him or her that you have conducted the necessary background research and are serious about your interest. Reviewing a copy of the magazine or newspaper in advance helps as well.

Spring is a great time to be thinking about getting published. It stays lighter longer and it lulls you into the false impression that you have more time on your hands. Maybe that’s just me.

Regardless, it does encourage us to go outside and get some fresh air. Writing is like that fresh air. It breathes inspiration into your work by allowing you to connect with mentors, colleagues, clients and prospects in an organic way. Use the chance to write for a particular issue you found in the editorial calendar as an opportunity to call or e-mail someone completely different, who can provide a unique perspective on your proposed topic. Or, use it to reconnect with others.

Identifying a specific date for an article will provide you with the ability to calendar its development and completion. Writing for an issue in October would require a pitch a few months before, depending on the publication. Let’s say end of June for purposes of giving plenty of lead-time. That June pitch gives you April and May to develop an idea and discuss it with anyone who may need to approve it or collaborate on its completion. It will also give you plenty of time to change your mind on the topic.

Aiming for a particular issue will typically prevent you from postponing it – not that anyone ever does that. Most often, activities like writing fall behind billable work, family obligations and wisdom tooth extraction. There is always another issue of another publication when we have more time. That said, when you are shooting for a particular newspaper on a specific date, you have no choice and you will do it. Period.

Getting published is more about motivation than mechanics. Starting with a subject and the date before you even have an idea will help. Use the extra time often wasted on these basic elements to craft a great idea. Collaborate with others on establishing your focus. Have coffee with people who can teach you about the subject. To continue with our example above, ask IP experts, including those sitting right next door at your firm, what they think would make an interesting article. In addition, try to find in-house, government and academic contacts that could share their insight and experience.

People do not write just to see their name in a byline or send their article to others. They write to inspire. Ironically, it is often not others to whom they provide the inspiration, but to themselves.

Revive, refresh and check your calendar. It’s spring.

Ari Kaplan is an attorney and writer that teaches professionals the mechanics of getting published and the art of self-promotion. For a free compilation of editorial calendars and/or submission guidelines, please contact him via www.AriKaplanAdvisors.com. Thomson-West is releasing his book on creative self-promotion this spring.

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