Letters To The Editor: What Editors Really Want To Buy

Have you ever seen something in a newspaper and felt the urge to write to the editor about it?

You know, a kind of ‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’ type piece?

Well, if you have, you could turn that enthusiasm into a very simple way to make money from writing…. by writing letters to the editor. Because writing letters is one of the simplest ways to make money from writing there is.

Actually, you might not know it but the editors of most newspapers and magazines are pretty desperate for letters to the editor and will be glad if you write to them!

(And here’s an interesting fact for you. Apparently the term dates back to the 1950s. The editor of the Tunbridge Wells Advertiser was so desperate for readers’ letters that he asked his staff to write in. Horrified at having to do this and not wanting to reveal their real name for obvious reasons one simply signed his letter ‘Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells’!)

If you do want to make some cash by writing letters to the editor there is a bit of a strategy to it….

Firstly, don’t send letters out willy-nilly. Research each publication’s requirements for letters to the editor and write accordingly. Start with magazines and newspapers you read yourself, so you can see exactly what’s needed. (Not all publications pay for letters to the editor so, obviously, check that they do before sending anything!)

Send the type of letter that the editor is looking for. For example, is the tone of the letters that are published mainly serious or humorous or whatever? If that’s the usual type of letter used make sure you follow that style.

Also, many newspapers and especially magazines have a special theme for letters they like to publish. Such as a ‘tip of the week’, ‘my real life story’, ‘a funny thing happened to me’ and so on. If it’s a serious newspaper they might be looking for political letters, or travel letters, or sports-related letters. You’ll obviously stand a better chance of getting published if you follow that theme.

If you’re writing in response to something that’s recently been published, even better.

One thing…. not many editors are looking for really vitriolic, vent-your-spleen type letters. Middle of the road letters tend to be sought after. So although it’s good if you’re passionate about what you’re writing on keep everything fairly civil and good-natured.

A few tips on length: Letters to the editor, ironically, aren’t usually edited. You should try to write a letter that editors can just cut and paste into the page. And keep them concise. Many editors like letters under 100 words and have very little use for letters over 300 words.

One more tip. A growing number of newspapers and especially magazines are also looking for photos to go with letters they publish. This might be a photo of you or something related to your letter. You know the sort of thing…. Are You Being Framed style photos of your cat chasing a Rottweiler and so on. Always try to include a photo if they publish them, as you can make twice as much money in some cases. (In fact, have a look through your photo albums. If you have any photos that you could write a letter around that’s a very easy way to get started.)

If you find a publication that likes your letters then write more letters to them from time to time. They’ll usually be glad to keep paying you if your letters are good.