It’s a whole new world out there in publishing these days.
For an interior designer, being published in a big shelter publication, especially a national one, used to make your career. No doubt it lends legitimacy, authority, and just makes you look good.
Does it assure you will get more work? Maybe not.
I’ve heard many designers say that getting published alone doesn’t always bring you A-list projects, although it does wonders for your ego and feeling of accomplishment, no doubt!
I just got back from the Design Bloggers Conference in LA.
what is fresh on my mind, was that it was a little heavy on how to get published.
That’s not a critique, just an observation. I am guessing that they had lots of feedback in the past with designers wanting to know how to get published.
There were lots of editors there and Amy Flurry with her book, Recipe for Press, sharing lots of tips on best ways to approach magazines, editors, etc.
I thought that was really interesting, since that world has changed so dramatically over the last 10 years, that most of the tips I heard were similar to what I've heard from the past.
The big shelter publications still want:
- Exclusivity - they don’t want you to post pics on your social media or website prior to the publication of the project. They want to be the first to come out with the images.
- Prefer homeowner involvement - Most publications like to name the homeowner or interview them for the piece, even photograph them if possible in some situations.
- Whole house projects - Almost all pubs like whole houses, some even like exteriors as well.
- The unique stories behind the design - They want to tell a story and need a unique and personal angle to make that project stand out and attract readers.
- Artful, unique projects - Dramatic design that makes a statement is always good.
- Very short, concise pitches with appropriate images - They receive lots of emails, no doubt, so they don’t need a huge backstory with lots of unnecessary details right out of the gate. I imagine they want something like the “elevator speech” for the project.
- Pitches tailored for their specific magazine - You shouldn’t be pitching a cabin in the midwest to Coastal Living magazine, in other words. Likewise, a minimalist modern box type structure probably won’t go over well for Traditional Home.
- An exclusive pitch - they don’t want you to pitch to other design magazines at the same time, they want to be allowed to consider without competition or a deadline for them to make a decision, but they do respect that after a few weeks or so, you might go elsewhere.
They also may not get back to you right away when you email them a project. Matter of fact, they may not ever get back to you. They want you to take rejection well. They want you to feel free to submit another project in a few months, again, in the format and style they prefer.
First of all, they are busy, get lots of pitches, and of course, if we are wanting free press here, we need to cooperate and do as they request. Also, you have to realize that getting a project to publication, if it is lucky enough to make the cut, might take a long time.
The process for building a design magazine issue is a long one.
One of the editors talked about the process of having images all tacked up on the walls and mixing and matching different projects together to develop a particular monthly issue with a theme. This involves about a year’s worth of planning with some publications, as you can probably appreciate.
If you are planning to submit a project, if you’ve gone to all the great lengths that designers go to throughout the duration of a full-service, whole house project so that at the end of a job you have a happy client who would be on board with this final intrusion into their home and personal life, going through this last bit of tightrope walking is okay for many.
It gave me pause to wonder….
....are we really still afraid to let go of traditional methods in this brave new world of social media, immediate gratification and short attention spans??
As print magazines are getting thinner and thinner,....
....as their websites are getting more and more dominated by pop-ups and annoying ads making navigation difficult, is this really still the best way to become a noted designer and obtain an A-list clientele?
The one speaker that had a different opinion than most was Consort Design. They self publish like crazy.
He even said on the stage, with a laugh, that they sort of do the opposite what the other speakers had said with regard to sharing content in their social media. They don’t hold back on sharing. They aren’t afraid to post a pic to their social channels.
Matter of fact, they were filming a Facebook Live or video right there on stage with a cell phone, during their presentation!
I have to say, I found that refreshing. And completely in line with my attitude these days.
Presentation by an editor of a major design publication
A few years ago I attended a talk at one of our local showrooms with an editor from one of these major magazines.
I’ll never forget what she showed us. She put up a pic of a beautiful interior living room in a slide and told us that this was a project submittal they had received from a designer.
She asked us what we thought was wrong with it and why it might not have been published. At first, everyone sort of that there stunned.
It was a beautiful room, nothing stood out at all as being a reason NOT to publish. Finally, some people started chiming in. “It’s too dark.” “It’s too overdone.” People were stretching for ideas here.
The editor said finally, “There’s nothing wrong with it. Nothing at all.”
Matter of fact, it had been slated for a particular issue. It had been photographed by one of their photographers, the story had been written and produced. At the last minute, it had been cut from the issue because there weren’t enough pages in that issue, meaning not enough ad dollars to produce the number of pages necessary for that project to be included.
I can’t imagine how that designer must have felt to learn of that. I can’t imagine how the homeowner might have felt.
I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been, after having the invasion of photographers and interviews in the home of the homeowner who had consented and likely been excited for the prospect of having their home published, for the designer to tell that homeowner that they weren’t going to be published after all.
The point that the editor of this pub was making at this presentation, was to not take this process lightly. It is a big endeavor to get published.
It is never a sure thing.
Even up till the last minute, things can go wrong. Be prepared to be disappointed, to be dropped, to be rejected. It could happen.
I honestly think her point was, don't send me anything unless it is really amazing and perfect for our publication.
The rules of getting published by the big shelter pubs apply to some, but not to all.
The lovely Justina Blakeney did the final keynote for the conference and it reminded me of her kitchen, that was published in House Beautiful in July of 2016. It had already been all over the internet, published on her blog, spread all over Pinterest and Instagram and was hardly exclusive content for HB.
Here's her kitchen, published on her own blog in August of 2015.
I've seen other big bloggers that have been published after they had already published themselves on their platforms.
So, I guess those rules of exclusivity apply most of the time, but not for someone that might have some serious organic reach and social influence.
All the more reason for working your own platforms, no? Maybe someday we might have an even bigger chance of being published then, no?
My attitude towards getting published has changed.
I kind of gave up hope and haven’t even tried anymore.
First of all, my projects are more partial houses than whole. Most of my projects in the past include full kitchen and bath remodels with some items from other parts of the house thrown in the job as well. That cancels me out of a lot of pubs right there.
Secondly, my projects have not been super high end, which again cancels me out of many pubs.
Thirdly, as a slightly older-than-most designer, ahem, I don’t have time to wait to see if my project might possibly get published. You can see from the notes I took above, it could take a year or so to get that project out into print and then at any moment, it could get kicked out because of funds or whatever. I just don’t have time like that to wait. Nor do I have the patience.
I’m not betting on my odds of getting published anymore. I have around 200,000 unique views to my blog a month. My projects receive many of those hits via Pinterest, so my projects are getting seen out on the web and are proving to attract clients and attention.
This one pin alone is responsible for over 18,000 hits to the blogpost on this project.
Pinterest, with its changes in the past two years, doesn't render near the reach it used to for my jobs, but these aren't too bad for their age on Pinterest. (Reach takes time on Pinterest.)
I love my magazines and I would love to be published in their pages, but I’m not holding my breath. My best shot is to work my own channels.