I just realized tomorrow is my sister’s birthday. She and I have a tradition of sending each other goofy birthday cards every year, but this year hers will be late. I have no excuse. I completely forgot about it and now her card--which I still send by snail mail--will be late.
In other words, I missed her birthday’s lead time. “Lead time” is how far in advance a publication works in terms of planning issues and assigning articles.
National print publications often have a lead time of six months, which means you should be thinking about holiday-themed pitches now in June. I’ve found regional magazines tend to have shorter lead times, while online magazines have lead times of weeks, not months. And blogs and websites may have lead times of just a few days.
The point is to know the lead time of the market you’re pitching. You want to give the market plenty of time to respond and hopefully assign your pitch.
Your assignment: find out the lead time of the publication you want to write for—and use it for your pitches.
**If you didn't know what lead time means until now, chances are you'd benefit from Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets. The book walks you through the process of researching, pitching, and writing 10 different articles for different markets, with plenty of real-life templates and advice.