It’s every designer and stylist’s dream: seeing one of your jobs showcased on the pages of a glossy magazine. But trying to achieve it can often feel like hitting your head against a brick wall. I asked the editors of Real Living and Belle – two magazines with very different aesthetics – for their top tips on how to give yourself the best chance of being featured.
Funnily enough, their advice wasn’t that different. Deb Bibby, editor in chief of Real Living, said: “It’s not hard at all if you pitch the right story for the right demographic. Sometimes, for example, the style of photography isn’t suitable for Real Living but sadly the home is perfect. Or it might not be styled the way we like to reflect a home. So your team is crucial and each magazine is different.”
Neale Whitaker, editor in chief of Belle and judge on The Block, adds: “To be honest, there’s no formula. It is simply a case of whether the interior being sent for consideration is the right fit for Belle. The best advice I can give is to monitor the pages of Belle and look at the style of homes we publish. I’m always astonished at how many interiors we get sent that are totally wrong for the magazine, indicating that the designer (or home owner, architect, developer) rarely, if ever, looks at Belle!”
So clearly the top tip isn’t rocket science, it’s simply to make sure you do your homework. “Actually buy the magazine and take time to understand its aesthetic,” says Deb. “Magazines are a changing beast – we are still being pitched homes that look like Real Living 2005, so I know they haven’t bothered to look at the magazine. Get familiar with each magazine’s style – a Real Living house is very different to a Belle house or a House & Garden house. Get your pitch right or get your style right for that particular mag.”
With Belle only publishing 50-to-60 houses per year from approximately 1,000 submitted annually from all around the world, its rejection rate is very high. Real Living, on the other hand, is, according to Deb, “literally screaming” for content, especially good Australian homes. “Sometimes the content supplied just doesn’t fit our look and feel – that’s not to say it’s not great content, it could be perfect for another publication. Neale Whitaker often sends through houses that are not spot-on for Belle but perfect for Real Living, and vice versa. Please keep the houses coming! My email address is published in the magazine so the door is always open.”
So, in their editors’ own words, what exactly are these two leading magazines looking for?
“Real Living is looking for a home that has a design feel to it but at the same time is relaxed, happy and accessible,” says Deb. “We love a homeowner who has an innate style, reflecting our younger demographic. We need all the information about the products within the home from the tiles through to the bed linen. Our readers love to shop a look so it can be frustrating if we can’t track down particular items for them.”
Neale says for Belle it’s actually a diverse mix, but the emphasis is always on quality and creativity. “Belle’s bias is generally towards the decorative. It’s a clichéd phrase but yes, we’re looking for wow factor.”
It isn’t necessary, as you might assume, to have a professionally styled and shot home before submitting. “Snapshots are fine, because if an interior is right for the magazine it will shine though, regardless of the form of the submission,” says Neale. “On a practical note, we prefer interiors to be sent through as ‘storyboards’ or as a collection of PDFs in a single email rather than individual emails, one room at a time. Lo-res images please! We can always go back for hi-res later. And if the file is huge, it’s a worthwhile courtesy to let us know in advance that it’s being sent. There’s nothing more frustrating than an inbox being jammed with huge files of unsolicited submissions.”
Also, don’t expect an immediate response. While Neale promises Belle will always get back to you, it might take a while. “We get inundated and it may take several days to respond, especially around deadline time. Following a submission five minutes later with an email saying ‘what did you think?’ (and yes, that happens all the time) isn’t a great start.”
Deb says a follow-up, within a reasonable timeframe, is okay. “We get so many emails each day they can get lost in the email stream (I am guilty of this) so chasing is good (well chasing me is good). Having said that, if a house comes through that’s great, I can guarantee you I’ll be on to it in a flash and chasing you relentlessly!”
Don’t be offended if they say thanks but no thanks. Belle’s policy, for example, is that an honest ‘no’ is far better than a dishonest ‘maybe’. And always wait for a no before offering the home to another magazine. “We only feature houses exclusively, as do most magazines,” adds Deb.
Last but not least, Deb’s 3 top pieces of advice:
- If you specifically want to feature in Real Living and you are already getting the property shot professionally yourself for website use later, then it would be great to call up and ask us for a recommendation on photographer and stylist team prior to the big shoot.
- The look and feel of the shoot can make or break it for us. If you are pitching to magazines in general, quick snaps are best and then let the magazine commission the shoot, that way they use their team and it’s pretty much a definite to feature in an issue.
- When shooting snaps, please show us pulled-back interior shots so we can understand the entire space in context. We don’t need to see styled-up vignettes at this early stage. Plus, always try and get the homeowner on board – Real Living loves to have the owners in the shoots. If this is not possible then we might request that the designer or architect of the home be featured.
I hope the above advice is useful and good luck!