As Editor-in-Chief and Founder and CEO at IPWatchdog, we get dozens of pitches for articles per week from authors and PR firms around the world. And as one of the only remaining IP publications that keeps its content entirely free, and approximately 300,000 unique readers per month, we get a lot of interest from stakeholders across the board—from service providers to law students, from esteemed judges to members of congress, and from independent inventors to seasoned patent practitioners. But often, these pitches or submissions miss the mark. Below are some tips for pitching and writing on IPWatchdog (or anywhere).
DON’T reach out blind, and don’t write first, then pitch– don’t reach out to an editor offering to write without suggesting some specific topics you’re interested in. Search the publication first to make sure the topics you’re proposing haven’t been written about already – if they have, suggest a different angle. Don’t think of a great topic, then write a 2,000-word article and send it – work with the editor to make it fit the goals of the publication.
- Try writing about a case or area of the law you don’t know a lot about in the beginning. This will force you to write for the average reader.
- Think about your goal and target publications wisely – you may not be able to republish elsewhere depending on the policy of the publisher. For IPWatchdog, articles must be exclusive. They can be posted partially on a law firm blog with a link in the first couple of weeks, and later can be republished with a note that it was first published on IPWatchdog. Many publications will not accept articles that have been published elsewhere first.
DON’T send editors emails like this:
- “Dear editor: I would like to write for your blog. Please send me some topics you’re interested in hearing about.”
- “Dear editor: please let us know what you’re working on/ what our attorneys can comment on for you.”
- “Dear editor: here is a topic our attorneys can comment on, can we set up a 30-minute call with five lawyers for you to discuss?”
Editors almost never have time to answer emails like these. Be specific. One exception on the last example is if the topic in question is a very high-profile Supreme Court case or other development on which we are almost certainly seeking comment/ insight. Even then you should consider contacting us in advance. With high-profile events such as Supreme Court decisions we often have people already tapped to write once a decision is published.
How to Write
DON’T write like a lawyer. People do not read law firm blog and legal writing because it often lacks passion and doesn’t take a position. Don’t be afraid to opine, offer tips or to take a stance one way or another. Don’t use legalese, Latin or footnotes.
DON’T bury the lede/lead – use the news hook right away. If you’re pitching to a trade publication or online publication like IPWatchdog, we want the news angle – even if it’s an article about a trend over time (example – don’t spend the first four paragraphs of an article about a recent decision on Section 101 talking about how horrible U.S. patent eligibility law is, and then in paragraph five finally mention the decision being referenced).
KEEP it practical. Practical, basics type articles, or else headline-grabbers, do best.
Examples from IPWatchdog of the most viewed articles of the year right now (influenced by Google search):
KEEP it timely. Think in terms of the speed of the Internet. If you are writing about a decision published two or three months ago the likelihood is the moment has passed and/or we’ve already published articles about the case. What is the new hook? Is there some greater awareness of what it means now that other courts are applying a new standard, for example?
DON’T assume readers have the same knowledge level as you – explain legal concepts, judicially-created tests/ doctrines, decisions, spell out acronyms. Link to cited cases on Leagle.com. Sometimes trademark and copyright lawyers read articles about patents, and vice versa—we want someone off the street doing a google search to be able to at least independently educate themselves via clear language and hyperlinks provided in the article.
KEEP it short – longer isn’t better. “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one.” – Mark Twain. For IPW, 1,500 – 2,000 is a good length. For print, it’s usually a bit longer than that.
BREAK UP your article with subheadings – but avoid subheadings like “Overview” and “Conclusion” – try to take the key point of the section and incorporate it into the subheading.
AVOID stating what you’re doing while you’re doing it – statements like, “This article will address….”
USE active voice – not “Now celebrating its 10th birthday, Bilski still matters…” but “The Bilski v Kappos decision still matters, even on its 10th birthday.”
DON’T get stuck in the weeds – When writing about a decision, choose a couple of key outcomes of the ruling and focus on them – don’t go section by section summarizing what the opinion said.
A Note for Authors with English as a Second Language
We get a lot of pitches from authors outside the United States whose first language is not English. We are very interested in international topics and will work with you to edit, but articles must be in reasonably good English when submitted or they simply become too time consuming to put into publishable form. Consider hiring a professional IP journalist or service to edit your article into proper English prior to submitting if you want to improve your chances for publication.
Write for Us!
Finally, don’t be intimidated by these suggestions; they’re all just guidelines—sometimes we break or forget the rules ourselves. We encourage all readers to pitch article ideas, as IPWatchdog relies heavily on guest posts and prides itself on the quality of its bylined content. Hopefully, the tips above will inspire more of you to share your insights with us!