skip to Main Content
Papercut Magazine

5 Ways to Improve your Chances of Getting Published

By Jamall Olukun Co-Founder and Managing Editor of Papercut Magazine. Co-founder & CEO of Reveu.me

Paper Cut Magazine - Lindsay Adler Photography1. Do Your Homework and Create Amazing Work

Create amazing work. For us, we believe in meritocracy. If you do great work, it fits the theme (when we have one), and we like it, then we’ll find a way to feature it; whether that be on the website, social media, or in the mag. We look at EVERYTHING. This can take a long time, but we really enjoy looking at great work and finding cool stuff to feature.

However, most indie magazines aren’t set up this way, so as a photographer it’s important to do your homework and determine whether a magazine takes submissions, does commissions, or both. If you’re not sure, try reaching out to a few photographers that have been published in the magazine you’re interested in and ask if they submitted their work or if they were commissioned. Some magazines also accept mood boards and concepts and then provide commissioning letters or pull letters so you can obtain the necessary clothes and accessories for the shoot.

(An aside):
At Papercut as a general rule we don’t do pull letters and haven’t done them for a number of years. I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with big time stylists like Daniela Jung (Nylon, Spin) and Ise White (Michelle Obama, Harper’s, Vanity Fair) and they both didn’t trouble themselves with pulling clothes. When they were starting out, they did what a stylist should do and use style. They sewed things, went to the thrift store, used vintage, cut up fabric, whatever to make it work. Asking for a pull letter implies laziness. It means you haven’t done the hard work of building relationships with indie designers, brands and stores to get what you need, so you request a letter from a magazine to say “hey see, I’m shooting for these guys. To be clear, I’m not saying you shouldn’t pull clothes, just that you shouldn’t rely on them, especially when you’re starting out.

NOTE: To learn more about fashion terminology like “commissions” and “pull letters”, check out Lindsay’s ebook on fashion terminology 101 (included below with Get Published!)

2. Follow guidelines

Many submissions we get are declined because the photographer didn’t follow directions. Before you submit, read over the guidelines. If you’re not sure, send the magazine an email or hit them up on social media. They might not respond to you, but usually another fan following them will. In our case we have a submissions guidelines page. And yet, we still get a ton of submissions from people who don’t bother to read the directions. My favorite is when we’re added to a blast email where the photographer forgets to bcc everyone. So now we know the photographer is being disingenuous when they say, “ I really love your magazine and wanted to offer you this editorial….” We find this funny, but many others don’t. Don’t spray and pray. Personal your emails and make it at least seem like you actually care about the publication.

3. Try to stand out

We once had a photographer send in a mock Papercut cover he put together. That really caught our eye because he took the time to track down our logo and create a whole look based on what we do. He demonstrated that he understands our aesthetic and is a true fan. We didn’t end up using that cover, but we did feature the images in our magazine. Magazines get so many submissions so you really need to try and stand out anyway can.

4. Start Small

The best advice I would give to someone trying to get published in today’s environment is to start small and look to get into a really new magazine. This will allow you to build a relationship with the team and consistently get work published. Too many new photographers aim for the stars, when they’re still standing on the launchpad. With a new magazine, if you choose the right one that, then hopefully you’ll stay with them and both grow together. Lindsay is definitely a perfect example of this. She reached out to us early on when we were just getting started and she had our full attention because we weren’t being bombarded by hundreds of emails yet. She of course also had great work as well, but getting a hold of us back then is a lot easier then it is now.

5. Considering Being Your Own Publisher

Lastly, I think with social media today, especially instagram, everyone can become their own publisher. And it’s practically free to start your own magazine which is a great way to gain exposure for your photography because you can feature your own work. Some of the great magazines today like Dazed or Plastik were started by photographers (Rankin & Eli Rezkallah respectively). They didn’t sit around and wait for people to start knocking on their door or harass editors, they took matters into their own hands. And now people are flocking to them. And they both used this notoriety to start successful production companies.

Post Series: Getting Published