Roses are red, violets are blue. How can you make readers fall for you?

We all want to win readers over. But sending a dozen roses out with each copy of the magazine—while thoughtful—isn’t practical. A box of chocolates or candy hearts won’t work, either. How can you spark true love between readers and your stories?

To answer this burning question, we tapped our resident love (of words) experts. Our assistant editors offer 4 tried-and-true ways to help readers fall in love with your stories.

Move Readers

Assistant Editor Pam Blair

“I want to be emotionally moved by every story I read,” says Assistant Editor Pam Blair. “That is best done when the story is told through the experiences and voice of a person.”

One of Pam’s all-time favorite stories, Committed to the Herd, shares the story of retired circus elephants. Marcy Chapman’s feature uses vivid imagery guided by the voice of Janice Aria, a veteran Ringling Bros. Circus clown and featured performer in an elephant act.

Pam says Kathy Sympson’s feature, Bodybuilder Fit for Life, does a nice job of helping the reader get to know the subject, Reinhard Swolana. The story is paced at a Germanic clip to match the subject’s stride, moving with Reinhard as he learns how to train, racks up bodybuilding titles, and inspires a new set of weightlifters.

“I smile when I feel like I really got to know the person behind the story, particularly what inspires him or her,” says Pam.

Profile a Lovely Cause

Assistant Editor Jennifer Brown

Want to win over Assistant Editor Jennifer Brown? Find a cause readers can join.

“Stories that move me to get involved in a cause always make me smile,” says Jennifer. “When I see how community-involved our readers are—and the scope of the programs they participate in—I want to get involved, too.”

A recent example is Scott Laird’s feature, Connecting with the Community, Helping Children. The article shares how a local Kiwanis chapter works with children in the community. Readers are encouraged to join the club and make a difference, too.

“Granted, what strikes a chord varies based on the reader,” says Jennifer. “But there are many causes looking for support. Find (and share) a cause that excites you, and you are bound to attract readers who share your excitement.”

Catch the Moment

Assistant Editor Mike Teegarden

Love at first sight. That’s the goal for Assistant Editor Mike Teegarden, an avid photographer.

“A great photo always wins me over,” says Mike. “I love interesting faces etched with beautiful light. Or exciting action frozen at its peak. But the best is a photo that makes me care about the person in the photo at just a glance.”

Craig Reed captures this challenge with a trio of pictures in his 2017 feature, Pounding Steel.

Craig Reed used 2 detail shots and a profile of his subject at work to draw readers into the story.

Pam Spettel’s profile of artist Mary Lou Goertzen uses a full-page shot of the subject to catch readers and draw them in. Natural light fills Mary Lou’s face, while a warm orange glow from a wood stove in the background adds depth and history to the composition.

Pam Spettel’s profile of artist Mary Lou Goertzen uses light to draw readers to the subject.

Mike says the best pictures come from being in the moment with a story. He illustrates this with two pictures he shot for Nancy Jorgensen’s feature, An Emotional Journey.

Mike Teegarden’s emotion-packed pictures show the importance of shooting a story as it happens, not after the fact.

“The picture of the woman listening to the vet tell his story gets me every time, as does the one of the vet being greeted at the airport,” says Mike. “The images speak to the advantage of actually being at an event rather than telling the story after the fact. You can’t get those photos without being close to the story.”

Give Features Time for Love

Assistant Editor Brandon Pomrenke

Our editors could use some love, too. Skip the Valentine this year. The true way to an editor’s heart is meeting deadlines. Each editor is a Casanova, of sorts, working their magic across several sets of local pages.

“We all have multiple editions, which means page builds, projects, and general customer service to make sure we’re taking care of our members,” says Assistant Editor Brandon Pomrenke. “If half of our features come in late or incomplete, we lose time to help those stories shine.”

Give your stories the time they deserve—and get some extra editorial love of your own!—by keeping features on time.

Share Your Heart-Winning Approach

What’s your reader love potion recipe? Add your favorite writing and photography tips below. Happy Valentine’s Day!