Unlocking the Secrets of Architecture Publishing: Navigating Exclusives and Marketing Your Work

Dear Doctor:

I really need your help. We really want to get our work published in some of the architecture magazines, but I don’t understand how they work and what they mean by an “exclusive.” I feel like we have to wait a long time for a decision—sometimes months. In the meantime, I’ve heard that we can’t put the photos of any of these projects on our website, so can’t even market them. Can you help us navigate?

Excluded in Atlanta


I know why you want to feel included, Excluded. Of course you do. Groucho Marx famously said that he didn’t want to join any club that would have him as a member. Maybe this is a club that you want to be in…but maybe not. In any case, don’t worry, we’re going to turn that beat around. There are always two tails that wag every dog. I mean, two sides to every story. So, here’s the deal – there are a ton of opportunities to publish your projects in print and digital publications, through social media, in newspapers, design magazines, trade publications, and on and on and on. Look, the world is your squishy little oyster as far as places where you can get recognition for your project. And then, there is a small group of publications that everyone and their mother wants to be in, like Architectural Digest, Architectural Record, Interior Design, Metropolis. These are the kind of publications that ask for—wait for it!—an exclusive.  


While everyone else is posting things all over the place, and you can too, you’re wondering why you’re sitting on your hands. Why do these exclusive-hungry publications make you wait so long for an answer? Back before the internet, when The Doctor was much younger, there was this thing called “breaking news.” You know, the kind of story that’s a secret and then it comes out, like a person jumping out of a birthday cake—surpriiiise! News outlets wanted to be the first ones to release the story. We have that, sort of, although when things go viral, well, then forget about it. We all know when the cat’s outta the bag, you can’t just stuff that furry little feline back in. Once something is on the internet, it goes around the world in like 80 nanoseconds. It’s harder and harder to keep things a secret. But these great magazines that are out there want to be the first ones to reveal the best projects. Think of it like a movie premier, even though The Doctor is not usually invited to those sorts of events (but she should be, hint, hint!). These magazines want to be the first to showcase your amazing work. It makes sense when you realize that you can’t have two movies winning the Oscar for best picture, we all know that. That’s why they keep things exclusive. And, you know, it takes time for them to filter through all the very best projects and select the very best.  In the meantime, they don’t want you to shop your project around to other magazines. In other words, it’s like waiting for a marriage proposal from your BF and, at the same time, looking for better offers. It’s just not cool.


You don’t have to send everything to top magazines, and you shouldn’t. But here’s what The Doctor prescribes. What you should do is pick your very best project and send it to one of the top magazines. Give the editors enough time to consider it. Patience is a virtue, it’s just not one that the Doctor was born with. So you have my sympathy. But so do the editors, and they are people too. Believe me, they inundated. They need time. If you get impatient, you can always tell them nicely and respectfully that you want to move on, and then you can send the project to your second choice publication. The Doctor suggests that you wait at least several weeks or months, not a few days. You gotta be realistic. If they’re considering the project and they want to keep it under wraps, they’ll usually tell you if there are any restrictions, such as posting photos on your website or social media. If they don’t, just ask! Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. Worse comes to worst, and they want you to hold back, it’s not forever. Don’t forget, you’re the own with the great work to show, and you’re the one driving the bus. You can always stop and let a publication off. If you really, really want a great placement, you’ll just have to bide your time. Just remember, you’ve got good options along your route and lots of them.