If you are considering submitting pictures to a magazine for use on their cover here are a few tips to help you become more successful.
The cover that the image is for will be planned several weeks (maybe months) in front of the date it appears. So make sure your photos are timely and send them in with plenty of time/notice. Submitting a Autumnal scene to a Travel or walking magazine in September/October, for example, will be no use to the editor until the following year.Get to know the production schedule so you can plan accordingly.
2 Know the magazine
Make sure the photos you submit are the type of photos that the editor considers for the magazine and, more importantly, the cover. A classic example of this was a few years ago. I wrote a piece on digital processing for inclusion in Black & White photography magazine. I included a wedding photo. I did not realise the editor, at the time, had a rule not to publish wedding photos, so I had to rewrite and illustrate the piece using a more suitable shot.
3 Know the subject
Don't submit inappropriate shots. Example: a walking magazine will not publish photos of walkers wearing jeans as jeans are not seen to be correct walking gear. It helps if you have an undertsanding of the subject you shoot but if not, do your research first.
4 Be ruthless
Edit you photos carefully. Be really critical. If you send your very best you have more chance of being used. If you send a random selection and repeat the process when you get declined you will eventually find your editor doesn't even bother opening your submission.
Don't expect a photo that's badly composed, averagely exposed and slightly soft when viewed at full screen to be accepted. The cover photo has to be the very best as its job is to sell the magazine.
6 Allow space
Make sure the photograph allows space for the title of the magazine and any tasters (cover stories) to be used without clashing with the background. The areas should be single toned and clean - ideally a blank canvas areas, so the text reads clearly. A cover photo is not always a visually and compositionally perfect photo, but it often will be when combined with the cover text.
7 Be patient
Don't expect a letter back straightaway saying the cover will be used. Give the magazine a month or so before making any follow up call or email regarding its use.
8 Don't be offended
Editors get 100s of submissions per month so don't be offended if yours doesn't get used. Try again, taking the above advice into consideration.
9 Don't submit the same to two magazines
A golden rule. never send the same/similar shot to two magazines at the same time. Wait until one has been rejected before trying a second option. You will probably never get work again if the same pictures appears on two covers in the same month.
10 Think Covers when shooting
When you are out shooting images, think about the above tips and shoot a few shots by these rules. Orientation and space are needed for good cover shots.