"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Monday, January 9, 2017

10 Tips for Working With Magazines

I'm often asked how I cultivate a relationship with editors that offers me a chance to continue writing for magazines. The truth is there is no SIMPLE or quick answer. I can only offer these ten tips.

1) Do Your Research  - Whether I've been seeking publication in a specific magazine, or if the editor has reached out to me, my first goal is the same. Before putting pen to paper or words to a computer document I have to do research. I need to know the target audience of the publication, standard length of articles, angle or stance on a variety of issues, as well as their preferred formats. The best way to learn this is to obtain several copies, and read them to get a good feel for the style. This serves as a guide when writing an article for them. 

2) Discuss the Idea With the Editor First - If you have an idea for a story you should discuss it with the editor of the target magazine. Most editors are more than willing to discuss an article. So, be sure to learn whether an editor prefers to be contacted by phone or email and talk to them about your ideas. Don't forget - most editors, agents, and publishers will NOT read completed articles without a prior proposal acceptance. 

3) Submit a Proposal - Most contributor guidelines say that you must submit a proposal first by sending an email to the editor. This is so editors can steer you towards an angle they will WANT to publish. Many magazines will refuse to read articles they have not previously been contacted about because they have a limited amount of reading time. Others will reject those article because it doesn't meet their current needs. So, save yourself, and the magazine, some time by querying ideas first.

4) Listen to the Editor's Advice - The editor wants you to be a successful writer. They want to know you are a reliable professional. So, if an editor points out issues with your work, don't take it personally. They are rooting for you to provide them with successful and necessary material, just as much as you want to be published.

5) Grab the Reader - The lead of any story is the most important. No matter how good your grammar, how many details you provide, or the quality of sources you site, if you don't hook the reader immediately then nothing else you've said will matter.

6) Provide Good Images - the old adage "a picture is worth a thousand words" still reigns in most publications. So, be prepared to offer high quality digital photos or artwork with your article. Sometimes, the offer of these images can increase your amount of pay, or even determine if your article is published at all.

7) Submit Electronically - Most magazines in this digital era prefer to have articles and images submitted electronically. There are a number of benefits in this; it is fast and gives the editor something easy to cut, paste, copy, mark up comments, etc. Digital files increase turn over time and reduce paperwork.

8) Deliver -You will find it very difficult to get published if you renege on an article. That is, to get the go-ahead for an article after a successful proposal and not deliver the final product as or when stated. Committing to a particular article means sticking to the proposal outline and delivering the product. If you cannot meet the deadline or produce the product as proposed, then contact the editor to work out the issue. You must maintain a positive working relationship with the editor.

9) Above and Beyond - Be willing to step up and deliver work quickly. Several of the editors I work with know they can rely on me to help pull up the slack when other writers are overwhelmed. I always try to turn in my work BEFORE deadline, and am willing to take on rushed assignments. I know these facts have helped me in earning several assignments I might not have otherwise been given.

10) Multi Purpose Topics - Most magazines do not want to republish work you have done for others. They specifically request original and unpublished works from their writers. However, you can sill write several articles about the same topic, but from different angles. For instance, this month I have articles about the 2017 Super Bowl in two different publications. I wrote an article on "What Happens When the Super Bowl Comes to Your Town" for Houston Family Magazine which can be read here and an article on "How to Throw a Winning Super Bowl Party" for Thrive which can be read here.

While none of these tips can guarantee you will be published, your willingness to put in the required work will reflect a spirit of success. Never let rejections deter you. Receiving a byline followed by pay can require time and hard work. Just remember what Winston Churchill said, "Never give up on something that you can’t go a day without thinking about."


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Excellent advice! Especially discussing the topic with the editor in depth. Editors know what they want - best to give them what they want.

Sheena-kay Graham said...

You give some great advice. Maintaining positive relationships in business is very important.