1 Moira Anderson Allen How to Write for Magazines by Moira Anderson Allen To download your additional e-books, please use the link below: The Writing-World.com Market Guides plus 2000 Online Resources for Writers http://www.writing-world.com/bookstore/guides/index.shtml Copyright © 2006 by Moira Anderson Allen All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission, except in the context of a published review, in which brief excerpts may be quoted. Published by Moira Allen Print edition printed by Lulu.com Manufactured in the United States of America Cover design by Moira Allen For reprint permission requests, review copies or other information, please contact Moira Allen at [email protected] This book is based on Moira Allen’s e-mail class, “Breaking into the Magazine and Periodical Market.” For more information on writing and freelancing, visit http://www.writing-world.com 3 Moira Anderson Allen Contents Introduction ......................................................................... 4 1. Finding the Right Markets ................................................. 6 2. Finding Article Ideas ........................................................ 18 3. Developing Your Concept ................................................. 27 4. Writing the Query ............................................................. 38 5. Preparing E-mail Queries ................................................ 51 6. Conducting Research and Interviews ............................. 58 7. Beginning Your Article ..................................................... 73 8. Selling Photos .................................................................... 86 9. What Happens Next? ...................................................... 100 10. Rights, Contracts and Getting Paid .............................. 109 More Information ........................................................... 122 4 Breaking into Magazines Introduction W elcome to “How to Write for Magazines!” This book contains the entire text of my 8-week online writing class, “How to Break into the Magazine and Periodical Market,” including the “bonus lecture” on digital photography added in 2005. All the material has been checked and updated. The purpose of this book is to help you break into the magazine market. Two terms in that sentence are important: “breaking in” and “magazine market.” This is not a generic “how to get started as a writer” book. It is specifically designed to help you get started selling magazine articles. And it is a book about “breaking in”—about discovering how to develop the types of articles that are most likely to get your foot in the door and enable you to make that first sale. Understanding these two concepts is important, because whenever I teach this series as a class, I encounter two basic misconceptions about the whole notion of “breaking into magazines.” The first is what I call “The Redbook Syndrome.” This is a syndrome common to new writers who are most familiar with the types of magazines sold at supermarket checkout counters: Cosmopolitan, Woman’s Day, Family Circle, Ladies Home Journal, and so on. (Come to think of it, I haven’t seen a Redbook in awhile; maybe I need to change the name of the “syndrome.”) Countless would-be writers dream of seeing their names in magazines like these—and fondly imagine that they will be able to sell their very first piece to one of them, right out of the gate. When I ask such writers why they feel qualified to write for such publications, the answer is usually along the lines of “Well, the magazine is for women around 40, and I’m a woman around 40, so I’m sure I’d have a lot in Moira Anderson Allen 5 common with the readership...” Unfortunately, that statement is precisely true—for these are the qualifications of such a magazine’s several million readers. It takes much more to become one of these publications’ handful of writers. To put it bluntly, the major women’s magazines are not “break-in” publications. They are publications that can afford to hire the very best, most experienced writers—and if your goal is to write for them, that is what you must aspire to become. The second problem I commonly encounter in new writers is the desire to write about oneself. Many of us enter into the writing “business” because we feel that we have interesting stories to tell about the things that have happened to us, or things that we have done. Unfortunately, we quickly discover that magazines aren’t particularly interested in these stories. Personal experience stories, heartwarming essays, or accounts of “the first time I...” are often the easiest and most natural thing for one to write—but they are of limited interest to the majority of the magazine market. That’s why this book focuses on the specific type of article that provides a new writer’s best chance of “breaking in.” You won’t find one word about writing essays in this book (though you can find that information on the Writing-World.com website in the “freelancing” section at http://www.writing-world.com/freelance/index.shtml). Instead, you’ll find out how to turn your personal experiences into the type of reader-focused articles that magazines are hungry for—the type editors need to fill up every issue. This book is designed to walk you through the basic steps of developing a marketable article—and of finding the right market for that article. The two processes are inextricably linked. If you don’t know what market you’re writing for, you won’t know what to write—and if you don’t have an idea of what you’d like to write, you won’t be able to find a market. By the time you’ve finished this book (and its “homework” exercises), my hope is that you will have at least the first draft of a marketable article, plus a query letter all ready to send to an editor. So read, enjoy—and go forth and submit! —Moira Allen, Editor Writing-World.com 6 Breaking into Magazines 1: Finding the Right Markets S uccessful freelancing” has two components: writing and marketing. Writing means generating the best possible written product; we’ll talk about this in greater detail later. Marketing, which we’ll begin to discuss in this chapter, means understanding the marketplace itself: What magazines are buying, what they are not buying, how to find the right market for your article, how to analyze a market, how to determine whether the pay is right for you, etc. Possibly the single most damaging mistake freelancers make is to approach these two components separately. One common error is to write up several articles and then search for potential markets. The result, quite often, is a bunch of “orphan” articles that can’t be placed. A second, equally common error is choose a publication that seems particularly desirable, and focus one’s efforts (or dreams) on being published in that periodical—regardless of whether one actually has appropriate ideas, material, or credentials to reach that market (at least, at that time). I call this the “Redbook Syndrome,” as in “Oh, I want to be published in Redbook!” To freelance successfully (or consistently successfully), you must consider both the writing and marketing components at the same time. While developing ideas, you should be considering the marketplace; while researching markets, you should be considering potential ideas. This prevents you from wasting a great deal of time writing articles Moira Anderson Allen 7 that you may not be able to sell, or from attempting to target a market that isn’t right for you. At all times, you need to keep one important piece of information in mind: What magazines and other periodicals want from writers. What Do Magazines Want? I’m not talking about subject areas here. I’m talking about the fundamental basics—an underlying principle that will help you understand what every magazine or periodical wants, regardless of its subject area. This principle applies whether you’re dealing with women’s magazines, pet magazines, hobby magazines, travel magazines, business magazines—you name it. All publications want very similar things from writers. The vast majority of unsolicited freelance submissions are rejected because writers don’t know what magazines want; if you do, you’re going to rise to the top of the slushpile much faster! At this point, when I teach this class “live,” I always ask the question: “Are magazines designed to entertain or to inform?” Usually, 75% of a class will declare that magazines seek to entertain their readers. I believe the majority of would-be freelance writers have the same notion. However, a quick scan of just about any magazine’s table of contents should suffice to show that this notion is false. Here’s a look at a table of contents from Health Magazine: • “The Real Woman’s Guide to All-Day Pampering” (how to “rejuvenate” without going to a spa) • “Wining and Dining” (how to cook with wine) • “Are Your Emotions Hurting Your Health?” • “What You Need to Know Before Your Next Trip to the Supermarket” (on healthy foods) • “Movement of Faith” (on meditation) Here’s a look at a table of contents from Tea: A Magazine: • “The Golden Age of Limoges” (a historical overview) • “Taking Tea in Prague” (a travel feature) • “Artist Nancy Bautzman” (a profile) These two examples demonstrate the basic principle I’ve been talking about, which is: Magazines are in the information business. (OK, the truth is that a great many magazines are in the business of selling advertising, but they use information to accomplish this.) They help 8 Breaking into Magazines readers with problems, enlighten them about events or issues, instruct them on how to accomplish specific tasks or goals, inform them about topics of interest, or persuade them to choose a particular course of action or thought. Flip through a few magazines and you’ll see the phrase “how to” over and over again. A great many magazines are marketed by persuading the reader that they will make you better at something—healthier, happier, richer, better at a skill or a relationship, or simply better informed. That is not to say that entertainment doesn’t enter the picture. However, unless a magazine’s entire focus is entertainment (e.g., it is a literary, fiction, poetry or humor publication), it will have very few articles that exist purely to entertain, with no information. What magazines really want are articles that are both informative and entertaining—but if faced with a choice between one or the other, the vast majority will choose information first. The next step is to determine what individual publications want. Determining a Magazine’s Focus All magazines share a fundamental focus on information. Your next step is to determine the specific focus of a specific publication. This is the basic purpose of market research. To market your work effectively, you need to know: 1) What kind of information does the publication provide? 2) To whom does it provide that information? (Audience) 3) How is that information presented? (Content, style, etc.) If you look up publications in The Writer’s Market (which is still the best source of general market information available), you’ll find that they are grouped in general categories, such as “Animals,” “Sports,” “Women,” etc. While such categories are useful, they can also be misleading, as one might be tempted to suppose that any publication within that category might be interested in the same type of article. For example, if you have an article on dogs, couldn’t you sell it to any of the dog publications listed in Writer’s Market? If you have a piece that addresses a “woman’s issue”, couldn’t it be offered to any (and all) women’s magazines? The answer, of course, is no. Though several publications may be grouped within a single broad category, those publications may have Moira Anderson Allen 9 very different needs and interests; an article that works well for one might be the exact opposite of what another editor is looking for. Let’s take a look at some of the differences, for example, within the category of “women’s magazines.” A) Traditional Women’s Magazines. Initially (i.e., from the 1880’s through the 1970’s), women’s magazines focused on home and family. Articles covered such topics as child-care, crafts, home décor, cooking, cleaning, etc. Publications were targeted toward women who were wives and mothers—and their “promise” was to make these women better wives and mothers. This also implies, by definition, certain demographics: The magazines appealed to women who were married and (generally) of childbearing age. They did not focus on material of interest to young women, single women or grandmothers. Now, these magazines tend to be called “family” magazines, but their focus remains much the same. (Family Circle is a good example.) However, their content has shifted to reflect current issues; instead of just discussing how to be a better wife, for example, such publications might address how to handle a problem husband! B) Modern Women’s Magazines. Obviously, not all women are wives and mothers (or want to be), so in the 1970’s and 1980’s, some of the traditional women’s magazines began to focus on the more “independent” or career-oriented woman, while new magazines (like Redbook and Self) emerged to fill this niche. The “modern” woman’s magazine emphasizes self-help, personal growth, and self-improvement. They are more about becoming a more fulfilled individual than about baking cookies with the kids. Such magazines also have a much stronger focus on careers, building new relationships, finances, beauty, fitness, sex, etc. You won’t find pictures of cupcakes with marshmallow tombstones for Halloween in these magazines. C) Trendy Women’s Magazines. Cosmopolitan is perhaps the most obvious example of this type of publication. Where Woman’s Day might run a feature on “Ten Ways to Communicate More Effectively with Your Spouse,” Cosmo might run a piece on “Ten Ways to Have a GuiltFree Affair.” While self-improvement is covered, “trendy” magazines focus on women who want to have more excitement and enjoyment in life. Beauty and fashion are a primary focus, along with relationships, 10 Breaking into Magazines dating, divorce, sex, and similar topics. You’re not likely to find anything about cookies or child-care in a “trendy.” This is, of course, only the briefest of overviews of this large and complex category of publications. The point is that you can’t sell a Woman’s Day feature to Cosmopolitan, and vice versa. To market your work to any of these publications (which pay highly), you must know their purpose: What information do they offer, to whom? I mentioned “dog magazines” as another example of very different publications sharing the same basic category. There are currently two major dog magazines in the U.S.: Dog Fancy and the American Kennel Club (AKC) Gazette. (Dog World, formerly the third major publication, now belongs to Fancy Publications.) These magazines are both about “dogs,” but their readership and thus their focus could not be more different. Dog Fancy is subtitled “the magazine for responsible dog owners.” It targets the average pet owner. Its content focuses on basic care and training issues—canine health, behavior, seasonal topics, etc. Because its readership is the “average” pet owner, it relies on a fairly high amount of “entertainment factor” to get its message across, but articles must still be primarily informational. It takes a pro-neutering stance and discourages breeding. It focuses on dogs in general rather than purebreds, which means that you can illustrate an article with photos of your mixed-breed. The AKC Gazette is marketed to professional dog breeders and exhibitors; although it is available by subscription and in pet stores, its primary circulation is to members of the American Kennel Club. While it covers the same basic topics as Dog Fancy (health, basic care, etc.), its articles tend to be much more technical. Since its members are breeders, it does not focus on neutering or population control. And since its members are also into the “purebred” dog scene, it will never, ever feature a piece on mixed-breeds, or use photos of mixed-breed dogs. What Do Magazines Want from Writers? Going beyond the issue of content, periodical editors want certain things from writers: 1) Professionalism. A writer should know how to prepare a manuscript or query professionally. If you’re using snail-mail, you need to know how to format a manuscript properly. (For information on for- Moira Anderson Allen 11 matting a manuscript, see “How to Format Your Manuscript,” at http://www.writing-world.com/basics/manuscript.shtml). If you’re using e-mail, you need to be sure that the message is still professional in content and appearance—and not riddled with the hieroglyphics that result from simply cutting-and-pasting a wordprocessed document into an e-mail. (For more information, see Chapter 5). Professionalism also means behaving with courtesy at all times (even when editors don’t), meeting deadlines, following through with assignments, etc. 2) Observance of Published Guidelines. If a magazine has guidelines, the editor will assume that you have read them. If the publication only accepts queries, don’t send a complete manuscript. If the publication only accepts articles of 2000 words or less, don’t send one that is 3000 words. If the publication doesn’t accept e-mail queries, don’t send one. If you’re lucky, a magazine’s guidelines will have information on “wants” and “don’t wants”—but not all do. 3) Reliability. This is a subset of professionalism. Editors love writers who can be counted on to produce a well-written article that has all the information requested, within the right word-count, on deadline. There are many good writers—but not all good writers are reliable. An editor would rather work with a reliable writer whose work may need a bit of touching up, than with a brilliant writer who can’t be counted on to get a piece in on time (or at all). 4) Understanding of the Publication. An editor will want to see evidence that you have reviewed the magazine, or are in some way familiar with its content. This means that your article topic is appropriate for the publication and is written in a style or tone that matches that of the publication. If, for example, the publication does not use firstperson accounts, you should know this. If articles always include expert interviews, your query should indicate that you’ll be able to obtain one. If the magazine’s audience is women age 65 or over, you shouldn’t be querying about an article on finding one’s first job after college. Finding Out What a Magazine Wants Magazine editors receive a huge number of inappropriate submissions— articles that do not address the needs of the market. Usually, this is because the writer has not bothered to research the market; s/he saw that the magazine covers“dogs,” and sent in any old piece about dogs. 12 Breaking into Magazines You’ve undoubtedly heard the advice, “research the market!” But what does that mean, exactly? How do you research a market? What are you looking for, and how do you find it? Published guidelines can be a good place to start, but they don’t tell the whole story (or even, really, very much of the story). I use Writer’s Market guidelines to give me an idea as to whether I even want to try to find out more about a publication. I don’t assume that they tell me enough to really sell to that publication. Conversely, you’ll hear many editors (and people who offer writing advice) suggesting that you should review six back issues of a magazine before writing for it. Let’s get real. You don’t have that much time; no one does. You don’t have that much money—if a magazine charges $4 for a back issue (and some charge more), are you really going to pay $24 just to do market research? Of course not! It is a good idea, though, to get your hands on at least one issue. Let’s assume that you’ve done so. What are you looking for? 1) Check the subtitle. Many magazines have subtitles that say a lot about their purpose. Dog Fancy’s subtitle used to be “the magazine about dogs and puppies” (not very useful!), but it was later changed it to “the magazine for responsible dog owners.” 2) Check the table of contents. What types of articles are featured? Which features are the “top” features (listed first, listed in a special box, listed with small photo clips)? Which is the “cover” feature? Read the titles and subtitles carefully; how many of the articles could be phrased as “how-to” pieces, even if those words aren’t used in the actual title? (E.g., Health’s “Wining and Dining” is a “how to cook with wine” article.) 3) Look at the departments and columns. What topics are covered regularly by this magazine? Often, this is the best place to break in with a shorter article. “Departments” are often open to outside contributors; “columns” are usually handled by a regular writer. 4) Check the names of the authors, and compare this list to the magazine’s masthead. Do many of the names match? If you see many of the regular staffers listed in the table of contents, this is not a good thing; it means that the magazine uses its in-house staff to gener- Moira Anderson Allen 13 ate most of its articles. (“Contributing editors” are not regular staffers; they are simply freelancers who either (a) write a regular column or (b) contribute on a very regular basis.) Also, check to see what credentials the authors have (you may have to check the bylines of each article). If the magazine has health articles, do all the authors have “M.D.” after their names? If so, chances are that this publication does not accept health articles from non-experts. 5) Review the articles themselves. How “in-depth” are they? Does a medical article give you an easy-to-understand overview of a condition, or does it include technical, medical terminology? What is the focus of the article? Again, does that medical article offer a description of a condition, an overview of conventional treatments, or suggestions for non-traditional therapies? What is the general style and tone of the magazine? Are first-person articles used? Do articles contain a large number of interviews? 6) Check the ads. This will give you a good idea of the audience demographics. For example, I once compared ads in two magazines that both covered “country living.” One had ads for expensive furniture; the other had ads for some rather hideous little collectible frogs in country outfits. Though both were “country” magazines, one obviously targeted upscale folks with high incomes and (presumably) good taste, while the other targeted readers with less disposable income (and more questionable tastes). Take a look at the people featured in the ads—are they young or old? Male or female? All of these details will give you an idea of the magazine’s audience; magazines want readers to “see themselves” in the images used in their advertising. 7) Check for guidelines. Does the magazine have a website? Often, you can find its guidelines there. If you don’t see a link to “guidelines” or “submissions,” look under “Contact Us” or “About Us.” Based on those guidelines, does this look like a market you’d like to write for? Are you willing to accept the pay offered and give up the rights that are being requested? 8) Does your review trigger any article ideas? Do you find yourself thinking, “I could have written that” or “I could write about XXX for this magazine”? Or do you find yourself feeling that you have nothing 14 Breaking into Magazines to contribute to this publication? Do you feel that you would like to be associated with this publication? Applying This Approach to Online Markets Online markets blossomed during the dot.com frenzy of 1999. At that time, hundreds of folks thought that anything on the Internet would somehow magically make money. Then the market went sour, and a number of publications simply folded completely. (Think “Pets.com”.) I have been watching the electronic market scene for several years, and it is steadily shrinking. Publications are disappearing at an alarming rate, but very few new markets are coming onto the scene. So while there is still an electronic marketplace for articles, this has not become the glorious alternative to print that everyone predicted. Print markets are still your best opportunity for publication and payment. That being said, the basic approach to analyzing an online market is the same as for a print publication—except your primary source of information is going to be “content.” The table of contents is likely to be a set of menu links that may not convey much additional information; you usually have to go to the article to learn more about the authors. It may be difficult to find a masthead (check the “About Us” or “Contact Us” sections for this). Note that advertising in online publications is often very different from what you’d find in a print publication on the same topic. While some publications seek advertising that relates to the subject of the publication itself, many of the larger ones accept advertising from any sponsor willing to pay out the bucks. Thus, you’ll see the same bank ads, casino ads, software ads, etc., on just about any of the larger online publications—and these ads tend to be much the same, so you don’t get the information on demographics that you do from a magazine’s ads. One thing you may be able to find more easily is information on the number of visitors or subscribers. Most e-mail newsletters (a variant of online pubs) will list the current subscriber rate, and many online publications will post some type of hit counter. Online publications may also offer one other helpful piece of information you can’t find in print magazines: A “mission statement.” When researching such a publication, be sure to click the “About Us” button to see what the publisher has to say about the publication. This can offer important information for your query letter, if you can match your “pitch” to the purposes outlined in the mission statement. Moira Anderson Allen 15 What Magazines Don’t Want (Much) While a review of a magazine’s table of contents should be enough to let any writer know that the magazine publishes “information” (and the type of information it publishes), editors are nonetheless flooded with inappropriate submissions. Predominant among these are “personal experiences”—accounts of some aspect of the writer’s life that the writer believes magazine readers will find (in most cases) “entertaining.” Women’s magazines are flooded with women’s personal experiences. Pet magazines are flooded with stories of “my favorite pet.” Special-interest magazines are flooded with the “humorous account of the first time I ever tried this hobby/sport/skill.” Travel magazines are flooded with “my wonderful adventure in this location” or “how I spent my summer vacation” stories. These stories are rejected because they contain virtually no useful information (and to be blunt, the vast majority aren’t particularly entertaining either, except perhaps to a very near relative of the writer). It is true that many publications do use personal-experience articles—but they generally use only a limited number. If a publication uses ten articles per month, it’s probable that only one will be a “personal experience” account. Others may include personal accounts, but these will be subordinate to the primary “information” focus of the article. So while I’m not saying that no personal experience stories sell, this is the least effective way of trying to break into a publication. Let’s take a look at the odds. First, keep in mind that some publications use no personal experience articles at all. But for those that do, let’s assume a hypothetical publication that buys ten articles per month. Based on a review of a typical publication’s table of contents, we can assume that our hypothetical publication’s subject matter is 90% informational. That means it may buy one personal-experience article for every nine informational articles it uses. At least 60% (or more) of a magazine’s monthly “slushpile” of unsolicited submissions will consist of personal-experience pieces. Only 40% (or less) will be information articles. This means the editor will by 10% of his monthly features from the 60% stack, and 90% from the 40% stack. In real numbers, if the monthly slushpile is 100 articles, the editor will buy one out of the stack of 60, and nine out of the stack of 40. In other words, you have a 1-in-60 chance (1.65%) of selling a personal-experience piece, vs. a 9-in-40 chance (nearly 23%) of selling an informational article. 16 Breaking into Magazines Which pile do you want to be in? Does this mean that you can’t tell your story? Not at all. However, if you want to be consistently successful as a freelancer, you should not be writing consistently about you. That doesn’t mean “you” can’t be in your article; it simply means that your article should not be about you. If you want to write an article about your hiking trip, for example, focus the article on an informative aspect of hiking, and use your personal experience to illustrate your point. In this way, your article ceases to be about you, and is now about hiking—and will have a much better chance of selling. Exercise Let’s put this into practice.Your first step in finding appropriate markets is to start looking at magazines—perhaps in a store, perhaps in the pile in your living room—and start picking out publications that look interesting. There is a good chance that the magazines you subscribe to could be magazines you could write for, as they are likely to reflect your interests. For this exercise, pick out a publication that you think, realistically, you might be able to write for. Write a brief description of the publication, based on the information I’ve listed above (e.g., defining its audience, its purpose, its content, etc.). Explain why you believe this would be a good market for you. But first... A word about targeting “the big guys.” More than half the students I’ve taught in this course have started out with the hope of selling their first article to Redbook, Ladies Home Journal, Cosmopolitan, or something similar. There is nothing wrong with having such a goal. However, it is important to realize that these magazines are the hardest of all to break into. They are the most “familiar” magazines in the country—you can pick them up on just about any checkout counter. They make big money—and that means they can hire the best writers in the field (and “best” usually means “experienced”—writers who already have a reputation and a portfolio). The second problem I generally encounter is a lack of clarity on the subject of “why you would be the right person to write for this publication.” Quite often, the answer I get to this question is “Well, the magazine targets women between 40 and 50, and I’m a woman between 40 and 50, so I think I would be able to come up with appropriate ideas...” Unfortunately this particular “credential” does nothing to distinguish you, the writer, from the magazine’s other 10 million readers. To write for a publication, you must have something to offer that goes beyond Moira Anderson Allen 17 simply what it takes to be a part of the magazine’s readership. Millions of women may read Redbook, but only a few dozen actually write for it. Part of your task, therefore, is to determine what places you, not in the category of all the folks who read a publication, but in the category of the handful of folks who are considered qualified to speak to those readers. This doesn’t mean that it’s “wrong” to dream of targeting a magazine like Redbook or Cosmopolitan. If you have an appropriate article and can back it up with relevant credentials, go for it! I believe strongly in aiming for the top and working your way down; it’s a lot better than starting at the bottom and selling an article for $25 that you could actually have sold to a better publication for $500. Just be aware that if you do target these publications, the odds against you are astronomical, and have nothing to do with your ability or the quality of your writing. So if you’re rejected, accept this as “life” and move on to the next market on your list. And if you’re accepted, break out the champagne and celebrate, because you’ve achieved something most freelancers simply dream of. 18 Breaking into Magazines 2: Finding Article Ideas O ne of the most common complaints of newer writers is “I don’t have anything to write about” or “I don’t have any ideas.” This isn’t true. Everyone has lots of things to write about; the key is to identify them, and figure out how to convert one’s life experiences into marketable article topics. The first step is determining where to look for “ideas.” At this point, I’m not talking about ideas for specific articles, but rather, ideas about broad subject areas that you may be able to mine for article topics. (There is a difference between an idea, a subject, and a topic, which we’ll get to later.) Here are some areas that everyone can “mine” for article ideas: • Your personal life—your home, your family, your personal history, your life experiences • Your interests and hobbies • Your workplace, professional expertise, or professional background • Your education • Your memories—whether nostalgic or traumatic • Your activities—vacations, family events, community activities, etc. • Your observations of people, places, and things around you • Your interests—things that intrigue you, even if you don’t know much about them (yet) Ideas also come from the very process of developing ideas: Moira Anderson Allen 19 • • • • From brainstorming a topic From reviewing magazines and looking at articles From researching market sources From researching a topic (i.e., your research for one article can lead to “spinoff” articles for other markets) • From journal-keeping and note-taking Now comes the million-dollar question: Do I have to write about what I know? To answer that, let’s look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of sticking to “what you know” when developing ideas. Advantages • Writing about what you already know saves you work. • It calls upon your existing expertise; often, it enables you to use your own experience or expertise as a credential • You generally know where to look for more information • You may feel more comfortable sticking to “what you know” until you have built the confidence to branch out into other areas. Disadvantages • We often forget or take for granted what we actually “know”—and so have difficulty really mining this area for article topics. • We often consider “what we know” to be boring—the “known” tends to be much less interesting than the “unknown.” Consequently, we may assume (incorrectly) that it will be boring to other. Worse, if we’re not excited about a topic, it’s hard to write an exciting article. • It’s easy to get trapped in “writing what you know” and fail to branch out into other areas—thus not expanding one’s knowledge base or market potential. Writing about what you know has applications beyond mere “subjects,” however. You also “know” various skills and techniques that can be applied to other topics. For example, if you were writing a short story about, say, the difficulties experienced by a space colony, you might wonder, “how can I write about this when I don’t ‘know’ any- 20 Breaking into Magazines thing about living in space?” Take a look, instead, at what you doknow. Let’s say that you’re a teacher. Now imagine that you’re trying to teach children in a colony that is beset by various difficulties. What would your challenges be? What would you want your students to learn? Writing about “what you know” doesn’t mean that you have to already know everything about which you write! You also “know” feelings, images, and impressions that you can build into other topics. Sometimes, what you “know” comes across in how you write rather than what you write. If you know what it feels like to be afraid, for example, you’ll have a much better ability to express that sense of fear when writing about someone else’s experience— even if you’re not expressing your own fear. Writing About What You Don’t Know One of the things you “know”, but may not have thought about, is “what interests you.” You know what intrigues you, what you’d like to learn more about, what you find absolutely fascinating. (Chances are, some of this is reflected in your choice of magazines and books.) One alternative to “writing about what you know” is to “write about what you don’t know — but wish you did!” No matter what you write, you’re going to end up doing a fair amount of research. So why not research subjects that are of interest to you? You don’t have to know a lot about them to start with. You simply need to have a sense that, because this fascinates you, there’s a good chance that it might fascinate someone else. Research techniques will be covered in a later chapter. Brainstorming Ideas The process of developing ideas for articles is a curious mixture of “zooming in” and “zooming out.” Imagine that your mind is working like a telephoto lens. Sometimes you want to “zoom out” to get the “big picture” — to see all the details, the perspective, the surroundings. At other times you need to “zoom in” to sharpen your focus, to make sure that you are concentrating on the most important details. This process goes back and forth, zooming in and zooming out, as you work your way from “idea” to “article topic.” A good way to start is with a wide-angle focus. Take another look at the list of “idea sources” I provided earlier. Jot down the areas from that list that you would particularly like to explore for article ideas. For the purposes of discussion, I’ll pick “personal life.” Moira Anderson Allen 21 If I were “brainstorming,” I’d write this topic at the top of a piece of paper (or a computer file). By the way, sometimes ideas flow better when you use old-fashioned approaches—if you find that you’re not getting anywhere by staring at the computer screen, take a pad of paper and a pencil to another room, get comfortable, and work there. Sometimes the computer brings out our “inner editor” (it’s so easy to get into the mechanics of cutting-and-pasting)—and we need to just “shut that off” by going back to a more physical approach to writing. Anyway—you’ve now put “personal life” at the top of your “idea” page. Now, shut down that inner voice that is whispering, “No one wants to know about your personal life!” This is true, actually—I’ve already mentioned the perils of writing about personal experiences— but that’s not what we’re here for. We’re here to find out what aspects of your personal life might lead to articles that people will want to read. So let’s jot down a few things about “personal life.” 1) Family. Do you have a spouse? Children? In-laws? Parents? Grandparents? Siblings? Extended family? Family members that don’t speak to each other? Family members in other countries, or of other cultures? Are you adopted? Is anyone in your family adopted? Getting more personal, what about topics like marriage, divorce, childbirth, or death in the family? 2) Holidays. Thinking about “family” might make one think about times when families get together, such as holidays. Jot down a list of the holidays you celebrate. Does your family have special ways of celebrating particular holidays? Or does it avoid certain holidays for some reason? Does your family celebrate holidays that are less familiar to the general public? Are holidays a good time or a bad time? Do you find holidays joyful or stressful? What are some of the activities that you share with your children during a particular holiday? (This category might include “birthdays” as well.) 3) Pets. Do you have a family pet (or more than one)? How about past pets? Pets of your childhood? What type of pet do you have, and how do you take care of it? What problems do you experience with your pets? What activities do you pursue with your pets? What challenges have you faced and overcome? What tragedies have you endured? How do your pets interact with your children? 22 Breaking into Magazines And so on.... This is part of the “zooming out” process. Notice that we started with a single idea—“personal life”—and expanded that idea into at least three subtopics (family, holidays, pets). We then expanded each of those topics into a variety of more specific areas. If you try this exercise with all eight of the subject areas proposed at the beginning, you may find yourself with literally dozens of potential topics by now. By the way, this is a good exercise to do with a partner—a spouse, significant other, or writing buddy—who can help you come up with ideas you might otherwise miss. Someone who knows you well is likely to think of things that you might overlook simply because they are so “familiar” that they don’t come to mind as potential topics. Focus and Expand So far, none of the subjects listed above are sufficiently focused to serve as article topics. The next step, therefore, is to focus in even more closely—and then to expand once again. On another sheet of paper (or in another computer file), select just one of the topics that you generated. For example, you might select “holiday activities” as an interesting area to explore further. Obviously, however, “holiday activities” is far too general a subject to make into an article. It’s time to zoom that lens in a bit further: What holiday? What activities? The immediate temptation is to tackle “Christmas,” because it offers so many topics. On the other hand, it’s also the holiday that gets the most “ink”—which means you’re competing against a lot of other writers who want to cover this holiday. So let’s focus on a holiday that tends to get a little less press: Easter. It’s time to brainstorm again, jotting down everything you associate with Easter. Here’s my list: • Eggs • Bunnies • Easter baskets • Easter egg hunts • Onion-skin Easter eggs • Rabbits—good for pets? • Chicks—same question • Easter history/folklore • Easter in other countries: Greek Easter candles • Easter trees Moira Anderson Allen 23 Now we’re getting somewhere. Some of these topics are still a bit vague (what about Easter eggs, exactly?), but others are ripe for the plucking. Let’s see what articles we might be able to generate from this list: Easter baskets—Is there someone in your town who makes fancy, unique Easter baskets? (Check your local classifieds for a “gift basket” store.) That might make a good profile for a local paper. Onion-skin Easter eggs—If you don’t know how to make these, don’t worry; sooner or later, I’ll get around to writing my holiday article on this family tradition. Rabbits/chicks: Good for pets?—Again, this would be a good feature for a local paper, explaining why it’s not a good idea to get your kids an “Easter bunny”. All you’ll need is an interview with a representative of your local humane society; you might also check online to see if you can find any statistics on how many bunnies are sold in pet shops at this time of year. Easter history/folklore—This is a perennial favorite. I know, because one of the very first articles I ever sold to a newspaper was on this topic—and I am still selling that exact same article today, nearly 20 years after I first wrote it. No reason why you can’t do a bit of research and sell something on this topic too! Easter in other countries—We visited Greece on our honeymoon, and I remember seeing families returning to the islands after shopping on the mainland, all carrying elaborately decorated Easter candles. Might make a good article someday, but it would need more research than I want to do just now. Easter trees—Never seen one? These are very popular in Germany, and have a made a limited appearance in the U.S., but haven’t really caught on yet. This could be a nice, crafty “how-to” article on how to make your own “Easter tree”—something one could sell to a local paper, or possibly to a crafts or home-decorating magazine. Or maybe you could slant this as a children’s activity—how kids can make an Easter tree—and aim for a family publication such as Family Circle. 24 Breaking into Magazines I’ve just identified five articles that I might be able to write, with very little effort, from this one subject: Easter. Easter, however, was itself a subtopic of a larger category—holiday activities. Imagine how many more article ideas I could generate if I go back to “holiday activities” and look at other holidays? If I take a step further back, to “holidays,” I can follow other branches—holiday foods, holiday safety, holiday reminiscences, nontraditional holidays—and develop dozens of additional possibilities. Or I can go further back up the tree to “Personal Life” and try another major branch—e.g., “family”—and start exploring those subtopics. Keep in mind, too, that you’re likely to find ways that your categories overlap. If you have children, it’s going to be easy to put together topics that combine “holidays” and “children”—crafts, safety tips, inspirational stories, etc. Or you might combine “holidays” and “grandparents” for a nostalgic look at holidays in your past. And so on... Don’t Eliminate the Negative Chances are that the things that first strike you as food for articles are positive. Maybe some of the more negative things that came out on your list made you shudder and move on quickly. But don’t overlook the value of “negative experiences” in this exercise either. Let’s say, for example, that you hate Christmas because that’s when the entire “clan” gets together — and everyone picks up the old fights right where they left off the previous year. No one gets along, and by the time the holiday is over, you’re so stressed that you wish Christmas could be banned forever. Not a very happy picture, right? Besides, who wants to hear about your troubles? No one, perhaps—but do you suppose that you’re the only family with this problem? Or might there be hundreds of families who go through something similar every year, and hate it just as much as you do? Can you write something that speaks to those families? Here’s where “writing what you know” meets “writing what you don’t know.” What you know is that you hate Christmas because it involves a huge, stressful family gathering. What you don’t know is how to change that. If you could find out, you could share that information with other families—and write an article that might make a profound difference in many lives! So you’ve decided to write about stressful family holiday gatherings. What do you want to say? A rant about your horrible family might not get an editor’s attention—unless you could make it humor- Moira Anderson Allen 25 ous! Can you portray your family in such a way that many others see their families in your experience—and find a way, at last, to laugh about it? Or, perhaps you’d like to help people avoid this type of horrible gathering, but you don’t know how. That’s OK—all you need to do is find someone who does! Try running a search that combines terms like “holiday stress” and “family gathering” and see what comes up; chances are, you’ll be able to track down (a) some excellent resource materials and (b) an expert you can interview on this topic. When “What You Know” Isn’t Enough There’s an important point to keep in mind when generating ideas based on “what you know.” Note that this chapter is about ideas—it is not about how you turn those ideas into actual articles. “What you know” is an excellent place to start. However, it is not necessarily enough to develop a complete, marketable article. For example, let’s say that you are a parent. You have children, you’ve raised children through various experiences, you’ve dealt with health crises and school and nutrition and a host of other things. And perhaps you also have a passion for children—a desire to communicate some of the things you’ve learned and experienced along the way. This is a wonderful place to start your search for article ideas. However, “being a parent” is rarely, in itself, a sufficient credential to actually sell an article. Consider this: A major parenting magazine may go out to several hundred thousand parents—so its editors aren’t going to consider the status of “being a parent,” by itself, to be particularly impressive. Instead, they are going to look for other credentials— for example, if you wished to write about child nutrition, the editor might be impressed to learn that you have a background in nutrition or dietary studies. If you don’t, you’re almost certainly going to have to find someone with appropriate credentials to interview. Another common error is to attempt to write articles that are, basically, one’s personal opinion. For example, in one of my classes, a student wanted to write about the harmful nature of reality shows. Such an article might be marketable if it reflects the opinions of experts, such as child psychologists. It will not be marketable, however, if it is based simply on the author’s viewpoint—no matter how valid that viewpoint may be! Be very cautious, therefore, about article ideas that are based on an opinion—something that you believe is good, or bad, or should be changed. 26 Breaking into Magazines Again, personal experience is one of the best places to come up with ideas for articles. When it comes to developing those articles, however, you may have to go beyond that experience—as you’ll see in later chapters. Summing Up The process of developing ideas is a process of “zooming in” and “zooming out,” changing your focus by brainstorming to develop a “big picture” or by selecting specific details to develop a focused topic. You can begin by selecting broad areas of your life and experience—the “big picture”. Then “zoom in” to select a specific area— e.g., “family.” This is too general a subject for an article, so you’ll need to zoom out again to brainstorm all the topics you can think of that relate to “family.” Zoom in on one of those—e.g., children. Still too general for an article! Zoom out to brainstorm everything you can think of that you might have to say about children. Now zoom in on one of those topics—e.g., preparing a child for the first day of school— and voila! You have an article idea. Zoom out to brainstorm all the things that are involved in preparing a child for the first day of school, and you have the points you’re likely to cover in your article. Exercise Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Let’s put it to the test. For this exercise, , come up with five article ideas—ideas that are specific enough to take to the “drafting table,” so to speak. Don’t just say that you want to write about “Easter,” for example; decide what, exactly, you would write about Easter. For each idea, explain why you would like to write about the topic and/or why you feel able or qualified to write about it. For “extra credit,” come up with a potential market (or more than one) for each of your article ideas. Try to at least come up with a type of market (e.g., “craft magazines”); if you can be more specific (Country Crafts), that’s even better. Jot down why you think this idea would be appropriate for the market. (You’re going to need that information for your query letter!) Moira Anderson Allen 27 3: Developing Your Concept I f you completed the exercise in the previous chapter, you should now have a handful of ideas that you’re ready to expand upon, and search out markets for. I mention these two concepts in the same sentence, because they go hand in hand. An idea is great—but unless you have a specific market in mind, you’re at risk of writing up an article that nobody wants. This chapter, therefore, is going to talk about finding the right “slant” for your idea based on a chosen market. Then, we’ll talk about the step just about every writer dreads (but needn’t)— the outline. Categories, Subjects, Topics and Slants I talked about “zooming in” and “zooming out” as one way to help you develop ideas. Another way to look at article development is to view it as a process of refinement. You start with the raw ore—a lump of material, such as knowledge or a loose collection of ideas (“my family”)—and refine that ore through a succession of stages until you have “pure metal” that you can work into an article. This chapter will talk about getting from “ore” to “metal”; later, we’ll look at ways to forge or craft that metal into an actual article. To begin this process, you need to be able to recognize the difference between a category of ideas, a subject, a topic, and a slant. Each of these is a stage in the refinement process, bringing you closer and closer to something that you can work into an article. 28 Breaking into Magazines Category: This is where most writers start. A category is not an idea for an article; it may not even be a subject. Often, it’s a catch-all bin full of ideas, subjects, etc., that interest a writer. For example, if I were to say, “I want to write historical articles,” I’m speaking of a category. I haven’t defined a subject—I haven’t even defined a period or type of history. However, I have defined the area in which I’d like to proceed, both in developing article topics and in locating markets. The same applies if I said I wanted to write about “health” or “pets” or “families” or “cooking.” Choosing a category is an important step. It tells you where to start your refinement process. It tells you, for example, that it would be wise to start researching markets that fit into this category. If your category was “pets,” how many pet magazines or related markets (such as online pet stores) are there? What do they want? Do they accept freelance material? Gathering the answers to these questions can help you move on to the next step. Subject: This is the next level. Once you have a category of interest in mind, pick a subject out of that category. If your category is “holidays,” your subject might be “Christmas.” From my category of “history,” I might choose a subject such as “Mary, Queen of Scots.” However, these are still not article topics. The obvious question an editor is going to ask is, “Well, what about her?” Many lengthy books have been written about Mary; if I want to write an article about her, I must choose something more specific. Topic: This is where the process starts to get interesting, because this is where you begin to develop the seed of your actual article. Let’s suppose that I know lots and lots about Mary (I don’t), and I’ve decided to focus on her years of imprisonment under Queen Elizabeth. That’s the beginning of my topic. But what am I going to say? I could still spin this off into four or five (or more) articles. That’s where it’s helpful to have done some market research, to find out what type of article on this topic might actually sell. So... Off I go to Barnes and Noble, to see what kind of magazines might accept an article on Mary. Obviously, Redbook is out. However, I pick up copies of BBC History Magazine, Renaissance, Realm, British Heritage, and Scottish Life. I flip through my treasures, and discover that BBC History Magazine is written primarily by experts, Moira Anderson Allen 29 and focuses on topics that are being covered by BBC. Renaissance, which focuses on history with an emphasis on re-enactment, might be a place for a general historical piece. Realm focuses more on travel, and I can’t figure out from the masthead how to contact them. Scottish Life focuses more on modern Scottish life than on history. British Heritage, however, focuses on visiting places with an interesting historical background. I decide to focus on that market. (Just a brief aside—I’ve actually written for British Heritage, and it took two years to get a check, and as far as I know, the article was never published.) Topic, Take Two: Now that I have a market in mind, I know that the publication focuses as much on location as it does on history. A general history of Mary’s imprisonment probably wouldn’t fly here. But a guide to the places (the various castles) in which Mary was imprisoned sounds ideal. It also would provide great photo opportunities. So now I’ve refined my topic to something very specific and workable: “The castles in which Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned.” Slant: But what am I going to say? I can’t just say, “Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned in X castle, which is located here, and looks like this.” Booorrring! I need to look at that magazine again, and determine what slant is going to attract the editor. Since British Heritage focuses on places people might like to visit, my slant is going to be: “Visit the castles that imprisoned a Queen.” In my article, I’m going to take the reader on a guided tour of the castles where Mary was imprisoned. Where are they? What are they like? Can you still visit Mary’s accommodations? I’ll provide a bit of history of each castle, details about Mary’s stay, and what you’ll find if you visit today. (Should I discover that those castles are supposed to be haunted, all the better!) The article will have a nice sidebar on how to get there, any pertinent tour details, hours, blah blah blah... If I’ve read my market correctly, this is exactly the sort of thing (a mixture of travel and history) that should get this editor’s attention. (By the way, I liked this topic so much that when another author pitched it to me, years after I originally wrote this lecture, I accepted it for my travel website, TimeTravel-Britain.com. That author wrote about the castles that are reportedly haunted by Mary, Queen of Scots—several of which were ones in which she was once imprisoned.) 30 Breaking into Magazines The point is, you can’t sell an article on the basis of a category (“history”) or a subject. You may be able to sell an article on the basis of a topic, but it’s difficult. Your best chance of selling an article is to research markets as part of your “refinement” process, choose one that you like, and slant your article directly toward that market. Here are some additional tips on how to develop a workable slant. 1) Step out of your shoes and into the reader’s shoes. When you begin the process of generating ideas, you are looking at areas of your life and experience and interests that might provide good material. At this point, you are thinking in terms of “what can I write about?” and “what interests me?” To translate that information into potential articles, however, you have to step out of your “writer” shoes and into a set of “reader” shoes. Start asking, “Why would a reader want to know about this?” “What would a reader want to know about this?” “How can this material be useful or helpful to the reader?” 2) Think “how-to” whenever possible. I would estimate that at least 80% of what is published in magazines and other periodicals (not counting “news” in newspapers) focuses on a “how-to” component. There are magazines that carry other types of material; a history magazine, for example, focuses purely on information, such as a profile of a historic figure or an account of an important event. Most magazines also carry a small percentage of nostalgia pieces, profiles, etc. The majority, however, offer what is known as “take-away value”—something the reader can “take away” from the article and apply in his or her life. This is true of most categories of publications. Women’s magazines focus on how to improve your life, your relationships, your health, your appearance, your household. Travel magazines tell you how to find and enjoy a destination, how to have a better vacation, etc. Pet magazines tell you how to take better care of your pet. Special interest magazines (hobbies, crafts, activities, sports, etc.) tell you how to improve your skill or better enjoy the activity covered by the publication. 3) Think terms of an active phrase (with a subject and verb) when developing your slant. Try to avoid “slants” that are simply “subjects” (e.g., “haunted castles” or “Christmas decorations”). Make your slant active: “Tour the haunted castles of Scotland,” or “Decorate your home Victorian-style.” (Notice that the “subject” in these phrases is Moira Anderson Allen 31 “you”, where “you” refers to the reader.) Often, your slant can even become the title for your article: “How you can decorate your home...” “Best places to visit in...” 4) Forget about “I” (the writer) and focus on “you” (the reader). Most of us start with articles about “I”—what happened to me, what I know, what I did, how I learned, why I like, etc. This is a great place to start but a bad place to finish. To be an effective writer, it’s vital to move past “I” and focus on “you”—How this can help you, why you should visit this location, how you can get the most out of a holiday at..., ten ways that you can overcome this problem, why you’ll love this product, etc. Putting “you-the-reader” into your slant is perhaps the most important step you can take toward winning editors. Once you have a slant, you have something else that is vital to the next step: You have your core concept. You have the central idea, theme, point, or whatever you choose to call it, that your article is “about.” By the way, you should be able to sum up your slant and core concept in a single sentence—“My article is about how you can .....” Everything else must relate to this core concept. And that is why you need an outline. You Don’t Have to Dread Outlines I don’t know any writer who likes the prospect of creating an outline. That’s probably because we all remember being taught that ridiculous “1,2,3 - A,B,C” format in high school. (Hands up, everyone who used to get around those exercises by writing a paper first, and then creating the outline after the paper was done?!) Relax—I’m not going to “teach” that kind of outline. An outline is simply a way to construct a road map of where you want to go with your article. Another way to look at an outline is to think of it as a filing cabinet. When you research your article, you’re going to gather a lot of information. How will you know what to put in, and what to leave out? By creating an “outline” that, in a sense, places “headers” on the files in your cabinet, you’ll know whether the information you’ve gathered fits into the “files” that you have—or whether it doesn’t. If you don’t have a “file” for that information, chances are that the information doesn’t belong in your article. Here’s an example. When I decided to go “full-time” as a freelancer back in 1996, one of the first articles I pitched was a piece on “cancer 32 Breaking into Magazines in cats.” My own cat had recently died of cancer, so I had a personal interest in the topic. When I got the assignment, I roughed out the areas I planned to cover in my article: • Types of cancer • Breed-specific cancers • How to detect signs of cancer • My own experience with a cat with cancer • Preventing cancer • Treatments • Hope for the future • Hi-tech treatments • Diagnostic techniques A quick look at this list showed me that some ideas were sub-categories of others. “Breed-specific cancers” fit under “types of cancer,” while “diagnostic techniques” fit under “how to detect.” “Hope for the future” fit under “treatments,” as each treatment would have its own “prognosis.” One category stood out as not fitting with the rest: “My own experience.” I ended up with four “file folders” to work with: • Types of Cancer • Detecting Cancer • Treating Cancer • Preventing Cancer This, by the way, is an outline. It can be as simple as that. Besides serving as a framework for my article, this provided a framework for my research: I knew what types of questions I had to ask, based on the information I wanted to include. I researched this article on the web and by interviewing experts, asking questions based on my four topic areas—and “filing” that information in the appropriate place. If information came in that didn’t fit into one of these four areas, I knew that it probably didn’t belong in my article. I also had a slant—“What you need to know about cancer in cats.” Note, again, how that slant can make a great title: “Is your cat at risk of cancer?” or “How you can reduce your cat’s risk of cancer” or even “Cancer: It doesn’t have to be a death sentence!” Once again, having that core concept or slant is vital. This tells you what is important and necessary to your article and what isn’t. If you have information or thoughts that don’t relate directly to that core concept, then that information probably doesn’t belong in your article. Moira Anderson Allen 33 Five Ways to Approach the Outline Again, I’m no fan of the “1,2,3 - A,B,C” approach to outlining. There are easier ways to put your ideas and information in order. 1) Ask yourself what questions a reader would ask. What would a reader want to know about this subject? Make a list of those questions. For example, a reader interested in cancer in cats might want to know: • How common is cancer in cats? • What kinds of cancer affect cats? • What cats are at greatest risk? • How can I tell if my cat has cancer? • What can I do if my cat has cancer? • What kinds of treatments are available to me? • What are their success rates? • What are their risks to my cat? • How long will my cat live if it has cancer? • Can I prevent my cat from getting cancer? • Where do I go to get more help? Sometimes, simply jotting down a list of questions is all you need to define the basic areas your article will cover, and even the order in which you might wish to cover them. 2) Think in subheads. You’ll notice that most published articles are divided into sections, with subheads. This is a good way to organize your information (and sending in a piece with the subheads already in place always pleases an editor). The four “file folders” that I developed for my cancer piece would also serve nicely as subheads: • Is your cat at risk? • Protecting your cat from cancer • Detecting the signs of cancer • Choosing a treatment plan Subheads give you a way to organize your information logically. You’ll also be able to determine, as you fill in that information, whether your article is “in balance.” If you have 250 words under one subhead and 1000 under another, chances are you need to reorganize the article. 3) List events or concepts chronologically. What happened first? What happened next? What happened after that? What happened last? This approach works well for an article that focuses on events that 34 Breaking into Magazines occurred over time—e.g., a historical piece, a personal profile, etc. For example, women’s magazines often profile families who have coped with a sick child. A chronological outline would tend to look like this: • Family notices something isn’t right with the child • Family goes to traditional doctor • Family gets reassurances, goes home • Child gets worse • Family seeks more help; gets more reassurances • Child gets worse • Family gets desperate; seeks more information • Family finds special doctor/support group/information • Family locates specialist/special treatment/new cure • Family is warned of risks of treatment • Family goes ahead with treatment • Child gets better Note that this approach doesn’t work as well for a “how-to” piece that doesn’t involve a specific “what happened next” chronology. 4) List points in logical order. Many how-to articles have an obvious logical order: Do this first, do this next, do this next, and do this last. Your outline here may consist simply of a list of things to do, and the order in which the reader should do them. A travel article might also have a logical order, based on the order in which one would see or visit a location. If, for example, you’re starting at Point A and traveling to Point X, a logical way to present your information is in the order in which the traveler following your route would encounter it. This works even for a single location: Trace the route a traveler would take if walking through a site, such as a castle or museum. 5) Make a list. List all the pieces of information you have that you’d like to include in the article. Then, go over that list and assign numbers to each point based on its importance or priority. For example, if you are writing a piece on ways to improve communication between spouses, jot down a list of all the tips you want to cover. Which tips are most important? Which are less important? Which could be omitted without any real harm to your article? You may find, when you’re done, that you have a selection of key points, and perhaps a few “leftovers” that aren’t as useful. In some cases, your list may become the actual structure of your finished article (“Five ways to improve communica- Moira Anderson Allen 35 tion with your spouse”); in others, it may be retained as the “hidden” structure that underlies your piece, even though you aren’t numbering the points in the final article. Working Within a Word Budget A final consideration to keep in mind as you outline an article is the fact that you have a budget—a word budget. Every magazine has specific requirements regarding the length of a feature article. The most common feature article length is 2000 words; the range tends to be between 1000 and 3000. Feature articles are rarely less than 1000 words (shorter pieces are usually found in “departments”), and are rarely more than 3000 words. (In some cases, a magazine may have a “cover story” that is longer than the rest of its features.) One of the most common amateur mistakes is to propose an article that seeks to cover far more topics than can be covered effectively within the required word count. Editors are quick to spot this error— and equally quick to reject such queries. For example, I reviewed a query letter from a woman who wanted to write about a controversial treatment for breast cancer. So far, so good. However, in 2000 words or less, she proposed covering the following topics in her article: 1) An overview of traditional treatments for breast cancer 2) Why woman aren’t told about alternatives 3) A description of the alternative treatment 4) A profile of a woman who chose the treatment: • Her health and mental state before diagnosis • Her reaction to her diagnosis • Her search for alternatives • Her health and mental state after diagnosis • Her reason for choosing the new treatment • Her experience with that treatment • A followup of her health after treatment 5) Interviews with the woman’s doctor, including his views on the treatment and experiences with other clients 6) Interviews with other patients at the clinic See the problem here? This is practically a book. It also has no real focus; as I told the writer, I didn’t know whether this article was supposed to be a personal profile of the woman involved, or an informa- 36 Breaking into Magazines tive article about the treatment. As an editor, I’d reject this query immediately, as being unfocused and basically impossible to cover in 2000 words. (The article had one other problem: The woman had just begun her treatment, so the writer as yet had no information as to whether it even worked!) Resist the temptation to throw everything you have, including the kitchen sink, into your article! Remember that core concept/slant we talked about? If it doesn’t relate to your core concept, it doesn’t belong in your article. This gets to be tough—you do all that research and you have all that great information, and it’s hard to throw some of it out. But don’t despair. Chances are, you can pick another slant on that same topic, and use that extra information to write a completely different article for another publication. There is also the option of including sidebars to your main article, which we’ll cover in a later chapter. Think about your word budget as you outline. Keep in mind that the more subtopics you include in your article, the fewer words you’ll have to allocate to each topic. If you have four major subtopics, you can give approximately 500 words to each. If you have ten, you can give each no more than 200 words. (Actually, you have less, as you’ll need at least 200 words for your introduction and conclusion.) This brings up the difference between an “in-depth” article and an “overview.” If you have only a few subtopics (three to five), you can write an “in-depth” article. If you have a lengthy list of subtopics, ideas, tips, etc., then you will likely end up writing an overview (or else trimming your topic list). An article with the title “Ten Tips on Beating Holiday Stress” is almost certainly going to be an overview— it will give you ten ideas, but not a lot of in-depth information on any one of them. An article titled “Put an End to Holiday Stress,” which involves an interview with a therapist and four or five basic suggestions, is likely to be much more in-depth. Should you focus on an in-depth piece or an overview? This gets back to your market research. What type of piece does the market you’re targeting prefer? Choose the type of article that seems most likely to appeal to the editor, and audience, of your chosen market. (Family Circle, for example, loves lists: 100 ways to clean your house with basic kitchen products, 30 things to do on a rainy day.) Just be aware that the more subtopics you have, the less information you can provide about any of them. Moira Anderson Allen 37 Exercise With all this in mind, it’s time to go back to your list of article ideas and make some additional decisions. Here’s your next task: 1) Choose one article idea that you would like to work with. 2) Research the potential markets for this idea. Find an actual publication that you think would be appropriate for this piece. (In other words, don’t j ust decide it would be great for “a woman’s magazine.” Which woman’s magazine? Why?) 3) Determine your article’s slant/core concept. Try to express that slant in terms of an active phrase: “How you can,” “What you need to know about,” “Why you should,” etc. Make sure that your slant reflects the reader’s perspective, not just why you want to write about it. 4) Provide a brief list of the ideas/subtopics that you want to include in your article. What are you going to tell the reader? Why? What do you want the reader to gain from this article? 38 Breaking into Magazines 4: Writing the Query I don’t know of any writer who actually likes to write query letters. I don’t. It’s a pain. I’ve been speculating as to why it’s such a pain, and have come to the conclusion that it may be because we would really prefer to have editors interact with our work, not with us. When we send out an article, the editor reads the article and responds to that (often with a form letter). But we aren’t really talking to the editor. We aren’t having to establish a direct communication with someone we don’t even know. The query letter requires us to actually “talk” to an editor, to try to sell ourselves to a total stranger. It’s tough, and it’s generally not tons of fun. However, it is essential. More and more publications are refusing to accept unsolicited manuscripts; the only way to break in is through a query. This is particularly true of the better markets—the markets with a better reputation and those that pay better. In addition, many markets that accept unsolicited submissions pay more if you’ve queried first. Queries also save you time and trouble. If your article requires extensive research and interviews, it’s a good idea to find out whether anyone is going to buy it before you invest the effort into it. It’s also helpful to be able to go to a potential interviewee with an actual assignment, rather than just “wishful thinking.” If it takes you, say, 20 hours to research and write an article, that’s 20 hours wasted if you can’t find a market. Queries prevent you from wasting that time, and enable you to focus on the pieces that will sell. If you’re serious about bringing in a significant income from writing, then querying will become a part of your weekly routine. I recom- Moira Anderson Allen 39 mend sending out at least five queries per week. You can think of that as one per day—but a better approach is to set aside one day per week as your marketing and querying day—otherwise, it’s likely to interfere with your writing time. The Value of a Query Queries benefit both editors and writers. Editors much prefer to review a one-page letter than a 10-page manuscript, so queries spend less time in the slush pile. They also enable an editor to determine, quickly, whether you: • Can write effectively • Have a coherent, well-thought-out idea that fits the publication’s content • Have a basic grasp of grammar and spelling • Have read the publication • Have the credentials or expertise to write the article • Are professional in your approach to writing Queries save you time by ensuring that you don’t invest time and energy into writing an article that won’t be accepted. Keep in mind that articles are often rejected for reasons that have nothing to do with quality. An editor may already have a similar piece on file, or assigned, or have covered something similar in a recent issue. It’s much easier to find this out through a query, than to tailor an article for a publication and then have to rewrite it and send it somewhere else. It’s also easier to obtain interviews when you can say you have a solid assignment. By querying first, you also give the editor a chance to provide feedback on your idea. The editor may want to suggest a particular length, or approach, or recommend experts to interview. S/he may want you to cover other aspects of your subject in sidebars. By finding out what the editor wants before you start writing, you’ll avoid having to revise the piece later. A well-written query can also result in assignments you didn’t expect. If the editor is impressed by your style and credentials, s/he may offer you some other assignment, even if your original idea isn’t usable. This can often be the beginning of a long, rewarding relationship! Query Letter Essentials But how do you “sell” an editor on your article when you have no more than a page to explain your concept and display your writing skill? The answer is: By including everything the editor needs to know about your 40 Breaking into Magazines article—and about you. A successful query letter generally includes these five basic components: The hook The pitch The body The credentials The close The Hook Your very first line should grab an editor’s attention. It must demonstrate that you can write effectively and understand your market. There are several ways to approach the “hook,” including: 1) The Problem/Solution Hook. This defines a problem or situation common to the publication’s audience, then proposes an article that can help solve that problem. Here’s an example: The pet magazine market is an ideal place for newer writers to “break in”. However, it is constantly flooded with inappropriate submissions. To break in, one must understand what these magazines want, and what they won’t accept. (“Writing for Pet Magazines,” sold to Byline.) 2) The Informative Hook. This usually presents two or three lines of useful information (e.g., facts, statistics), followed by an explanation of how this applies to the target audience. For example: Thanks to a translation glitch, Microsoft was forced to pull its entire Chinese edition of Windows 95 from the marketplace. Microsoft recovered—but that’s the sort of mistake few small businesses can afford! (“How to Localize Your Website,” sold to Entrepreneur’s Home Office.) 3) The Question. Often, this is a problem/solution or informative hook posed as a question, such as: Did you know...? What would you do if...? Have you ever wondered...? Moira Anderson Allen 41 4) The personal experience/anecdote. Many writers like to take a personal approach, as it immediately establishes the credential of “experience.” Be sure, however, that your market uses more personal articles, or first-person accounts, before attempting a hook like this: Forget-me-nots. I love their wistful name. I love their tiny blue flowers. And yes, I love that growing them is as simple as pie. (“Forget-me-nots: Simply Unforgettable Spring Flowers,” by Mary R., sold to Fine Gardening.) 5) The attention-grabber. The goal of this type of hook is to make the reader sit up and take notice—hopefully long enough to read the rest of the story. This might be a good “hook” for a query about parachuting in Yosemite: As I fell from the top of Yosemite’s El Capitan, I wondered if my life would truly flash before my eyes—or if I would stop screaming long enough to notice. [Yes, I made that one up.] Hooks to Avoid Certain hooks scream “amateur” and are guaranteed to speed a query to the rejection pile, including: 1) The personal introduction. Never start with a line like “Hi, my name is John, and I’d like to send you an article about...” Don’t offer irrelevant information, such as “I’m a housewife and mother of three lovely children. Recently I decided to pursue my lifelong dream of writing...” 2) The “suck-up” hook. Yes, editors like to know that you’ve read their publication, but they also want you to prove it by offering an appropriate query—not by saying, “I’ve been a subscriber for 20 years and just love your magazine...” 3) The “bid for sympathy.” Don’t tell an editor that you’ve never been published before, or that you need to sell this piece or your children will starve. 42 Breaking into Magazines 4)The “I’m perfect for you” hook. Never sing your own praises: “I am a highly experienced professional and will be an asset to your magazine.” Don’t inform the editor that your article is “perfect” for his readers. Never declare that your article is “wonderful” or “fascinating.” Prove it—with a good query. 5) The “I’m an amateur” hook. Never announce that you have never been published before, or that you’ve tried to sell the same article to 20 other magazines, or that your writing teacher (or mother or spouse) suggested that you send this to a magazine. Even if you haven’t sold anything before, you can still act like a professional. (Yes, I’ve actually received queries that explain how many other publications have rejected the same article. I always tend to think that those other editors knew what they were doing.) The Pitch Once you have an editor’s attention, move on to the pitch. Usually, this is your second paragraph, and its purpose is to explain exactly what you’re offering. For example, the pitch that followed the “localization” hook, above, went like this: I’d like to offer you a 1,500-word article titled “Internationalizing Your Online Market.” The article would discuss how small businesses can take advantage of “localizing” agents to tailor their products and market strategies to the international marketplace.” (“How to Localize Your Website.”) If possible, your pitch should include a working title for your article (titles help editors “visualize” what you’re proposing), a word-count (make sure you’ve checked the publication’s guidelines!), and a brief summary of what the article will cover. The Body This is where you really start to “sell.” The body of your query will usually be from two to four paragraphs, and presents the details of your article. Remember that an editor wants to know exactly what the article will cover, so by this time you should have a working outline of the piece in your own mind. A good way to present an overview of your topic is to break it into logical subtopics—e.g., the sections that would be likely to appear un- Moira Anderson Allen 43 der subheads in the finished piece. The longer the article, the more subtopics you can include (though it’s usually not advisable to have more than four or five). For example, a 700-word article on cancer in pets might only cover “The ten warning signs of cancer,” while a 2000word article on the same topic might cover “common types of cancer, warning signs, and current treatment options.” A good way to determine whether you have the right number of subtopics is to divide your word-count by the number of topics—e.g., a 2000 word article with five subtopics gives you a budget of 400 words per topic. Here’s how I described the content of an article on quilt care: The article covers techniques of hand-cleaning delicate quilts to avoid damaging fragile fabrics and prevent fading and staining. It discusses ways to remove spot stains (including blood spots and rust stains from needles and other metal contact). It also discusses ways to mend damaged quilts without destroying the integrity of an heirloom piece. Finally, it discusses the best ways to store or display quilts in order to preserve and protect them. (“Caring for Heirloom Quilts,” sold to DownUnder Quilts.) Some writers like to use block paragraphs; others like to use bullets. There’s no rule on the best style; choose a style that makes your query visually appealing and easy to read. The Credentials Editors want to know why you are the best person to write the article you’ve proposed. This is where your credentials come in. Don’t assume, however, that these must include writing credits. While a list of previous articles on relevant topics is nice, you may also be able to prove your qualifications with credentials such as: • Professional experience (some publications accept material only from qualified experts) • Academic degrees or training • Teaching experience in the subject area • Personal experience (especially if the article relates to personal issues/problems) • Writing experience • Interviews with experts (required if you aren’t one!) 44 Breaking into Magazines Credentials are usually listed in the last or next-to-last paragraph. Here’s an example: As webmaster of www.musicphotographer.com, it has been my job to connect music writers and photographers with the markets that need their work. This is the only site devoted to music journalism on the Web. I’m also writing the first guide on the topic. Reviews for my last book, The Van Halen Encyclopedia, are available at Amazon.com. (C. Chilver’s pitch to Inkspot for “How to Write for the Music Market.”) The Close Use the final paragraph of your article to thank the editor for reviewing your proposal—and to offer one last “nudge” to encourage the editor to respond. I usually include a time-estimate in this paragraph—e.g., “If you are interested in this article, I can have it on your desk within XX days.” Here’s a typical closing paragraph: I hope this topic interests you, and look forward to your response. If you would like to see the article, I can have it on your desk within two weeks of receiving your go-ahead. Thank you for your time! Format The presentation of your letter can be as important as your content. A traditional (paper) query should include the following elements: 1) A decent letterhead. At the very least, your name and address and other contact information should be printed at the top of your letter (not at the bottom or under your signature) in an attractive font. You can have an inexpensive letterhead designed and typeset at your local printing shop, or online through sites like iPrint.com. Or, design your own on your computer. 2) A business-style body. If you aren’t familiar with terms like “block” or “modified block,” see the sample letters on pages 49-50. Always include a blank line between paragraphs, and don’t indent more than five spaces (if at all). Moira Anderson Allen 45 3) A formal salutation. Don’t address the editor by first name unless you know him/her personally. 4) Clean, proofread copy. Don’t rely on your spellchecker; review your query yourself before mailing it out. 5) Quality paper. Use at least 20-lb. bond paper for queries. Some writers like to use fancier papers—parchment, linen, etc.—on the theory that a nicer paper with a professional tint will stand out amidst all the white paper on an editor’s desk. Don’t go to “colors” however—pink paper and blue type scream for rejection. 6) A SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope). Don’t use “insert” envelopes; fold a full-size business envelope (#10) in thirds and use that. Be sure it has adequate postage. If you are submitting a query from another country, be sure that your SASE has the correct postage for the target country—or else include an appropriate number if IRCs (international reply coupons). A brief note on the SASE: These days, many writers are asking whether the SASE is simply a waste of time and money, as more and more editors are simply throwing away unwanted queries without bothering to send a rejection. It is true that if an editor plans to accept a query, he or she will most likely respond with their own letterhead and envelope. Other writers prefer to use a return postcard with categories for an editor to check, like “received,” “under consideration,” or “sorry, not for us.” My feeling is that a SASE doesn’t cost that much money, and if a magazine’s guidelines request it, you should send it. You’re already investing hours of work into your article, so investing another 39¢ (at this time of writing) and an envelope isn’t such a sacrifice. These guidelines are for traditional “paper” queries. Needless to say, not all of these “rules” are possible when sending an e-mail query; for more details on e-mail queries, see the next chapter. Clips Many editors ask for clips so that they can review a sample of your writing style. Clips are simply copies of previously published materials. Never send copies of unpublished works! Don’t send clips of work you’ve self-published or posted on your own website. And remember, bad clips are worse than no clips at all. 46 Breaking into Magazines It’s best to send clips that are relevant to the proposal, if you have them. If you don’t, send samples from your most prestigious publications. If most of your published works are electronic, print out copies from your website; don’t just ask the editor to “visit” unless you are sending an e-mail query. If you have no clips, don’t despair. Most editors consider the merits of a query first and the clips second. (To be honest, many editors don’t even have time to read clips.) If your query is strong enough, the absence of clips shouldn’t be enough to trigger a rejection, unless the publication works only with published writers. Following Up How long should you wait for a response? Usually, you should wait at least as long as the publication’s guidelines suggest (e.g., 4 to 6 weeks)— and then add another two weeks “grace period.” Then, send a polite follow-up. Attach a copy of your original query, so that the editor won’t have to search the files for it. If you still hear nothing after another 3-4 weeks, consider a polite phone call. (No, it won’t cause your article to be rejected.) If you still can’t get an answer, and you would like to withdraw the query, send a final letter informing the editor that, as you have received no response, you are officially withdrawing the query from consideration. This protects you from charges of “simultaneous submissions” if the first editor finally decides to reply after you’ve already sent the query on to someone else. The ability to write a good query is one of the most important skills in a writer’s toolbox. A good query shows an editor that you can write and that you are a professional—qualities that may result in an assignment even if the editor can’t use your original proposal. Think of your query as a letter of introduction, your first and only opportunity to get your foot through that particular door. If you make a good impression, you’re likely to be invited back (even if your original pitch is rejected). If you make a bad impression, you may find that door forever closed. Finally, here are a few mistakes that are almost certain to get a query rejected: 1) You’re trying to cram too much into an article. An editor will immediately be able to tell if you have too many ideas, subtopics, subjects, etc., for the type and length of article you are proposing. (I often get queries at Writing-World.com offering to discuss everything one Moira Anderson Allen 47 needs to know about writing an article in 750 words... Ha!) If you are proposing a particular topic, and you say that you’re going to write about the history and background of the topic, provide profiles of two or three people involved with the topic, present a how-to guide to the topic, and cover success stories about the topic, I will instantly know that there is no way you’re going to be able to get all that into 2000 words or less. If you do, you’re not going to do it effectively. I call this the “kitchen sink” approach—i.e., everything but the kitchen sink is in your article. In this case, you’ll need to focus in and define the central core of your article and write around that, and save the other stuff for other articles (or sidebars). 2) You have too little to say in the article. I see this less often, but it does happen—the topic is interesting, but you haven’t done enough research or found enough information to really fill up 2000 words. In this case, the solution might be to offer a shorter feature or department piece. 3) You have questions but no answers. Beware of a query that includes phrases like “I’d like to explore whether” or “I will find out if” or “I’ll look into...”, etc. These are a sign that you don’t know where your article is going to go, or what answers you’re going to provide, because you haven’t found out yet. Having an interesting question (e.g., “how does divorce affect one’s adult children?”) is a great place to start your article idea. By the time you get to the query, however, you need to have answers—so that you can explain to the editor that you will cover this and this and this... Finally, you need to know where to send your query. Here’s how to pick the right name from a masthead. Your first choice should be a publication’s managing editor. This is generally the person who makes the initial accept/reject decisions. If no managing editor is listed, check to see if there is an associate editor. Otherwise, send it to the editor. For a major publication with a lengthy masthead, look for a features editor, an articles editor, or an editor of a specific department (e.g., health, food, etc.). You’ll find titles like these on magazines like Woman’s Day, etc.; you generally won’t find this kind of list on a smaller, special-interest magazine. 48 Breaking into Magazines Don’t send your material to an assistant editor, editor-in-chief, or contributing editor. An assistant editor rarely has any authority over acceptance decisions. An editor-in-chief usually supervises a group of magazines but does not handle day-to-day management of any specific publication. A contributing editor is not a staff person, but a freelancer who either writes a column or frequently contributes to the publication. (For example, I am a “contributing editor” to The Writer, but have absolutely nothing to do with editorial decisions.) Check a magazine’s website for the most current contact information. Writer’s Market can be very outdated, and even the masthead of the most recent issue can be three to six months out of date. If you can’t find the right person, don’t hesitate to call; it won’t upset anyone or hurt your chances to ask. If you can find the magazine’s website, first check for “submission guidelines” or “writer’s guidelines”; those will usually specify a contact. If they don’t, or no guidelines are available, look under “Contact Us” or “About Us” for the electronic equivalent of a masthead. Some publications ask you to address a query or submission to “The Editor” or “The Editors.” In this case, do so. Contrary to what you may have seen in various articles, most editors are not upset at receiving something addressed to their predecessor, provided they haven’t been at the desk too long. If they’ve been there 10 years and you send something to their predecessor, they’ll figure you haven’t done your market research. Same applies if you send it to their predecessor’s predecessor! (It has happened to me!) Exercise This is your first “real” writing assignment. Write a query about the article topic you’ve chosen. This is not an exercise or a draft; you’ll need to write the real thing. That means that you will need to take a long, hard look at your existing outline or idea, and figure out how to express it to an editor who doesn’t know you and may not know what you are talking about. It’s now time to sell the idea you’ve been developing—to convince the editor that it will make a good article that is appropriate for your chosen publication. Note: This chapter, and the two sample queries on the next pages, are excerpted from The Writer’s Guide to Queries, Pitches and Proposals. 49 Moira Anderson Allen Sample Query Moira Allen address • city/state/zip phone • fax e-mail March 10, 1997 Marcia Preston, Editor Byline (address) (city/state/zip) Dear Ms. Preston: The pet magazine market is an ideal place for newer writers to “break in.” However, it is constantly flooded with inappropriate submissions. To break in, one must understand what these magazines want, and what they won’t accept. I’d like to offer you an 1800-word article on how to write for the pet markets, covering the following topics: • The types of articles pet markets are hungry for (e.g., care, training, health, breed), and how to write them even if you’re not an “expert.” • How to win assignments from the major pet magazines (and even how to be considered for a column). • The types of articles pet magazines don’t want to see, and why (“my first puppy,” “the day my cat died,” talking pets, etc.). • How to turn a personal experience article into a marketable service piece. • Understanding the different markets (including why all dog magazines are not the same), what they expect, what they pay, and what to expect from them. I’m the ideal person to write this article, as I was the editor of Dog Fancy for two years, and am thoroughly familiar with all the major pet publications. I have been writing for the pet markets for more than ten years, and am a member of the Dog Writers’ Association of America. I am the author of the award-winning Coping with Sorrow on the Loss of Your Pet (Alpine, 1996). I also teach professional and creative writing at two local colleges, including a class on this topic. If you’d like to see the article, I can have it in your hands within 30 days of your goahead. Thanks for your time and attention; I look forward to hearing from you. Sincerely, Moira Allen 50 Breaking into Magazines Sample Query Moira Allen address • city/state/zip phone • fax e-mail Editorial Team Traditional Quiltworks Address City/State/Zip Dear Editors: For anyone who enjoys decorating with antique or delicate quilts, care is a vital concern. Most of us realize that we can’t just pop Granny’s handmade quilt into the washing machine or douse it with bleach, but what are the alternatives? How can we protect fine fabrics from further dirt and damage? To help your readers answer this question, I would like to offer you a 1900-word article titled “How to Care for an Antique Quilt.” The article covers techniques of hand-cleaning delicate quilts to avoid damaging fragile fabrics and prevent fading and staining. It discusses ways to remove spot stains (including blood spots and rust stains from needles and other metal contact). It also discusses ways to mend damaged quilts without destroying the integrity of an heirloom piece. Finally, it discusses the best ways to store or display quilts in order to preserve and protect them. An earlier version of this article appeared in Quilt in 1988. I am offering second serial rights to the article, which has been revised and updated. I have been freelancing for more than 18 years, and my articles have appeared in Quilt, Omni, Writer’s Digest, Dog Fancy, and many other magazines. If you are interested in this article, I can have it on your desk within a week. Thank you for your time and consideration; I look forward to hearing from you. Sincerely, Moira Allen NOTE: Normally, one would address a query to a specific editor. However, this particular publishing group prefers queries and submissions to be addressed to the “Editorial Team”—a fact I verified by phone before sending the query. Moira Anderson Allen 51 5: Preparing E-mail Queries A decade ago, only a handful of periodical publishers listed in The Writer’s Market provided e-mail addresses. Now, nearly every publisher in that directory does so. While some editors still prefer paper queries sent by surface mail, most prefer e-mail queries. Among electronic publications, such as e-zines and e-mail newsletters, that preference is almost universal. Many electronic publications will not even consider paper queries. E-mail queries save postage and time. Your query will reach the editor in seconds rather than days. You may also receive a response within days (or even hours). E-mail queries also have disadvantages, however. A common complaint of editors is that many writers don’t bother to prepare e-mail queries carefully. Many seem to be written in haste, with little consideration for style or presentation, and no proofreading. E-mail queries are often casual, chatty, even “cute”—qualities editors rarely find endearing. Another problem editors frequently encounter is impatience. Just because your query may arrive within seconds, that doesn’t mean the editor is going to read it immediately, let alone respond within minutes. Nothing annoys an editor so much as a writer who starts nagging for a response within days (or hours) of sending an e-mail query. 52 Breaking into Magazines While e-mail queries contain many of the same elements as traditional “paper” queries, they also contain elements that need special attention. These include: The Header With e-mail, you can’t impress an editor with nice paper or a snappy letterhead. Instead, you must rely on your header to provide vital information about yourself and your query. Be sure to put the right information in these sections: To: Address your query to the right person at the right address. Try to locate the exact e-mail address of the editor you wish to contact. From: You probably wouldn’t sign a traditional query with a tagline like “Crystal Windsinger” or “Rafe Moondragon.” If you use such an nickname to communicate online, however, it may slip into your query by mistake. Be sure to set up an alternate, professional “personality” in your e-mail program that includes your real name and a professional-sounding e-mail address. Subject: Include the word “Query” in your subject line, along with a brief (two to three word) description of your proposal—e.g., “Query: Cancer in Cats” or “Query: Writing for Pet Magazines.” Never leave this line blank. Avoid cuteness or excessive informality; a subject line like “May I have a moment of your time?” looks too much like “spam” and could cause your query to be deleted. The Text The easiest way to handle the text of an e-mail query is to treat it just like a traditional query. However, many editors find that they actually prefer shorter queries by e-mail. This is partly a display issue: The less the editor has to “scroll” to read your query, the better. Thus, more writers are turning to brief, one- to three-paragraph email queries. The hook is often eliminated entirely, allowing the writer to get straight to the pitch, followed by a single paragraph of description, and closing with the writer’s credentials. Here’s an example of a Moira Anderson Allen 53 query I received from a regular contributor to Inkspot: Hello! I promised you a query, so here you go. “Flash What?” is an exploration of the (at-first-glance) strange medium of flash fiction. The article does not attempt to define the form, as flash is virtually undefinable, but it does identify the many styles of flash, and its many names. I cite such writers as Lila Guzman and Pamelyn Casto and their thoughts on the form. Following this, I segue into a general how-to segment on writing flash, listing three essential questions every flash writer must ask. Once that’s finished, I close out with market listings and other resources. With flash fiction becoming more and more prevalent in the literary community, especially the online publishing world (whole zines are devoted to the medium), I think that this piece is very useful to Inkspot’s many readers who double as fiction writers. “Flash What?” is about 1220 words long. I’ll be happy to send along the full piece if you are interested. Thanks! Looking forward to your reply. J. Gurley When crafting an e-mail query, therefore, give serious thought to ways that you can “condense” your information into a compact summary that the editor can view on a single screen. Just be sure that your summary actually covers all the salient points that you wish to make! Credentials and Clips It’s perfectly acceptable to list your credentials in an e-mail query just as you would in a traditional query. Many writers, also use this opportunity to provide a link to a Web site where editors can learn more about the writer’s qualifications, or perhaps view writing samples. Here’s an example: I have been writing and editing for more than 20 years; many of my published clips can be found at http://www.myisp.com 54 Breaking into Magazines [Note: in e-mail, always include the “http://” portion of a URL, or your link may not “hotlink” at the receiving end.] Some editors will check the sites you list; some won’t. It’s wise, therefore, to state your credentials explicitly, and offer Web sites only as a backup. Never send “clips” in an attachment. The Address Block In a traditional query, your name and address and other contact information would go at the top of the page (or be incorporated into your letterhead). In an e-mail query, it should go at the bottom, below your typed signature: Jane Smith 1042 Gloriana Lane Whippet, IL 60606 (555)123-4567 (555) 123-4568 (fax) [email protected] The Signature Block You may wish to use a standard “signature block” to include your Web site and any special credentials you’d like to list. You can also include your surface-mail address and contact information in a signature block, but be sure you only use this block for queries and professional correspondence; you don’t want to broadcast that information on the Web. Avoid overly cute signature blocks, or blocks that involve graphic elements. Save the cats, dancing weasels, and emoticons for more personal correspondence. Removing the Gibberish Sending a query or manuscript electronically isn’t simply a matter of copying your material from a wordprocessing file (such as MS Word) and pasting it into an e-mail. All too often, a straight cut-and-paste results in a message that looks something like this: %Please don,t reject my manuscript,@ the author cried, pleading ? but to no avail, as the editor wasn&t in the mood for such %[email protected]! Moira Anderson Allen 55 Even a single line of this can be annoying; having to wade through an entire query—or worse, a manuscript—of this nature is beyond the patience of most editors. Kind-hearted editors will send such a submission back and ask you to fix it; less-understanding editors will simply send a rejection. Gibberish and “nonsense symbols” are the result of transferring a word-processed document directly to e-mail without “undoing” many of the special characters and commands that such a program (like Word) automatically embeds in your file. Unless instructed otherwise, for example, Microsoft Word will automatically convert dashes (—) into a special dash-symbol, turn all apostrophes and quotes into “smart quotes,” transform ellipses (...) into yet another special character, and superscript the ending of words like “1st” or “7th”. These special characters look nice on the printed page, but are the result of hidden codes in your electronic file that do not “translate” when copied into an e-mail document. Instead, those codes are converted into various symbols and odd characters. Any formatting codes (e.g., bold, underline, italic) will be similarly transformed. To prevent these and other e-mail problems in your submissions, be sure to take the following steps before submitting a query or manuscript electronically: 1. Turn off all special-character commands. In MS Word, you can do this by going into the “AutoCorrect” menu under “Tools.” In the “Autoformat as you type” and “Autoformat” menus, uncheck everything under “Replace as you type.” In the “Autocorrect” submenu, look at the list of automatic corrections, and delete the correction that replaces an ellipses with a special character. 2. Replace special-character commands in documents. If you’re submitting a document that you prepared before turning off these “replace” commands, you’ll need to do a search-and-replace on the problem characters. For smart quotes, simply enter a single quote in the “find” and “replace” box and do a “replace all”; this will correct all apostrophes and single quotes. Do the same for double quotes. To replace a dash, use the keyboard combination [option hyphen] to enter the dash in the “find” box; replace it with [ --]. To replace ellipses, use the combination [option ;] in the “find” box, and replace with [...]. 56 Breaking into Magazines 3. Double-space between paragraphs. E-mail wipes out tabs, which means that a manuscript that relies on tabs to indicate new paragraphs will end up as a nearly solid block of text. If you don’t want to doublespace manually, simply do a search-and-replace on the “paragraph” character. (In Word, click on “More” in the find-and-replace menu. The paragraph command is the first item under “Special”—hit this option once for the “find” box and twice for the “replace” box.) Also, if you’ve formatted your manuscript or query in Word first, paste it into your e-mail and send it to yourself before sending it to an editor. I’ve found that double-spacing sometimes disappears in transmission, and must be reinserted into your e-mail manually. More Do’s and Don’ts Editors will be even happier with your electronic submissions if you follow these guidelines: 1) Do use a large, readable font. Sometimes I feel the urge to send a query back simply because it seems to be written in electronic microprint. Make sure your font size is set to “normal”—or to a minimum of 12 points. If you’re not sure how “large” your type looks (it may look fine on your own screen), ask someone else how your e-mails look. 2) Do include an appropriate subject header. A header such as “Query: (article title/subject)” or “Article Submission: Title” always works well. These days, many editors simply delete unidentifed e-mails as spam or potential virus-carriers. 3) Do keep e-mail queries as short as possible. While paper queries should be kept to a single page (if possible) because that’s easiest for an editor to read, keep in mind that an e-mail “page” often translates to the size of an editor’s screen. Try to present your query succinctly enough to minimize the need to scroll through your message. 4) Don’t use HTML formatting in your e-mail. Turn off any commands that automatically convert your e-mail to an HTML document. 5) Don’t use colors. Just as you wouldn’t type a query in yellow ink, don’t send an e-mail query in any font color other than black. Moira Anderson Allen 57 6) Don’t use emoticons. Save them for personal correspondence. 7) Don’t send any “involuntary” attachments. If your e-mail program is set up to send a “vcard” attachment, turn off that option. 8) Don’t send “clips” as attachments. It’s always difficult to send clips with electronic queries. One option is to state the availability of clips, to be sent by e-mail or surface mail on request; another is to provide links to online clips. 9) Don’t send a submission as an attachment unless a publication’s guidelines specifically state that this is acceptable, or unless you have authorization from the editor. 10) Don’t expect an editor to respond to an e-mail submission “instantly.” Although some editors do respond more quickly to e-mail submissions than to surface mail, assume that a publication’s published response time still applies, no matter how you submit material. (And don’t expect the editor to “acknowledge” your submission; don’t send it with a “reply requested” notation, for example.) 11) Do keep a copy of all correspondence with editors. This will make it much easier for you to send a copy of your original query if you need to follow up. One way to handle this is to create a folder in your e-mail directory for “queries and submissions” that are still awaiting response, and another for queries and submissions that have received a reply. By checking your “awaiting response” file, you can easily determine, by the dates of your e-mails, when a submission should be followed up. The ability to contact editors electronically has made life much easier for writers around the world. To retain this ability, however, we must make sure that we make life as easy as possible for our editors as well! 58 Breaking into Magazines 6: Conducting Research and Interviews N ow that you’ve settled on a topic, and (theoretically) queried an editor about this topic (and gotten a positive response), the next step is usually to begin researching your topic. In reality, you may have begun this step earlier—sometimes it’s necessary to conduct some preliminary research just to build a decent query (or to decide whether you really want to cover the topic). But the real research process begins when an editor says “yes,” and you realize that you have a month (or less) to deliver on your promise. Fortunately, you have a huge advantage over writers of a decade ago (or even of five years ago): you have the Internet. The power of this tool to streamline your research process should not be underestimated. (At times, though, it’s also a good idea not to overestimate it either!) What might have taken hours to find in a library (if you could find it at all) may now be available in minutes with a well-planned online search. The Internet also puts experts around the world at your fingertips. Often, all you need to do is find an “official” site on a particular topic, and look for names of people associated with that site. For example, when I was working on the article on “Cancer in Cats” that I mentioned earlier, I searched for “animal cancer” centers, and was able to locate the names of several specialists. The fact that they were on the opposite side of the country didn’t matter, as I could ask them questions via e-mail. Moira Anderson Allen 59 This chapter will talk about using search engines effectively, and about conducting interviews and using the quotes you get from those interviews. It will also discuss a few “don’ts” related to research. Finding Information Online: Search Engines I am amazed by some of the questions I receive—questions that could be answered by typing in the simplest of terms into a search engine. When someone asks, “Are there any sites on 17th century costumes on the Web,” I want to scream, “Have you even tried to find out?” Search engines are amazing. Recently, I was retyping an article that I’d written 20 years ago, and had just resold. I came across a quote that had no attribution. I knew it came from a book—but what book? The article was 20 years old! On a whim, I typed the first five words of the quote into Google, and Whammo! Up popped the page from The Golden Bough (which can be found on Bartleby.com) from which I’d taken that quote. (“Whammo” is a tech-term for “search term found.”) On the other hand, they can be frustrating. Suppose you wanted to write an article about “cat care.” What would you enter? “Cats”? I’d hate to see what would come up in that case—probably 25 million hits, most of them not useful. “Cat care” might be a bit better, but not much. A very big part of the process is defining effective search terms. First, let me give you a quick course on how to search. My favorite search engine is Google. You can search for single words, phrases, or combinations of words on most search engines. You can also exclude words. Each search engine has its own format for some of these tricks. Fortunately, where once you had to actually indicate that you wanted all the words listed in your search term, today’s search engines assume this. Thus, if you enter a search for “cats nutrition kittens,” you will receive only those results that include all the terms you listed. It is also possible to exclude a term from your search results. For example, if you wanted to search for limericks (the poetic form) and not receive results on the town of Limerick, Ireland, you could enter (in Google) the search criteria “limerick -Ireland” to exclude sites that include the word “Ireland.” (Of course, that would also rule out Irish limericks...) If you want to search on a specific term or phrase (more than one word in a specific order), put that phrase in quotation marks. Let’s say you wanted to find the speech that included the phrase, “Now is the time for all good men...” You could easily put that phrase in quotes and enter it. (On a good search engine, you could even put it in without 60 Breaking into Magazines quotes and have a pretty good chance of finding what you want, but quotes make it more certain.) It’s also possible to refine a search even further (at least on some engines) by specifying where a term should be found. You can specify that you want it to be found in the URL, or in some other part of the document. You can often specify a range of dates for your search — that you want documents within a particular time frame (e.g., December 2005) or no documents prior to January 2004. All of these tricks can help refine a search. But the real trick is determining what to search for. Choosing effective search terms is half the battle (if not all the battle). Your goal is to find the most relevant sites while excluding as many sites as possible that are not relevant. Another goal may be to find sites that fit a particular profile. For example, when I was researching cancer in cats, I didn’t want to find personal websites about “my beloved cat who died of cancer” (and believe me, there are a lot of those). I wanted to find medical sites. To do this, I asked myself what how a veterinarian would refer to the subject—and the answer was “feline oncology.” I searched on “cancer” and “cats” as well, but the veterinary term was more useful in pulling up more professional sites. Another way to look at a search term is to ask, “If I were writing an article on this topic, how would I phrase it?” In this case, “cancer in cats” struck me as a likely phrase that would be used in an article on this subject, so I searched on that and found a great deal of useful information. Similarly, more recently I wanted to discover the “causes of seizures in cats” and searched on that precise phrase, and immediately found what I was looking for. If you are searching for “17th century costumes,” use exactly that term—it’s bound to turn up in any article or site covering the topic. If you have a very specific piece of information you’re looking for, try the most specific term you can think of. If you want to learn the planetary mass of Jupiter, try entering [“planetary mass” Jupiter], where “planetary mass” is within the quotes to indicate that you want these words to occur together, while Jupiter is outside the quotes to indicate that you want this word to appear in the same document. Or, you could enter “planetary mass of Jupiter”—this will exclude sites about Jupiter that don’t give the technical information you want. Keep in mind that search engines are specific. They can’t “guess” or provide information that is “close.” They can only find exactly what Moira Anderson Allen 61 you input. Spelling your search terms correctly is important. (Googlewill sometimes ask you if you meant a different spelling, if it finds a term that seems close to the one you’re searching on.) Another thing to keep in mind is that different countries have different spellings. If you’re American, consider using a British spelling for a search term to find non-U.S. sites; conversely, if you use British spellings, consider testing American variations. If you’re searching for information on a particular date in history, remember that while the U.S. usage would be “May 4, 2001,” the European usage is more likely to be “4 May 2001”. You can also search for information in another language, and search for images. Moving Beyond Search Engines Search engines are not the only way to find information online. Far from it! They’re just a great place to start. I don’t have space (or energy) to get into all the different ways that you can track down information online, but here are some other opportunities. 1) Newspapers. If you’re researching a story or article that relates to a particular area, or local events, or an area’s history, you might find it useful to check the newspaper archives for that area. Some newspapers put only their current issues online, but others are building extensive archives. You’ll find a list of newspaper directory sites at http://www.writing-world.com/links/magazines.shtml . 2) “Gateway” sites. If you want to find the best references on a topic, go find someone who has made that topic their specialty. That site is likely to have the best links to the best references—far better than what you’ll turn up on a search. The way to start your search is by plugging terms into a search engine; typically, if you’re lucky, that will take you to one or two really good sites on the topic, from which you can explore the links those site hosts have selected as “the best.” I’ve found that many of the links I find on such sites never do turn up in my searchengine search. 3) Webrings. You can find a lot of information through webrings. When you find a useful site, scroll to the bottom of the page, and see if it is linked into a webring that seems relevant to your research topic. Some webrings have a “list” link that lets you view all the members of that ring. This gives you a way to locate other sites on the same topic. 62 Breaking into Magazines 4) Databases. Information in databases will not always turn up on an ordinary search; database pages can’t always be “spidered” by websearch robots (though search engines are getting better at this all the time). Thus, there’s a huge amount of information online that can only be found if you know where to find the databases. What you can do is use a search engine to find databases. Try this by typing in a search term that you’d like to find information on, plus the term “database.” (For example, I recently tried “database medieval” to see what would come up—and I could spend some happy hours perusing the results!) A Caveat While the Internet is a great source of information, it’s also important to make sure that the information you find is accurate. No one is monitoring this stuff, and there’s lots of false or inaccurate information online. The best guide to accuracy is common sense. When you visit a website, ask yourself if this appears to be a professional site that seems reliable. Is the material presented in a professional manner? I’m very wary of sites in which text is presented in huge, bold type, with lots of exclamation points or caps. Which would you feel was more reliable? Ernest Shackleton died on January 5, 1922. Shackleton DIED TRAGICALLY on January 5, 1922!! Both statements are true, but I’d be more inclined to trust a website that doesn’t seem to be making some sort of emotional point. (If you search on “Shackleton” and “died”, you’ll find at least one website that states that he died on January 4—a good example of why it’s wise to crosscheck information. In this case, since a dozen sites say “January 5,” I’m inclined to believe the majority.) Is the site trying to push an agenda, prove a point, persuade you to a particular view, or badmouth the opposition? In any of these cases, be cautious about the information you find there. Is it obviously trying to sell a product? I’m always wary of any “medical” information that is associated with a site that is trying to promote some sort of vitamin or supplement, or someone’s book on an “overlooked treatment,” etc. Early articles on “evaluating online information” used a sort of conventional wisdom that recommended .org or .edu sites over .coms, but this wisdom is flawed. Anyone can get a .com, .org, or .net site—you don’t have to prove that you are an organization (or whatever) to use Moira Anderson Allen 63 that suffix. Many of the best information sites on the web are .coms. Conversely, many .org sites belong to organizations with specific agendas—which means that their information may be biased or one-sided. A .edu site does not mean that a site is “sponsored” by a university (and therefore, presumably, scrutinized for accuracy); it simply means that the site is hosted by that university’s server. It could be run by a student or a faculty member—and it may have no scrutiny whatsoever. So site suffixes are not a way to judge the value of a site’s information. Interviews While you can get loads of wonderful information from the Internet (or from books or magazines), the key to a successful article is often getting good interviews. The thing to keep in mind here is that an article is not a research report. Forget everything you learned in school about writing a “paper.” The approach of finding lots of information in previously published material and then spitting that information back out in ten pages does not work when trying to sell articles. It is true that some types of articles can be almost “pure research.” Magazines that cover more “informational” (vs. “how-to”) topics may be more inclined to accept research materials. Magazines with a historical slant are more open to pure research. But the majority of publications want either (a) personal expertise or (b) expert interviews. Interviews frequently scare new writers. We feel that we don’t have the “credentials” to even ask for an interview—that we may even insult an expert by approaching them. And I’ll share a little secret: If you’re not the outgoing, go-get-em type, you may never enjoy doing interviews. I’ve been in the business more than 20 years and I still don’t really like this part of the job. But this can be your little secret (and mine). Your interviewee does not have to know this. It’s perfectly possible to absolutely hate and dread interviewing—and still present a professional, impressive “face” to your interviewee. One of the questions that frequently comes up is whether to contact prospective interviewees before you have an assignment (to help you get the assignment), or after you have the assignment (to help you get the interviews). I generally prefer to line up a list of possible experts, and contact them after I have an assignment. However, if I believe that my query will be strengthened by the promise of speaking to a specific person, then I may contact that person first and find out if s/he would be willing to speak to me if and when I get the assignment—and then use that person’s name in my query. 64 Breaking into Magazines What I do not recommend is interviewing people before you actually have an assignment. This could be a big waste of your time, and theirs. (Theirs is more important—it won’t appear professional to interview someone for an article that never appears.) There are always exceptions to this rule, too, however—for example, you might be traveling and come across the perfect idea for an article, and need to interview folks right then and there, before sending a query. How do you get interviews? How do you “do” them? What are the protocols for following up? Here’s the quick-and-dirty... 1) Find the Interviewee. Your first step is to find appropriate experts to interview. If you’re doing a profile, obviously your main interviewee is the subject of that profile—but you may also want to interview people who know that person (a boss, a spouse, a friend). If you’re covering a particular topic, you’ll want to interview people who are experts on that topic. For an article on “cancer in cats,” for example, you don’t want to simply interview your family veterinarian; you need to interview someone who specializes in animal cancer treatments. As I’ve mentioned above, the easiest way to find experts is through a search on your topic online. 2) Choose the Method: Phone, Flesh or E-mail? Your next decision is whether to interview by phone, in person, or by e-mail. This depends a great deal on what you are trying to accomplish. If you’re doing a profile, you’ll typically want to do this in person, as you’ll learn as much from seeing the person in his/her environment as from the actual questions. (Thus, it’s usually best to profile someone that you can actually meet without traveling across the country.) Telephone interviews are still the most common and effective way to interview someone who is not in your immediate area (or even someone who is)—especially if you are simply gathering information rather than profiling the person. They are less intrusive than personal interviews, and require less “scheduling.” Just be sure, if you and your interviewee are in different time zones, that you are clear as to what time the interview should take place in each zone. Don’t just say “OK, I’ll call you at 10 a.m.”—make sure the interviewee knows whether you mean 10 a.m. your time or his time. (I’ve made this mistake more than once.) Phone interviews are also a good way to get information in a hurry—e.g., if you’re on deadline and need an answer now. Moira Anderson Allen 65 E-mail interviews are also a good way to gather information. They are even less intrusive than telephone interviews, and work very well with someone who is comfortable writing down their thoughts or information. However, they don’t work well with someone who doesn’t respond well to written questions—and you can’t immediately follow up or probe for more information or clarification if the person doesn’t provide the information you want. I use e-mail interviews when I interview authors (on the sometimes mistaken assumption that an author should be “comfortable” writing answers). E-mail can also be a good way to follow up on a phone interview if you have more questions. 3) Make Contact. Once you find a potential interviewee and decide how you’d like to conduct the interview, the next step is asking for the interview. This is where you need to remember that they don’t need to know you’re nervous. You may be shaking in your boots; it doesn’t matter. They don’t have to know. And you don’t have to tell them. If you’re going to interview someone by phone or in person, you can make contact either by phone or by e-mail. If you wish to make contact by phone, simply call the person (at work if possible) and explain who you are and what you are writing about. For example: “Hi, my name is Moira Allen, and I’m working on an article for Cats Magazine about cancer in cats. Would you be willing to talk to me about some of the treatments your clinic provides for feline cancer patients?” If you don’t have an assignment yet, just say “I’m working on an article about...” Nine times out of ten, they’ll never ask what publication it’s for. If they do, just say “I’ll be pitching this to...” and fill in the magazine name. If the person says “yes” to the idea of doing an interview, ask when would be a good time. Be prepared to do the interview on the spot. Frequently, the person is likely to say, “This would be a good time.” Have your interview questions ready, just in case—and make sure you’ve called when you have time to do the interview. It’s embarrassing to have to tell someone, “Oh, gee, sorry, I don’t have time to talk to you right now; can we schedule an appointment?” If the person wants to do the interview at another time, s/he may want to know how long the interview will take, so you should have a time estimate (e.g., half 66 Breaking into Magazines an hour). Generally, you should call the person for the interview (it should be on your nickel). The exception is when a person can’t guarantee being available at a certain time, and so would prefer to control the timing of the interview by calling you. Increasingly, writers are making initial contact by e-mail. The same basic approach works (leaving out the “Hi”)—just explain who you are, what you are writing about (and for what publication), and that you would like to arrange an interview. Most people who contact me in this way provide a phone number, but I always respond by e-mail, and give the interviewer my number and suggest a good time to call. I also make sure that the interviewer knows what time zone I live in! Some interviewees (especially in business) will want to see your questions in advance, so that they can prepare. When you’re simply gathering information about a topic (e.g., cancer, gardening, etc.), this is fine; don’t hesitate to provide your list. (You may get lucky and get a nice long response by e-mail.) If this is a more controversial issue, you might want to send some questions, but indicate that these are a “starting point” for the interview. 4) Conduct the Interview. Whether you interview someone in person or by phone, having a list of your primary questions is a must. Otherwise, you’ll start working on your article only to learn that a vital piece of information is missing. You can brainstorm your questions much as you brainstormed your article outline—by asking yourself what questions the reader would want answered. However, once the interview starts, don’t be surprised if you end up deviating from your list. The interview may go in different directions than you expected—you may find that you’re getting information in other areas that is more important or useful than what you started out in search of. Just be sure that you do get the information that you absolutely require for the article. Sometimes this means mastering the art of nudging someone back on track. Having your list is a good way to do this. You can take a look at what hasn’t been covered, and say something like “Getting back to the issue of...” Don’t be surprised when interviewees go off on tangents; sometimes this is helpful, but it can also derail your interview if you have a tight time-limit for the talk and the person doesn’t address your key points in that time. Learn to create “open-ended” questions rather than questions that can be answered “yes” or “no.” For example, if you were interviewing Moira Anderson Allen 67 a children’s author, don’t ask, “Do you enjoy writing children’s books?” That begs for a simple “yes” answer—and then you have to follow up with something like “why?” Instead, ask something like “What do you enjoy most about writing children’s books?” or “What is the most fulfilling part of writing children’s books?” Questions like these require the interviewee to provide a more in-depth answer. If you’re lucky, that’s exactly what will happen. However, from time to time you’ll run into someone who can still manage to say virtually nothing—such as “I find writing children’s books really rewarding.” Why, you ask? “Because they’re so much fun.” What makes them fun? “Oh, the process, I guess.” Could you tell me more about the process? “It’s really hard to describe. You have to just do it, I guess...” Yes, some interviews will go like this, and you’ll want to strangle the interviewee before you’re done—but throughout it all, you will maintain your professionalism! When you’re interviewing someone in person, should you take notes or use a tape recorder? I prefer both. I hate transcribing notes from a tape recorder, but it gives me a good backup if I can’t read my scribbles or remember the exact words used. It’s also good backup if you are writing something controversial and might ever need to prove that the person actually said what you say they said. When you’re interviewing someone by phone, it can be more difficult to use a tape recorder, although some answering machines can be set up to record a telephone conversation. If you do tape a telephone interview, keep in mind that you are required to inform the interviewee that s/he is being taped. When I conduct a phone interview, I simply do so in front of the computer, and type in the information as I talk. (If you write faster than you type, you might prefer to take longhand notes.) It should be obvious that you need to be polite and professional, show up (or call) on time, and thank the person when you’ve finished. If you find that you don’t like the person you’re interviewing, keep that detail to yourself. If you’re writing a profile and interviewed someone in person, jot down details about the person’s surroundings, appearance, tone of voice, etc.—anything that will contribute richness to your story. Did the person’s clothing clash with the “personality” you expected (such as a rich CEO wearing torn cutoffs)? What did you notice about the person’s environment? Was it filled with mementos, or barren and austere? Did it seem to reflect the interviewee’s interests and personality, or seem to clash with them? What did you notice about the person’s body 68 Breaking into Magazines language and facial expressions—when did the person seem comfortable, when did s/he seem tense? Pay attention to questions that make your interviewee tense—they could be leading somewhere important. (Don’t be afraid to ask “tough” questions, when appropriate.) Does the person’s facial expression or body language match the words? For example, if someone says, “I have a wonderful marriage,” but sits back with crossed arms and a frown, you might have doubts as to the truth of that statement. Don’t be afraid of silences. Silences are wonderful tools—because they make people uncomfortable, and people tend to try to fill a silence. If you’re not getting a response to a question, or if the response seemed too short or insufficient, just wait a moment without saying anything—often this will cause the person to say more, just to fill that silence. Do not rush to fill silences yourself! 5) Use the Material Wisely. Once the interview is finished, write up your notes as soon as possible, while it is still fresh in your mind. Try to be as clear and accurate as possible. You’ll often find that you have far too much information to actually fit in your article, but that’s fine. Some of what you’ve gathered might spin off into another article, or you might find that a personal experience makes a great sidebar. Interview material is like raw ore; your task is to refine it, and find the “precious metal” hidden inside. There are ways to do this and ways not to do this. The one absolute rule of using interviews is this: never twist a person’s words to imply something the person did not mean. Do not use quotes out of context, or partial quotes, as a way to make it seem that someone said something they did not. This is absolutely unethical. Other issues are less clear. For example, there are two schools of thought on “cleaning up” quotes. Let’s say that you have interviewed someone who does not speak clearly or in an educated way. Maybe his quote sounds something like “Well, uh, y’know, really, that’s tough, but I’d have to say, I think, probably, I’d want to see the guy fry, y’know?” There are some who would suggest using the entire quote. There are others who would use only the last eight words (or even cut the final “y’know”). The “use it like it is no matter what” school says that if a quote is grammatically incorrect, you still use it just “as is”. This can get a bit sticky when you’re doing e-mail interviews. When you interview someone on the phone, you are responsible for the spell- Moira Anderson Allen 69 ing. You don’t know whether the person knows how to spell the words he’s using—and you don’t care, because all the spelling is happening at your end. But what if the person has sent you an e-mail interview full of misspellings? Should you use it verbatim (or riddle it with “sics” to indicate that he, and not you, was the source of the misspellings)? My view is that, unless you have a profound reason to keep those errors, it’s better to clean it up. Again, keep in mind that had you done this interview orally, it would have been spelled correctly because you transcribed the interview. Not everyone has a perfect grasp of spelling, and I believe that an interviewee should not be made to look stupid— especially when that person has done me the favor of giving me the information I asked for. I compared interview material to ore, and that’s exactly what it is. You don’t want to dump everything the person said into your article. Instead, you want to mine it for quotes that add spice to the article (assuming the article isn’t a Q&A interview to begin with). That doesn’t mean you can’t use more of the person’s material—however, you’ll find that your article usually works best if you paraphrase most of it and add direct quotes that bring home the point you’re trying to make. For example, here’s the actual text of an e-mail interview I conducted with author Kate Elliott: The American Heritage Dictionary defines culture as ‘the totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought characteristic of a community or population.’ According to the OED [Oxford English Dictionary], the word ‘culture’ is related to ‘cultivate’ in the sense of tending crops. Words grow from specific roots for a reason. Definitions of ‘cultivate’ include “To improve or prepare (land), as by plowing or fertilizing, for raising crops. . . To grow or tend. . . To promote the growth of. . . To nurture. . . To form and refine.” I think that these definitions and that relationship between culture and cultivation can give writers clues as to how to approach writing, and creating, a ‘believable’ culture in fantasy or science fiction novel. For that purpose, one can draw out the metaphor of tillage, however labored it might become in time: When the writer creates a culture in the sf/f field, she starts with untilled ground, 70 Breaking into Magazines a kind of blank slate. That ground has to be prepared, tended, formed, and refined. A culture, likewise, must show arts, beliefs, institutions (to whatever extent), technologies, and roles. In the role of “cultivator,” the writer can, in addition, not merely impose her own notions onto that developing culture but see what comes of giving it a little room to evolve naturally in the course of planning and writing the novel. Here’s what I wrote in the final article: Elliott likes to draw an analogy between “culture” and “cultivate,” two words that spring from the same root. “When a writer creates a culture, she starts with untilled ground, a kind of blank slate. The ground has to be prepared, tended, formed, refined. Likewise, a culture must show arts, beliefs, institutions, technologies, and roles. In the role of ‘cultivator,’ a writer doesn’t simply impose her own notions onto that developing culture, but gives it a little room to evolve naturally in the course of planning and writing the novel.” In this instance, you’ll note that I also “edited” some of the sentences I did use to make them more “manageable” in the paragraph. Some writers and editors believe that this sort of editing is a no-no— but I’ve found that most interviewees prefer it, if such cleaning (a) does not distort the quote and (b) makes a better article. Should you send the article to the interviewee for review before it is published? This is one of the most common questions asked. Also, many interviewees will try to pressure a writer into letting them “review” (or “approve”) an article before it goes to the editor. The consensus among authors and editors on this point is no. Never promise to let an interviewee see your article before it goes to press. Never give an interviewee any “approval power” over your article. If an interviewee puts any pressure on you to do this, simply say that you’re sorry, but your editor won’t permit it. The only exception to this rule, in my book, is when I’m interviewing someone about a highly technical subject and I want to be absolutely sure I’ve gotten all the information right. In such a case, the only interest the interviewee is likely to have in reviewing the article is the same as mine: Accuracy. If I have any doubts about how I’ve tran- Moira Anderson Allen 71 scribed and presented the interview information, I may pass it back to the interviewee for a check—but not for “pre-approval.” One reason many interviewees want to see an interview before it is published is because they’ve had bad experiences with writers who want to put their own, biased spin or slant on an interview. In such a case, be understanding—but still be firm about not granting a “preapproval” condition. It should also be pointed out that an interview is not about the interviewer. I’ve read too many interviews in which the person doing the interview keeps intruding upon the interview itself—with thoughts, reactions, interpretations, personal observations, etc. When an interviewer does this, it not only presents that interviewer in a highly unprofessional (and often unethical) light, but also causes the interviewer to “get in the way.” The interviewer becomes a sort of filter (or screen) between the reader and the interviewee—to “see” or “hear” the person being interviewed, the reader must first see and hear the person conducting the interview. For example, I’ve seen interviewers write things like “I really felt a connection with what Mary was saying about her marriage, because of my own bad experiences...” If the article is about Mary, what is the interviewer doing in this picture? Even worse is an interviewer who attempts to “interpret” the interviewee’s comments for the audience— especially if the interviewer is trying to cast the interviewee in a bad light. If you feel that an interviewee is a horrible person, let that person’s words speak for themselves—and let the readers draw their own conclusions. Don’t try to force your reactions onto the reader. 6) Follow up. It goes without saying that you should thank the interviewee after the interview itself. I like to send a follow-up note a bit later, with any information I have on when the article will be published and where it will appear. When the article is actually published, I like to send a copy to the interviewee as a courtesy. Most people love to get articles that feature them. I do not do this when I’ve conducted a survey—where I may have interviewed 20 or 30 people—but I do let them know when and where the article has appeared. One of the big “don’ts” in this business is pulling “interview quotes” out of someone else’s material. I once reviewed an article that had been accepted by a pet magazine, purportedly on “how to train your 72 Breaking into Magazines cat.” Unfortunately, all the writer did was go to several different books on training, and pull out quotes. Her article read something like this: “According to Amanda Trainer, ‘Training cats is a simple process,’” or “John CatWorker says that he has had ‘great success with clicker-training.’” This is perilously close to plagiarism, and most editors won’t touch an article created in this way. When you interview someone directly, that person is giving you permission to use their words and their knowledge to create an article. When you pull quotes from someone’s book, the author has not given you permission to use their words. Again, an article is not a research paper. Your goal is to create something new, not reprocess what has already been written. Interviewing is an important skill to master, because most editors prefer articles that have information and quotes from a recognized expert. If you are the expert, that’s great—but if you aren’t, you’ll need to be able to gather this information from those who are. Don’t be intimidated by an expert’s credentials. Don’t assume that you are “imposing.” Most people enjoy the publicity and recognition created by an interview. Yes, they are doing you a favor—but in many cases, you are doing them a favor as well, by promoting their work or their knowledge. Don’t approach someone in awe, and for heaven’s sake, don’t “kiss up.” If you are familiar with a person’s work, it’s fine to say so, but don’t gush about how that person is your favorite writer, singer, artist, etc. A professional approach will get you through almost anything—and remember, when you interview by phone or e-mail, no one has to see you quivering in your fuzzy bunny slippers. Exercise: In my class, there was no assignment for this lecture; however, if you’re intimidated by the thought of conducting an interview, a good exercise would be to interview a friend, coworker or family member. Come up with a subject that you will both be comfortable with—the story of your friend’s favorite pet, for example—and develop a list of questions on that topic. Try doing an interview with and without a tape recorder to see which you prefer. Moira Anderson Allen 73 7: Beginning Your Article T he moment has come. You’ve sent off your perfect query, and received a warm, enthusiastic response from the editor: “Yes, please make my day and send your article!” (Well, maybe not quite that warm, but what’s life without a little fantasy?) Now it’s time to deliver the goods. And now, if you’re like most of us, is the time you freeze. That article sounded like such a good idea when you queried it—but suddenly you wonder what on earth you’re going to say. (Sometimes, at this point, I feel as if I’ve completely forgotten how to write!) The goal of this chapter is to get you past that awful moment of confronting “the blank page.” Starting Your First Draft Few things are more intimidating than the blank page (or screen) when you have a deadline. You may have known exactly what you wanted to say when you started your query, but now, perhaps, you have a stack of research notes, and no idea how to get started. Or, perhaps you can’t find a way to “open” your article—you’re sticking at the first sentence. This isn’t just something that happens to “new” writers—after 20+ years, it still happens to me. Here are some ways to get that article going. Step One: Do you know exactly what your article is supposed to be about? You may have thought so before you did your research, but now your brain may be stuffed with all sorts of information, which you’re having trouble “sorting out.” It’s time to go back to the basics. 74 Breaking into Magazines Make sure that you can state the central concept (or “thesis”) of your article in a single sentence. Make sure, as well, that this sentence has no more than one “and” in it. Here are some examples: Article title: “Your child’s first hike” Market: Family-oriented travel or hiking publication Good Topic Sentence: How to introduce your child to hiking safely and enjoyably. Bad Topic Sentence: How to introduce your child to hiking, and what to pack, and where to go, and a look at my own experiences taking the kids on hikes, plus a look back at my first hike when I was a child... Article title: Discover the new Olympic sport of skeleton! Market: Winter sports publications Good Topic Sentence: What “skeleton” is and how to get involved. Bad Topic Sentence: What “skeleton” is, how to get involved, profiles of some notable “skeleton” athletes, a history of skeleton and the Olympics (including why it was added to the Olympics), and places where you can learn how to do it, plus some of the risks... The purpose of a topic sentence is not only to help you focus on the central point (or “mission”) of your article, but also to limit you. Everything in your article should relate back to that topic sentence. If it doesn’t, then it probably doesn’t belong in this article, no matter how interesting it may be. A tightly focused topic sentence will keep you on track; a rambling topic sentence will get you lost. Another good way to define your topic sentence is to turn it into a question—e.g., the question that would be asked by the person about to read your article. Examples: How can I introduce my child to the sport of hiking? What is “skeleton” and how can I get started in this sport? By turning your thesis into a question, you now know exactly what your article has to “answer.” Here are some other sample questions that would make good “core concepts” for articles: Moira Anderson Allen • • • • • • • • • • • • • • 75 Should I refinance my house? (Why or why not?) How can I refinance my house? How do I learn how to crochet? What on earth do you do with chestnuts? How can I communicate more effectively with my spouse? What do I need to know about “natural” vitamins? Where can I find a contractor to remodel my home? Where can I stay in New York for less than $100 a night? Why should I spend my honeymoon in Aruba? What are some romantic things I can do for less than $20? How can I keep the kids entertained on a rainy day? What would be an ideal gift for my mother-in-law? Who was Florence Nightingale? (Better: What was Florence Nightingale’s contribution to modern military nursing?) What was the Battle of Manassas? (Better: What was significant about the Battle of Manassas? Extra credit for anyone who asks “First Manassas or Second Manassas?”) Not every article idea can be expressed as a question, but you might be surprised by how easy it is to turn most ideas into questions. From there, the process becomes simple:Your goal is to answer the question. Step Two: Once you’ve defined your topic statement and/or question, identify the subtopics or “sub-questions” that directly relate to or support the original thesis. For example, your article on a child’s first hike might cover: 1) How to make a trip enjoyable 2) How to make a trip safe An article on whether or not to refinance one’s home might include: 1) Circumstances in which refinancing is a good idea 2) Circumstances in which refinancing is a bad idea 3) How to get more information Each of these subtopics, in turn, may lead to more logical subtopics. Child’s hiking trip -> Safety -> RISKS: common trail hazards, 76 Breaking into Magazines including sunburn, dehydration, toxic plants, insect bites, animals/snakes, accidental injuries such as cuts, bruises, sprains. Child’s hiking trip -> Safety -> PRECAUTIONS: Warning your child about hazards, things to pack in case of hazards, how to protect against sunburn, etc. Child’s hiking trip -> Safety -> REMEDIES: What to do if any of the hazards are encountered (e.g., how to treat poison ivy, snake bite, etc.) If one of these subtopics isn’t where you want to focus your article, you can always pull the information out and use it as a sidebar, and focus your article on the other subtopic (how to make a trip enjoyable). The key is to make sure that everything you are trying to cover in the article directly relates to your core topic. If it doesn’t (e.g., your reminiscences about your first hiking trip), save it for another piece! Step Three: Determine whom your article is for. Once you have established the “question” that your article will be answering, you need to know who would be asking that question. If, for example, your article is covering “How to plan for retirement,” you need to know who will be reading the piece. The questions asked by a 20-year-old single woman would be very different from those asked by a 40-year-old man with children about to enter college, or a recently divorced woman, or someone who is self-employed, etc. The more you know about the publication you are writing for, the better you’ll be able to answer this “who’s asking?” question. Going back to our “child hiking” article, you would want to know whether you are writing for a magazine aimed at experienced hikers— or perhaps a more general family magazine whose readers may not be that experienced. You’ll have to explain many more “basic” concepts to the latter audience, while the more experienced audience might be more interested in high-tech equipment that is suitable for kids, or the best hiking trails for kids in a particular region. Step Four: Be sure you know how long your article is supposed to be. As I mentioned in an earlier lecture, a word-count is like a budget. You have only so many words that you can allocate to each “point” in your article. The more points you want to make, the fewer words you can Moira Anderson Allen 77 budget to each point. The fewer points you need to cover, the more “in-depth” your coverage can be on every point. While there is no hard-and-fast rule, I feel that for an in-depth article, you need a budget of at least 300 to 500 words per subtopic. A 2000-word article would thus give you room for no more than four major subtopics. A 1500-word article would work for three, etc. If you need to cover a larger number of subtopics, then your article will become more of an “overview” than an in-depth exploration. Often, overviews work well as “list” articles. For example, you might write an in-depth piece on “how to keep your children entertained on a rainy day”—or, you might write a list-overview titled “Ten ways to keep your kids entertained in the rain.” An article like “Romantic things to do for under $20” would work perfectly as a list: “Twenty romantic things to do for under $20.” Step Five: Determine the best order in which to present your information. Often this is as simple as defining the question; once you know the question, a logical “order” for the answer may be intuitively obvious. Here are some typical ways to “order” your article: 1) Logical Order. What comes first, what comes next, what comes after that? If your article is about the sport of “skeleton”, the first logical question that would be asked (and answered) is “what is it?” If you’re writing this as a “winter sports” article, the next might be “how can I get involved?” A third might be “where do I get more information?” My article on cancer in cats proceeded in the order of “types of cancer, how to detect cancer, how to treat cancer, how to prevent cancer.” 2) Chronological Order. This works well for articles that cover a sequence of events: What happened first? What happened next? What happened after that? 3) Instructional Order. If your article is explaining how to do something, you might present it in the order in which the person should proceed: Step One, Step Two, Step Three, etc. 4) List Order. If all the points of your article are of equal “value”—i.e., no single point is more important than any other, 78 Breaking into Magazines and there’s no particular reason to put one first—then you can present the material as a list. This works well for articles along the lines of “five ways to...” or “ten reasons to...” You don’t have to number your list to follow this order. Shorter lists (up to five items) can work well without numbers; longer lists (of ten items or more) generally work better with numbers. If you are using a number in the title (e.g., Ten Ways to...), numbering the list itself is usually a good idea. If all else fails, and you can’t figure out a way to present your information, try what I call “sculpting.” Just write down paragraphs, at random, based on your research information. Don’t worry about putting them together in a logical sequence, or polishing them; the goal is to simply get something on the page. I call this “sculpting” because it reminds me of the process of throwing together wads of clay that will eventually become a sculpture. The first step is simply to get all the clay together in the right place. Then you can worry about shaping, smoothing, etc. Once you have your “clay”—a bunch of paragraphs— you’ll find that “revising” it into an article is a much easier process. Style and Presentation Once you know what your article will include, you need to address how you want to write it. This section will look at some of the “tools” that you can include in your basic article-writing toolkit. Style and Voice Most of us evolve our own distinctive style over time. However, style is also dependent on the market you are writing for. Your articles may have a great deal of stylistic variation, while still retaining your unique “voice.” Some of the issues to consider here are: 1) The level of the audience. Knowing your audience’s reading level, and its level of knowledge/expertise on your subject, will have considerable influence on how you approach your article. Does your audience expect technical terminology, or simple writing with lots of explanations? Does it expect the author to be a friendly, hand-holding guide—or a more distant, authoritative “expert?” These are all factors that you can determine by reading a sample issue of the publication. Moira Anderson Allen 79 2) The appropriate “narrative voice.” Should you write your article in first-person (“I/we”), second person (“you”), or third person (“he/she/they/one”)? Again, this depends on the publication. Some publications use no first-person narratives. Some prefer this style. Some types of articles (such as how-tos) rely on second-person (“Do this, then do this;” “You can do this...”, etc.). Some prefer third: “One can understand this by...” A note on first person: This is a very tempting voice for many writers, but should be used sparingly. Often, the writer can get in the way, acting as a filter between the reader and the information. For example, a writer who says “The sunset painted the sky with crimson and gold banners” is letting the reader see the sunset. The writer who says “I watched in awe as the sunset painted the sky...” is forcing the reader to watch the writer watch the sunset. If you choose to write in first person, make sure that you’re not standing between the writer and the information you want to provide. 3) Personal vs. impersonal. Some publications prefer more personal, conversational articles; some prefer articles to be very impersonal, presenting information without a sense of the author being “present” in the article. My own preference leans toward a balance: I like articles to be accessible and “userfriendly,” but I don’t care for “chatty Kathy” pieces that ramble on about how much the writer enjoys doing this or that, or what the writer thinks about everything s/he is discussing. Presentation Elements One thing many writers tend to overlook is the number of “presentation tools” that are available. You don’t have to write every piece as a straight narrative from beginning to end. There are lots of ways to add variety to your writing, including: 1) Anecdotes. Used sparingly, anecdotes can spice up a piece, providing a “personal example” to illustrate your information. Your entire article can be based around an anecdotal example— or, you could open with an anecdote that introduces your subject, and then close with an anecdote that shows how your introductory story “turned out.” 80 Breaking into Magazines 2) Interviews/quotes. These should be used sparingly, like spice. Instead of quoting everything a person says, paraphrase the bulk of the information you obtain through interviews, and use quotes that serve to highlight the content of your article. 3) Statistics. Some people love numbers; some people don’t. Some people are bored with an article packed with numbers. (I once read an article in Writer’s Digest in which the author raved over the idea of opening an article with about a dozen statistics. My eyes glazed over halfway through, and this was just an article about using statistics, rather than one that really needed numbers.) I believe numbers, like quotes, should be used sparingly, for effect and to make a point—but not as a bombardment. 4) “Made up” anecdotes. I’ve never been a big fan of articles that contrast the experiences of imaginary people—e.g., “John backed up his computer data, so that when it crashed, his business wasn’t ruined, but poor Mary failed to make backups...” However, a lot of publications use this type of approach, so don’t overlook it as a possible tool. 5) Personal experiences. Some articles are, of course, straight “personal experience” accounts. In a more factual “how-to” piece, however, you can often use personal experience to illustrate what you are explaining. Keep in mind that in this case, the experience is the “vehicle” for your information—it isn’t the point of your article. For example, if you were writing about taking care of a pet with diabetes, you might use your own experience with such a pet to (a) help the reader identify with you as a person (if you can do it, he can do it!), and (b) provide a logical way to “walk through” the information, from diagnosis to treatment. Beginnings, Middles and Ends In the past few years, I’ve seen an odd trend in articles: Writers who just stop when they get to the end of their information, without providing any sort of “conclusion.” This leaves the reader hanging—or turning the page, wondering where the rest of the article went. Moira Anderson Allen 81 Every article needs a beginning—an introduction that “hooks” the reader and draws her into the article. Generally, your introduction should be no longer than one paragraph. Use your introduction to set the scene—to establish what the article is going to be about and why it will be relevant, or interesting, to the reader. (You will often find that your query hook works very well as an article hook, or vice versa!) The “middle” of your article—or rather, everything that falls between your introduction and conclusion—should fulfill the promise made by that introduction. Don’t promise anything that you can’t deliver! Also, make sure that the tone of your article matches the tone of the rest of the article; don’t open with a joke and move on into an article that is morbid and depressing. The end, or conclusion, of your article should provide a sense of closure to the piece. The reader should be able to feel that everything that needed to be said has been said; it’s time to turn the page and move on. If at all possible, try to mirror your introduction in your conclusion. For example, if you open with an anecdote, close with an anecdote. If you open with a quote, close the quote. Bring the reader “full circle” with the conclusion of your piece. One common approach to “beginning/middle/end” is to set up your article as “problem/solution/call to action.” Often, the introduction to your article establishes a “problem to be solved” or a question to be answered. It may explain to the reader why this issue is a problem, why the reader needs to know more, why the reader needs to take action. For example, a common type of article you’ll see in women’s magazines is “ten health warnings you can’t afford to ignore.” The introduction will invariable explain that these health symptoms can be signs of serious illness—establishing the problem that needs to be solved. The middle goes over the ten symptoms, and what they could mean. The end will then be a “call to action”—if you see these symptoms, go to a doctor! Similarly, an article on “how to write good query letters” would probably begin with an explanation of why good queries are so important in selling articles. The middle would explain how to write one. The conclusion would say, “Now go out and apply this and start selling more work!” Articles that cover a personal experience (your own or someone else’s) should conclude with “the end of the story.” There is a corollary here: Don’t try to write an experiential article until you know the 82 Breaking into Magazines end of the story!For example, if you’ve just gotten divorced, don’t try to write an article about “surviving divorce” until you’ve actually gone through the process and are in a position to look back on it (and don’t try to write it while in the midst of a court battle). Sidebars After you’ve finished organizing your article, chances are that you have information left over that doesn’t “fit” into the main text. This is often perfect material for a sidebar. Editors love sidebars. In some cases, they are required; for example, travel magazines generally require sidebars that explain basic “how to get there, where to stay” information. In other cases, they are extras that add information or interest to a feature. Here are some basic types of sidebars: 1) Lists. If you have a list of short pieces of information, consider pulling this out into a sidebar. For example, on that article about hiking and children, consider making a list of trail hazards, or first aid supplies to take along, or equipment to take. If it’s for a regional publication, consider listing local trails that are good for children. 2) Personal experiences. Sometimes a short personal account makes a good sidebar to a longer, more factual piece. At Dog Fancy, I always liked to balance a technical medical article with a shorter, personal article about a dog owner who had dealt with that disease or injury. 3) Factual information. The reverse is also true: Try balancing a personal article with a brief overview of factual information on the topic. (At Dog Fancy, if I had a longer personal experience article about a canine disease, I’d try to balance that with a brief factual overview of the topic.) 4) Quizzes. Editors always love quizzes. (For more information on how to develop a quiz, see “Five Steps to Writing Great Quizzes,”at http://www.writing-world.com/freelance/quizzes.shtml) 5) Where to find it. A sidebar on where to find more information, where to buy specific products mentioned in the article, where to find organizations related to the article topic, etc., are always useful. Today, sidebars listing where to find information online are also a good Moira Anderson Allen 83 bet. If you’re writing about a sport, you might include a sidebar on where to find the right equipment, where to get training, where to practice the sport, or where to find organizations dedicated to the sport. This is only the tip of the iceberg on the tips of sidebars you can include. Here’s the insider secret: Sidebars are (a) a great way to use some of that extra information that you can’t fit into your article, (b) a sneaky way to get past a word-count limit, and (c) a good way to get extra money, because editors will often pay extra for sidebars. I am often asked how to format a sidebar so that one can “show the editor where it goes.” The answer is: You don’t. Just add your sidebar to the end of your article, with a heading like “Sidebar 1: Title”. The editor will figure out where to put it in the final article. Formatting Your Manuscript I’ve always assumed that writers know the basics of manuscript format: Double-spacing, one-inch margins, and so forth. However, judging by the types of manuscripts I’ve been receiving lately, that faith seems to be misplaced. Frankly, I’m not picky over double-spacing; in fact, I prefer single-spacing, since all the manuscripts I review arrive as e-mail attachments and I must print them out myself—so I’m more than happy to save paper. (I suspect that this may become a more widespread attitude as more and more submissions are sent by e-mail.) The most common (and astonishing) problem I’ve encountered, however, is manuscripts with absolutely no attribution: No author name at the top, not even a byline after the title. Keep in mind that your manuscript and the cover letter or e-mail may become separated when they reach an editor’s desk. Nor do editors have perfect memories. More than once, I’ve dredged an article out of the file that I accepted months earlier, and I can’t remember who wrote it. There isn’t anything much simpler than putting your name on your manuscript—so do it! Beyond that, you’ll find the basics of manuscript format in my article at http://www.writing-world.com/basics/manuscript.shtml. I’ll wrap this up with a few questions writers often ask about submissions: 1) Does it matter what font you use? Some editors do request that you use a specific font. Most often, they’ll ask for Courier (because it is a “nonproportional” font and thus gives a better idea of how many words are on a page). I just found a set of guidelines the other day that 84 Breaking into Magazines asked for Times Roman. Most editors, however, really don’t care if your manuscript is in Times Roman or New Century Schoolbook or Bookman or whatever—so long as it is easy to read. A 12-point font is generally best; never go smaller than 10 points, and don’t go up to 14 points. A “serif” font (like Times) is generally much easier to read than a “sans-serif” font (like Helvetica). 2) Should you underline or italicize? In the days of typewriters, we had no choice but to underline text that should be italicized. (Bold was out of the question.) Now you have a choice. The advantage of underlining even in a computer file is that it is easier to see than italics—you know exactly where the underlined section begins and ends. It’s also easier to read. Some fonts become hard to read in italics. So—this is “your choice,” but I’d recommend underlining rather than italicizing. 3) How do you calculate word count? You’re likely to come across all kinds of bizarre formulas for figuring “word count”. Again, these are based on pre-computer days. Yes, a single page usually contains from 250 to 300 words, but you don’t have to count characters and divide by 5 or any such nonsense. Word counts are never “exact” anyway, and your computer program’s word-count function will do just fine. Round your count to the nearest 50—e.g., if you have 1735 words, call it 1750; if you have 1807 words, call it 1800. 4) Should you put extra spaces between paragraphs? This is the one place where print and e-mail subs diverge. You don’t need to doublespace between paragraphs in a print manuscript if you’re double-spacing. Instead, use a tab to indicate a new paragraph. You do need to double-space between paragraphs in an e-mail submission, because email text will be single-spaced, without tabs. 5) Should you put one space or two after a period? This is becoming another of those hotly contested format issues. Us oldtimers who used typewriters were taught to put two spaces after a period—and our fingers tend to do this automatically. In today’s era of wordprocessing, the new standard is to put only one space after a period. I have actually heard of an occasional editor who was nitpicky enough to reject a manuscript on that basis. However, most won’t. And let’s face it, if you’re a two-space typist and you’re dealing with a one-space editor, the solu- Moira Anderson Allen 85 tion is simple: Type your manuscript, and when you’re finished, do a search-and-replace to replace all “two spaces” with a single space. 5) Does it matter what your mailing envelope looks like? I highly recommend investing in a “labelmaker.” This handy device hooks up to your computer and prints out labels, which make your submissions look much more professional than hand-writing a name and address. (I covet the newest model, which will actually hold three different size labels at once.) If you don’t want to invest in a labelmaker, use a typewriter to type labels. It’s generally too much trouble to try to print a single label from a label sheet on your printer. I’ve also read that editors will be “turned off” by an envelope with a lot of mixed stamps. Frankly, I think this gets into the “who cares?” department—an editor who worries about what stamps you put on an envelope is an editor with way too much time on her hands! These days, all manuscripts are generally considered “disposable,” so don’t bother trying to put enough postage on your SASE to cover the return of your material (unless you are sending photos). Instead, just put a single first-class stamp on a #10 envelope, with your return address on a regular-size mailing label or typed onto the envelope. Do not use a return-address sticker as your mailing label on a SASE; it looks tacky. It’s also not necessary to include your return address on the envelope in addition to your mailing address. Exercise It’s time to start working on your article! 86 Breaking into Magazines 8: Selling Photos T here is no question that quality photos and/or other types of artwork can help make a sale. As editor of Dog Fancy, I some times purchased (or even commissioned) articles on the basis of photos. For example, one person sent some wonderful photos of their dog “around the world”—they had traveled literally around the world with the dog. The photos were great, and I asked them to write an article to go with them. But what if you’re not a great photographer? Is the corollary to what I’ve just said also true—that a lack of photos can hurt your chances of making a sale? In some markets, the answer is “yes.” Travel publications, for example, depend on a combination of text and artwork; without the art, the text often won’t sell. Some publications do say that photos are a “must,” so one can assume that in those markets, if you can’t take a focused picture to save your life, you’re not going to make a sale. (Another example is the craft market, where a magazine may expect you to provide photos of the process of creating the craft project you are describing in your article. In other markets, the presence of photos may make a sale, but their absence won’t necessarily unmake a sale. I’ve never bought a poor article on the basis of artwork. (Well, that’s not entirely true either; at Dog Fancy I once bought articles from a “regular” contributor who had the world’s cutest dog, but only because the editor-in-chief insisted; I finally managed to dump him.) In general, don’t expect good photos to make up for a bad article! Moira Anderson Allen 87 More to the point, there are ways to obtain photos and artwork without being a photographer yourself. Here are some of them: 1) Find out if the subject of your article has photos that can be offered to the publication. For example, if you were writing a breed profile for a pet magazine, you’d probably be interviewing several breeders. Ask them if they have any high-quality pictures of their dogs/cats/ whatever that could be submitted with the article. Generally, you’ll be able to get permission to use these at no charge to you. Similarly, if you’re writing a profile of an individual, find out if that individual has any photos of him/herself that could be shared. Sometimes “candid” shots with a historical context, such as a school photo, a photo of the subject as a child, etc., can be useful as well. 2) If you’re writing about a location, find out if there is a tourist board or similar agency that can provide copyright-free publicity photos for publication. Many tourist organizations do have such shots, and would be glad to provide them for the publicity. (Talk to the chamber of commerce, or the equivalent, for the town or region that you are visiting; in England, for example, every town has a council with a PR office, and you can find these organizations easily on the Internet).. Often, these agencies will be able to supply you with high-quality professional photos (usually on a CD-ROM). Similarly, if you’re staying at a particular inn or B&B, and want to include a photo of that facility in your package, ask them if they have any publicity photos they could share. 3) Find a photographer to work with you. No matter where you live, there’s bound to be a professional photographer in your area. If you absolutely need photos to sell the article, and the price is right, consider working with a professional photographer to get the shots you need. In this case, you may want to have the publication negotiate separate payment arrangements with you and the photographer, so that you’re not stuck trying to pay the photographer out of your fee. (This can even work long-distance. I once wrote a piece for Cats Magazine on a particular vet clinic, and it turned out that an acquaintance on a discussion list was a professional photographer who lived in the same area as my interviewee. I let the editor know, and the photographer got the assignment to illustrate my article.) 88 Breaking into Magazines In short, if you don’t have good photos of your own, ask. If you are able to acquire photos from others, here are some tips on how to handle them. 1) Find out whether the photos need to be returned. If so, you need to make a decision: Do you want to be responsible for the photos, or do you want to trust the magazine to return them to their owner? My own preference is to include a SASE and ask that all photos be returned to me, whereupon I’ll get them back to their proper owners. (I don’t trust editors to “get it right.”) If you want the photos sent back to you, be sure to put your name and address on the back of every photo. The best way to do this is to use a return-address label; many inks don’t work well on photos, and may smear on the face of the photo beneath. 2) Handle with care. You can obtain photo sleeves for slides and prints in any high-quality camera shop; these are a good way to mail and protect photos. They come in all sizes. When mailing photos, package them in sleeves and place a piece of stiff cardboard (e.g., from the back of a notepad) on each side of the photos to protect them. 3) Make sure that each photo includes a credit for the photographer. Photos are covered by copyright just like articles, so it’s important to provide photo credits. This can get tricky, however, as you may not know who took the photo. If you don’t know who the photographer is, then say “Photo courtesy of...” (the provider). Keep in mind that many people have professional photos of themselves (or their pets)—and that it is technically a violation of the photographer’s copyright to publish these without permission. 4) Make sure each photo is captioned, or identified in some way— and make sure the captions are accurate! OK, let’s say you have a pile of photos contributed by the subjects of your article, and you’re trying to decide which to send. Here’s a quickand-dirty overview of what editors want from photos. 1) A good picture. You’d think this “goes without saying,” but believe me, lots of folks have no idea what a “good picture” is. If they’re in it, it’s a good picture. From an editor’s perspective, a “good” picture is Moira Anderson Allen 89 one that shows the subject clearly and attractively—and (in most cases) will make the reader want to linger and look at the image rather than turn the page quickly. 2) Good color balance. If you’re using color shots, make sure the colors are accurate. Do the reds look red, or pink? Is the sky blue, or yellow? 3) Focus. One problem with many photos is that the larger the enlargement, the fuzzier the focus. If you work with slides, learn how to use a jeweler’s loupe (magnifying glass) to identify whether the slide is really sharp when enlarged. Shots that look great at 35mm can look very blurry at 4x5 or larger. The first thing an editor or art director will do when getting a pack of photos is to head for the lightbox with a loupe, and inspect them for focus. 4) Contrast. Watch out for photos that are overall too dark, or too light—or that are too light in some sections and too dark in others. 5) Odds and ends—does that closeup of a dog’s face make it look like a redeyed something from beyond the tomb? Does that shadow make a person look like he has two noses? You’d be amazed at what you don’t see when looking casually at photographs. Be sure that an editor will spot the oddities that most of us miss! For more information on submitting film photos, see my article at http://www.writing-world.com/freelance/photos.shtml. Going Digital The majority of publications listed in the 2005 Photographer’s Market prefer (or require) digital images. They don’t want slides, they don’t want prints. They want images submitted on CD-ROMs or via e-mail. The reason is simple: This saves them a huge amount of time and money in “separating” color images the old fashioned way, because once an image is digitized, this can be done quickly and easily by computer. But they don’t want to have to mess around with scanning your slides and prints; they expect you, the writer, to do this yourself. The fact that more and more publications want digital images, however, does not mean that they necessarily want what we normally think 90 Breaking into Magazines of as “digital photos”—that is, photos you took with your digital camera. “Digital images” is a term that applies to two types of images: Digital photos (as I’ve just defined), and scanned images: scans of photos that were taken the “traditional” way. If you’ve been taking photos with a film camera for years, this means that you should seriously consider beginning to convert your film archives to digital archives. Such a process has additional advantages: It gives you an easy way to back up your photo files, and preserve them from loss and deterioration. Your entire photo collection is likely to fit on a single DVD, and you can make copies of this and store them in different locations, so that even if your house burns down, you’ll still have a copy of all your photos. I’m not going to try, here, to tell you “everything you need to know about taking, scanning, storing, and manipulating digital photos.” Instead, I’m going to try to give you an overview of the basic information you will need to start sending out digital images. We’ll start with a brief look at digital photography, then talk about scanning your nondigital archives, and finally talk a bit about digital photography software and how to e-mail digital images. Digital Photography If you don’t have a digital camera yet, you may be wondering whether you ought to switch over. There are good reasons to do so, and there are also good reasons to hold onto your film camera. Let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of digital photography. One of the most obvious “pros” is that you can take a digital camera along on your vacation, and take as many photos as you want, without ever having to worry about what you are spending on film. On my trip to England in 2003, I took an average of 100 photos every day— something that would have cost several hundred dollars in film processing fees when I got home. You never have to worry about whether you brought enough film along, or about running out when you’re in some remote location where you can’t just pick up another roll. (You do need to worry about running down your battery or running out of storage space—but those issues are more easily addressed.) You also don’t have to worry about paying good money for bad pictures—you know, the ones where you cropped off someone’s head, or your thumb got in the way of the castle, or the wind started blowing just as you snapped the shutter. You don’t have to worry about getting Moira Anderson Allen 91 home only to find that you shot a whole roll on the wrong setting— whereupon, of course, it’s too late to hop on a plane and go back and try again. With a digital camera you can review your shots as you take them, so that you know whether you got what you intended right on the spot—and can try again if something doesn’t come out. The fact that you’re not paying for film and can review shots on the spot is likely to encourage you to become more experimental and creative as a photographer. You can play with different angles, lighting, or compositions, because if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t matter. To me, one of the greatest advantages of digital photography is feeling free to try new things; there’s no penalty for failure. And that makes me a better photographer. Digital cameras also have the advantage of being lightweight; most will fit in your purse or even your pocket. Images are stored on “cards”, which you can buy in various storage sizes; these days you can get them at 520 MB or larger, which will hold a lot of images. But there are some downsides as well. One of the most important is image size. Most mid-range digital cameras on the market offer a size of 3 or 4 megapixels (sometimes five). I’m not going to get into technical details here; suffice it to say that the larger the megapixel number, the larger the image that you can capture. This is an important consideration. When you’re taking traditional photos, a good, sharp, clear slide or print can be enlarged far beyond its original size—it’s not difficult to get a poster-sized image, for example, from a tiny little 35mm slide or print. In the world of digital photos, however, you cannot enlarge an image in the same way, because that image is recorded in pixels—and you can only go up to the largest size that you’ve captured in an image. Most “general consumer” digital cameras are marketed with the “snapshot shooter” in mind—the person who wants to take pictures of their kids, their dogs, their family vacations, and put those snaps in a traditional photo album. Photo printers will give you traditional 3x5 or 4x6 prints of your digital images, and you can buy photo paper in that size, to fit into your regular photo album. Most digital cameras boast that you can print out clear “8x10” images. But while that’s nice for home use, it’s often not adequate for print publication use. You may be thinking, “but when I download my photos, they’re 35 inches wide!” Yes—but they are usually 35 inches wide at a resolution of 72 ppi (pixels per inch—also referred to as “dpi” or “dots per inch”). 92 Breaking into Magazines Most print publications require an image with a resolution of at least 300, and often higher. When you convert that digital image to a resolution of 300 ppi, chances are that it is no larger than 4x6. If you need to crop the image, it’s going to get even smaller—and if you need to increase the resolution (to, say, 600 ppi), it’s going to get smaller still. This means that the average digital camera will not give you images that will come out large enough to be used as covers, single page photos, or two-page spreads. In other words, a 3-megapixel photo won’t give you the resolution size that you need to make the big money from selling your photos. If you’re serious about using a digital camera and about selling magazine photos, you’re going to need to step up to the larger-megapixel range. The good news is that 8-megapixel cameras are now available for less than $1000, and 10-megapixel cameras are beginning to move to a more reasonable price range. If, however, you’re not that concerned about making the cover of National Geographic just yet, a regular digital camera will still give you all the quality you need for “spot” photos, which is to say, smaller photos used with an article (even up to half a page). And that’s what most editors want. They can always get their covers from their “regular” pro photographers, but they can’t always get the photos that you can provide from having been “on the spot” with your camera. Other things to consider when using a digital camera are storage space and battery life. Since I increased my image size option to the maximum, my battery begins to die after about 50 shots. It may last for up to 100, provided that I don’t use flash—but taking even a couple of flash photos burns it out rapidly. Finding yourself out in the middle of a scenic vacation spot with no battery is every bit as frustrating as finding yourself without film. So always, always have at least one fully charged backup battery on hand. The next most frustrating thing is to find that your memory card is out of memory, so again, always have a second card available, even if it is a less-expensive one with a smaller amount of memory. Another risk to digital photographers is having your camera stolen. If your film camera is stolen, all you’ll lose (besides the camera) is whatever images were on the most recent roll of film. If, however, you’re on vacation and have stored all your images on your memory card, and that card is in the camera, a theft means losing all the images you’ve taken so far. So it’s always a good idea to download your images daily to a storage device—either your laptop, or a separate device Moira Anderson Allen 93 designed to hold and display images. If you take your laptop traveling, you can then easily make backup CDs of your photos and store them separately (so that your images will be safe if someone steals your laptop!). You can also download your images from one storage card and upload them to another that you keep stored away in your suitcase, leaving one card “clean” for the next day’s shooting. The final risk to digital photographers is idiots (like me) who can’t read the menu, and end up wiping out your photos. I did that to my sister when she was showing off her new camera, with her shots of the North Carolina coast, and she’s never forgiven me. Hint: When shopping for a camera, see if the menus are easy to follow! Scanning Traditional Images If you do not have a digital camera, or would like to convert your archives of traditional film images to digital format, you’ll need to look into scanning. Fortunately, scanners have come a long way in the last three to four years. They are much faster, much easier to use. If you have prints only, you can purchase an ordinary “reflective” flatbed scanner. If you have slides, or if you would also like to scan your negatives (not a bad idea as a way to back them up), you can easily find a scanner that offers a “transparency” option. A word about slides. Most likely, if you’ve ever used slide film, you used 35mm. However, if you are old and gray, or getting there, like I am, you may have used what is today referred to as “medium format” slides. My first camera was a hand-me-down from my grandmother—a huge, boxy Rolleicord that took 2.25x2.25 slides. I’ve been scanning those old slides and they are crisp and gorgeous and bursting with color. But—it’s hard to find a scanner that will handle this size of transparency. They exist, but they’re expensive. When you’re scanning slides or prints, you need to remember, again, the difference between simply “enlarging” a photo the traditional way, and working with pixels. Pixels are stubborn little things; they don’t expand. You’ve undoubtedly seen the “jaggy edges” that result when you try to enlarge pixels beyond their actual resolution. So when you start scanning your photos, you will want to scan them at a fairly high resolution. If you’re just scanning snapshots (prints) for archival purposes, a resolution of 150 ppi will be adequate for most of your needs. If you are thinking of making 8x10 enlargements, go to 300 ppi. If you’re thinking of marketing your prints for publication, 94 Breaking into Magazines I’d recommend scanning them at 600 ppi. Going higher than this probably won’t get you better results, as many prints have a grain that will start to show up at higher resolutions anyway. (That’s why most of the really big magazines won’t use prints in the first place, but insist in slides—and why professional photographers always use slide film.) If you are scanning slides for publication purposes, you’ll need to scan them at a minimum of 1200 ppi. I’m scanning most of mine at 2400 ppi. My scanner goes up to 3600 — but when I set up three slides to scan at this resolution, I can literally go off and eat dinner and come back before they’re done. The results, however, are worth the wait. When you’ve scanned a tiny little 35mm slide at 2400 ppi, you can enlarge that slide to “cover photo proportions” with no trouble whatsoever. Plus, you can zoom in, crop in, highlight details that would make interesting separate photos, and more. You can also save an archive of lower-resolution copies of these images for your own albums. Another way to scan slides is to purchase a slide scanner. A scanner that accepts only 35mm (and comparable) sizes costs around $500, and you can probably find one used for less. These scanners work very fast, and will give you high-resolution prints much more easily than a flatbed scanner. If you have a lot of 35mm slides, I’d definitely recommend this piece of equipment. Unfortunately, if you have “medium format” slides, a slide scanner that accepts both sizes may cost $1000 to $1500 (or more), even used. The good news is that slide scanners also come with software such as “Digital ICE,” which will remove dust and give you exceptionally crisp, clear images. If you don’t want to buy a slide scanner, and don’t want to sit beside your flatbed scanner for the next 20 hours of your life, another alternative is to pay to have your slides scanned. Most photo shops will scan 35mm slides and put them on a CD-ROM for you. The cost at a photo shop is around 75¢ to $1 per slide. If you’re putting together a selection of photos to send off with an article, this is not a bad investment. Then just make a copy of the CD and send it with your article. If you have a great many slides to scan, or medium-format slides, you might want to search around a bit for a slide scanning service. I searched on the web, and found a place called “SlideConverter.com” (http://www.slideconverter.com) that gave me a very reasonable price on my old, archival slides. And that brings me to the next topic: Moira Anderson Allen 95 Photoshopping Whether you take digital photos directly, or are scanning film photos, you will need to master some very basic elements of a photography software package. The program most commonly used today is Photoshop—either Photoshop Elements or some version of Photoshop itself, such as Photoshop CS. I use Photoshop 7 on my Mac laptop, and Photoshop 5 on my “vintage” Mac working computer. Photoshop has become such a well-known program that “photoshopping” is becoming a verb, as in “then you need to Photoshop your photos.” Since it is also the only program I know, it’s the only one I’m going to talk about here. You can do some amazing things with Photoshop, without even understanding a fraction of its options. Volumes have been written on Photoshop—in fact, Barnes and Noble has an entire bookshelf dedicated to such books. However, most of these books are written for artists and photographers—people who want to learn how to do all sorts of marvellous and often bizarre things with their images (like add artificial snow to a scene). You and I are probably not in this category—what we want is to be able to prepare an image so that it can be submitted to a publisher. So I’m not going to try to teach you “everything you need to know about Photoshop”—just the things that you’ll need to know to get your photo from the camera to the editor. The first step is getting your images onto the computer. Your digital camera undoubtedly came with a “download” program. However, you don’t actually need it. All you need is a “reader” that will read your memory card. These are available in any computer, electronic, or camera store, and cost around $20. You can get one that reads only your type of card or one that accepts several different kinds. The reader plugs into your USB port, the card plugs into the reader. Your computer then treats this card as a “drive”—just as if it were a CD-ROM or any other type of input device. You then simply transfer the appropriate folder or files over to your hard drive. Once they are transferred, you can use your preferred photo program to open and modify them. If you’re scanning images, it’s even easier, as your scanner software will place those images into the folder that you designate. Older digital cameras generally save photos as JPG files. Newer cameras (and those with larger megapixels) often offer the option of saving photos as “raw” or “tiff” files. JPGs always compress the data of your images to some degree; raw files give you all the information 96 Breaking into Magazines your camera recorded, untouched. For that reason, they can be very large. As you prepare your photos for submission, you will be most likely converting raw files to JPGS, as this is what most publishers want (though some do prefer TIFFs). One of the first tools that you’ll want to become familiar with in Photoshop is the “lightness/contrast” tool. You’ll find this under the “Image/Adjust” menu. This tool will help you “fix” photos that are over- or under-exposed. For some reason, digital cameras have a tendency to overexpose photos slightly; scanning tends to underexpose them. So if you have a photo that looks washed out, don’t despair. Try using this tool to reduce the lightness; then increase the contrast. Chances are, you’ll see a remarkable change in your image—often enough to convert a “so-so” picture into a usable photo. This tool really helps when you’ve had to shoot on a hazy day, or at noon when the light is flat. Conversely, you can use it to lighten up photos that you had to shoot on a dreary, cloudless day. Another tool that you can use for this same purpose is the “hue/ saturation” tool. You can reduce or increase the lightness of a photo using this tool, and you can also “pump up” the level of color (saturation) if it seems drab. (I’ve never had much success playing with the “hue” part of this tool; use it only if you really, really need to correct the color values of a photo.) The next tool that you’ll want to experiment with is the “sharpen” filter. You’ll find this under the “Filters” menu: Filters > Sharpen > Sharpen. You can simply instruct Photoshop to sharpen your entire photo, or you can select a portion of the photo to sharpen. You can also adjust the amount of sharpening. This tool is very helpful if your shot is just a bit blurry or hazy. I also find that after changing the size of a photo, I often need to sharpen it, as compressing a JPG can result in a bit of blurring. It is a tool to be used with care, however. If you have a lot of lines or squares—such as a brick or stone wall—in your image, you’ll find that the sharpen tool can create an undesired effect. Always be ready to hit the “undo” button. (If you’re going to make lots of changes, save an original copy of your photo before you start so that you can always start over from the beginning.) For a lighter or more selective touch in sharpening, use the “sharpen” tool in the “tools” menu—it’s the little triangle or pyramid. Click on this icon and “rub” it over the area that you want sharpened. Note that Moira Anderson Allen 97 you can adjust the settings of this tool so that you can control the amount that it sharpens. I find this tool very handy for bringing out the detail in a “spot” area on a photo. Another tool-box tool that is useful is the “burn/dodge/saturate” tool. In your tool-box, it looks like a closed hand, a sponge, or a black lollipop, depending on which tool was used last. “Burning” makes sections of an image darker; “dodging” makes them lighter; and “sponging” heightens the color. (You can also set the sponge on “desaturate” to reduce the intensity of a color.) One of the reasons I keep an older version of Photoshop on my working computer is that these tools work much better in the older version, in my opinion, than in the newer version. In the newer version, the area to be covered, and the intensity of coverage, are harder to adjust. However, this is still a very helpful set of tools. For example, let’s say that you find a very dark section in your photo, with no detail. Try going over it lightly with the “dodge” tool, and you may find that unexpected details emerging from this section. Conversely, if you have a totally washed out spot, try going over it with the “burn” tool, and again, unexpected details may emerge. The “sponge” works great to heighten the colors in, say, a photo of a garden. The burn tool also works well to create contrasts—sometimes better than the “contrast” tool itself. The best thing to do is sit down with some photos and just “play” with these tools to see what they can do for you. You’ll also need to learn how to use the “marquee” tool—the square in the upper left of the tool box. This is the tool used to select or crop areas of your photo. If, for example, you want to crop in on an element of your photo, use the marquee to select that area, then choose “crop” from the image menu. If you want to copy a section of your photo into a new file, select it with the marquee tool and copy it. Then open a new file—it will automatically be the size of the copied section—and paste. The marquee tool can also be set to a circle rather than a square, by toggling it with the option or command key on your keyboard. One of the final and most important things you need to master in Photoshop is how to resize a photo. Most editors do not want to see your full-size image file when they are reviewing your article. The reason: Because a publishable image file is likely to be anywhere from 1 to 5 MB in size. No one wants to receive that big a file as an attachment just for review purposes (let alone five or ten of them). So—you need to know how to save a copy of your photos at a size 98 Breaking into Magazines that is appropriate for review purposes. This means creating a file that has (1) smaller dimensions and (b) lower resolution than the file that would ultimately be sent to the editor for publication. This is not as simple as just going into your image file and changing the resolution in the “image size” box. For example, if you have a photo that is three inches wide at 300 ppi, and you set it to 72 ppi, it will still be only three inches wide. (Maybe later versions of Photoshop “fix” this problem; mine doesn’t.) Here’s my method for changing an image size: 1) Open the original image. If you want to send the entire image, do a “select all” and copy. If you want to use only part of the image, use the marquee tool to select the portion of the image you want, and copy. 2) Open a new image file. Set the resolution in this file to 72 ppi. Click “OK.” 3) Paste the image you’ve copied into the new file. Note that if you started with a very small 300 ppi image, you may now have a very large 72 ppi image. For example, if your original image was four inches wide, it may now be 12 inches or larger. 4) Go into the “image size” menu and choose the image size that you would prefer to send to the editor—such as 6 inches in width or height. 5) Go into the “layers” menu and choose “flatten image”. (Otherwise you won’t be able to save the image as a JPG.) 6) Save the image. You will be asked where you want to save it, and for a file name. You will also be asked to choose the quality of the image. Set the image quality at no more than 5. (Do not save it at 10 or 12—this creates a very large file.) When you have followed these steps, you should end up with a very manageable photo file that is of just the right resolution to review on a computer screen, and that is small enough to e-mail to an editor. Most likely, your file size will be between 50 and 100 KB. You really Moira Anderson Allen 99 don’t want to e-mail an editor anything larger than that. Trust me—we get testy when someone sends ten 1-MB attachments by e-mail, since this means we can often go and get a cup of coffee while all your files download into our inbox. This does not make our day. To make editors really happy, however, it’s better not to send individual photos as attachments at all. One problem with photo attachments is that most e-mail programs try to open them within the body of the e-mail. So if you’ve sent 20 photos to review along with your article, the editor is again going to have to sit there while her e-mail program opens each and every photo—which can be a long process and can sometimes cause a crash. So the best way to send your photos is to place them into a folder, and then use a program like WinZip or DropZip to zip that folder. Then simply send the folder as an attachment. The editor will be able to unzip the folder and look at the photos separately. Both of these programs are available for free; just do a Google search to find them if you don’t already have one. Once an editor has reviewed your sample photos and has decided to buy your article, she will tell you how she wants the “real” photos to be delivered. She may want them e-mailed in the same way, in a zipped folder. Or, she may want you to put them on a CD-ROM and snailmail them to her. (Be sure to label the CD-ROM so that she knows whose photos they are when the arrive!) Need I say that it’s wise to always give the editor exactly what she wants? If you do send a CD-ROM, don’t ask for it back. CDs cost as little as 25¢ apiece these days, so you can afford to make extra copies. Do send it in a jewel case to protect it in the mail. This obviously isn’t “everything you need to know about digital photography,” but it is enough to get you started submitting your digital or scanned photos to editors. 100 Breaking into Magazines 9: What Happens Next? O K, you’ve researched and interviewed; you’ve brainstormed and outlined; you’ve written your first draft, revised it to death, formatted it perfectly, and sent it off to an editor. What happens now? We’re about to enter a highly classified, top secret area here... Sshhh. What I’m about to tell you must never go beyond this room, or I’ll have to kill you... Just kidding. Really, what goes on in an editor’s office isn’t nearly as mysterious as you might think! First off, what do you envision when you think of an editor? Does an image of “Perry White” (from Superman’s Daily Planet) come to mind? A paternal, grizzled veteran of the publishing arena, wielding authority over a room full of underlings? That may have been the case 50 to 80 years ago, but today the truth is often a very different story. Most publishers don’t want to spend a lot of money on editorial staff (or editorial matters of any kind). Consequently, a great many publications hire the kind of editor they can get cheap. Frequently, this will be a young woman (or young man) who has recently graduated with a journalism, English, or communications degree. It may not be a person with any experience as a writer— let alone someone who has sold articles on a freelance basis—and it may not be a person who has had any “formal training” as an editor. There is no “school” for editors; the only “school” is experience, and lots of today’s editors don’t have any. Consequently, when you deal with an editor, there is a very good chance that you are dealing with someone younger and with far less Moira Anderson Allen 101 experience than you. You may not be dealing with a writer, a former writer, or someone who understands what the business (or craft) of writing is all about. In some cases, you may be dealing with a person who is utterly clueless. Lest you suppose that I am writing this out of some sort of bitter experience with young, clueless editors, let me hasten to tell you that I know whereof I speak—because I was this person at one time. When Fancy Publications hired me to edit Dog Fancy, I was 25, had never edited anything before, and had minimal freelance experience. I hadn’t even applied for the job of editor—I wrote to see if any editorial positions were available, and was called in because (a) I had experience with dogs and (b) the editor-in-chief really wanted to get rid of the current editor and was eager to grab any possible replacement. Most of the editors on staff were equally young and inexperienced—because that’s the kind of person you can hire cheap. I did at least have good writing and editing skills; when I left, the person who replaced me literally could not spell. (Fortunately, she was ultimately replaced by my assistant editor, who remained at Dog Fancy for about 10 years.) This can be a bit of a shock to the writer, because you probably envision yourself as being in a subordinate position to an editor. The editor seems the voice of authority, the awesome “person in charge”, whom you approach almost as a supplicant. It’s definitely a shock when you talk to an editor over the phone and realize that this person is young enough to be your child, or grandchild. Unfortunately, this tendency to hire young, inexperienced editors works against writers. Because many editors have never had any experience as freelance writers, they do not have any empathy or understanding of your situation. They don’t consider how frustrating it is to wait six months for a response, or to get no feedback on a rejection, or to have your article totally rewritten without your approval. Keep in mind that a great many editors these days are simply “employees,” working for a company and a salary—they are not necessarily enthusiasts who want to share quality writing with the world. Negativity aside, though, what exactly happens when your manuscript hits an editor’s office? Here’s a typical scenario: 1) You send a query to an editor by surface mail. It arrives in the mail room, and gets routed to that editor within a few days. When the editor will actually open and read your query depends on 102 Breaking into Magazines where the editor is in the monthly publication schedule. Publications go in cycles. When a magazine is about to “go to press,” everything else tends to go on hold for a week or even two, while last-minute articles are edited, artwork is found, layouts are approved, type is proofread, etc. During this time, mail often stacks up unopened. So your query may be opened immediately—or sit on an editor’s desk for two to three weeks before it is read. Don’t assume, by the way, that sending your query by e-mail is going to magically speed up the process. The editor’s time is still dictated by the magazine production schedule—which means that e-mail queries aren’t going to receive any faster attention than surface mail queries. They are, however, often preferred because they’re easier to review and process quickly. 2) The editor reads your query and makes an initial decision. Here’s an important point to keep in mind: Saying no is easy. Saying yes is more difficult. It’s easy to spot a query that is inappropriate, badly written, etc.—and so rejections tend to happen quickly. However, an editor will rarely say yes “on the spot”—if a query seems good, we prefer to think about it. So: If a query is lousy, inappropriate, etc., it will be rejected at once If a query is good, but a similar article is already on file or in the works, an editor may reply with a personal comment, recommending that you try again. (Not always, but sometimes!) If a query seems like a real possibility, a wise editor will “sit on it” for a few days and let it “cool.” Most of us have found that on a second read, a query may not look as interesting as it did the first time. At this point, some editors may write a quick note on the rejection—but many will not. If a query still looks good after a few days of “cooling off,” then the editor will start to look at the editorial calendar and see if it will “fit” into a future issue. This is the crucial period. Editors can’t just buy anything that they like. They have a budget—both of money and of space. Most magazines are planned up to six months in advance, so the editor must be able to find a place to put your article if it is accepted. (This is also why, once your article is accepted, it may not be used for up to a year.) Otherwise, an editor ends up with a drawer full of accepted articles that have no “place” yet—I know, as I’ve done this! Keep in mind that many articles get rejected at this point not Moira Anderson Allen 103 because they aren’t good, but because there is no place to put them in the editorial schedule. If the editor has full “acceptance” authority, and can find a place for your article, then you may get an acceptance letter at this point. If, however, the editor must clear acceptances with a higher editor (an associate or managing editor will usually have to check with the editor, and an editor or managing editor may have to check with an editor-inchief), then it will take longer. In some offices, articles that an editor would like to accept will immediately be routed to the next person in the hierarchy; in other offices, editors may have monthly meetings to decide what articles to accept. (One magazine that I write for has editorial meetings every six months, so you can imagine how long it takes to get a response from them!) Typically, you may have to wait four to eight weeks for an approval. Once the idea is approved, the editor will respond to your query. In some cases, the editor will ask you to go ahead and write the article exactly as you’ve pitched it. In others, the editor may ask for changes— a longer or shorter word count, or perhaps significant modifications to the article idea itself. Sometimes these modifications make a better article; sometimes they make you wonder what the editor is thinking! 3) Your query is accepted—with changes. This is the point at which you are most likely to enter into “dialogue” with the editor. An editor may even call you to discuss your article. If an editor requests changes to your article, and you’re not sure you understand just what is wanted, be sure to discuss the matter before you begin work. Otherwise, you could waste a lot of time on a piece that won’t be accepted. Your article idea may be accepted as an “assignment,” or “on speculation.” If you are new to the publication and do not have an impressive array of writing credentials, chances are that you’ll be asked to produce the article “on spec.” Many writers are deeply offended by this, because it means that acceptance is not guaranteed. However, speaking as an editor, my sympathies are fully with the editors on this one. I have been burned many times by “accepting” an article from an unknown writer, on the basis of a strong query—and ending up with a piece that is totally unusable. (I’ve even had a writer call me halfway through an assigned piece to ask for more money!) Asking for a piece “on spec” is the only way an editor can protect himself, and his company, from having to pay out money on an article that can’t be used. 104 Breaking into Magazines If a piece is actually assigned, then technically this is a guarantee of acceptance, and of payment. In reality, it doesn’t always work that way—many publications will still reject an assigned article without paying a kill fee—but that’s the way it’s supposed to work. Technically, if you have an assignment, and the editor then decides not to buy your article, you should get a “kill” fee (usually around 25% of the promised payment). If you are lucky, you’ll only need to talk to the editor once about changes to your article idea. Ideally, you’ll then write your article, submit it, get a contract, and wait for the check. However, in some cases you may have an editor who doesn’t really know what she wants— or a “tinkerer,” someone who keeps changing her mind—and your article. This is the editor who e-mails you when you’re halfway through the article and suggests a complete change of direction. It happens. My advice in this case is: do what you can to make the sale, but then think very carefully about working with this publication again! 4) Your article is completed and submitted. Now you wait. Remember, the rule that applied to queries also applies to articles: If it arrives during the magazine’s “busy” time, it can sit on an editor’s desk for two or three weeks without being read. Since most editors schedule material fairly far in advance, they don’t have to read it “right away.” Eventually it gets read, and several things can happen. A) The editor may suggest changes and revisions. If so, again, make sure you understand exactly what the editor wants. Did you exceed the word count? Do your best to trim it back to the required length. Does the editor want more information on a particular point? Try to find it. In most cases, the editor will have reasonable requests; however, in some cases, you may find that the editor is now asking for something completely different from what you were originally asked to write. In such a case, again, I advise you to try to meet the editor’s requirements (especially if a good sum of money is involved)—but think carefully before working with this person again. Also, find out whether the article will be accepted once the revisions are made—especially if the material was submitted on spec in the first place. If you go to the trouble of making the changes (or getting more information), are you guaranteed acceptance? Or could the editor still say “no,” in spite of all your extra effort? (It’s generally not considered very ethical to ask a writer to make extensive revisions with no “promise” of Moira Anderson Allen 105 acceptance once they are made.) B) Your article is accepted—with or without changes. You should now receive some kind of official letter of acceptance, and a contract that spells out the terms under which your article is being accepted. In some cases, you’ll just get a contract. 5) You get paid, right? Not necessarily! Even though a magazine may claim to “pay on acceptance,” most publications have ways of postponing this payment as long as possible. One way is to delay sending a contract. Most publications will not pay you until a signed contract is in hand. So a way to delay payment is to simply not send you the contract until two, three, or four weeks after the article has been verbally “accepted” by the editor. And since many publications don’t actually cut a check until about a month after a contract is issued, this means that it can be two to three months before you actually get paid— even though, supposedly, you’re “paid on acceptance.” What Happens to Your Finished Article? What happens to your article now? This may also depend on the editor. If you are lucky, the editor will pretty much leave it alone. A good editor will make sure that it is “clean,” taking care of any grammar, spelling, and punctuation problems but not messing with style and content. A more amateur editor is likely to “rewrite” your article—some editors tend to rewrite articles in their own style. (It’s really embarrassing to have your article rewritten by an editor with less grasp of grammar than you have!) Keep in mind, however, that editors have the right to make certain types of changes to your article. They can change the style, cut things for space, etc. What they do not have the right to do is change the meaning of your article. They should also not introduce inaccuracies into your article—e.g., by cutting something that is important to the text, or by introducing information that is incorrect. It does happen, and when it does, there isn’t much you can do about it. The next time you see your article should be when the editor sends (or faxes) “galley proofs” to you for review and correction. Galleys are copies of the typeset article. In the “old days,” galleys were strips of typeset copy. Today, they tend to be the article laid out as it will actually appear in the magazine, as typesetting and layout are now often done at the same time by computer. Your job is to make sure that there are no errors (such as typos, grammatical errors, misspelled names, 106 Breaking into Magazines etc.) in the galley. (Some magazines are now sending galleys in PDF format, which is vastly better than sending them as faxes.) You may notice, as you review the galley proof, that your article has been revised or rewritten by the editor. However, at this time, you really don’t have the option of trying to get it “back” to its original form. A galley proof is one step away from “going to press,” and most editors will not make substantial content or style changes at this point. You may also find that your article has been “cut” at this point. If it has, there often isn’t anything you can do. Editors tend to be at the mercy of the advertising branch of a publication—they may make room for a nice long article, only to have a last-minute full-page ad come in that requires drastic cuts. When this happens, there is rarely time to ask an author to make revisions. However, there are exceptions. I once sold an article to Writer’s Digest, and found that the galley had been rewritten to the point that it almost completely missed the point of the original article. I realized that the editor had needed to cut the article by about 30%—and instead of sending it back to me for such cuts, had undertaken to rewrite it himself. I re-rewrote the article to the length desired and sent it back with a request that he use my rewrite instead of his—and he did. Some editors will also insert questions to be clarified in a galley. If so, answer the question if you can—and if you can’t, see if you can rewrite the paragraph or delete the information so that the question no longer matters! Editors usually want galleys proofed and returned within four or five days. Mark your changes clearly, and simply fax them back. If you don’t have changes, you can usually simply e-mail the editor to let them know that all is well (and of course you should do this if you received the galley by e-mail). If you’ve received galley proofs of your article, you should have gotten paid by that time (especially if this was a “pay on acceptance” market). If you haven’t, try to find out where your check is. (This may also not be the case if you’ve been asked to turn in an article very close to publication deadline, which has happened to me more than once— but only with a market that I already know will pay me eventually!) When the article is published, you should also receive at least one complimentary copy of the issue in which it appears. I always ask for two copies—one that I can file, intact, in my archives, and one from which I can tear out the article for my portfolio. If you expect to write Moira Anderson Allen 107 for the same publication more than once, ask to be placed on their comp-copy list—that way you’ll always get a second copy of any issue that has your material. Some Final Words About Editors To many writers, editors live in a sort of mystical world—the unreachable “Avalon”, inaccessible to mere mortals. We may view them as angels or devils—angels who say yes, or devils who are determined to prevent us from getting published. The reality is that editors are just ordinary folks—and so fall into the entire gamut of “folks” that you’ll find anywhere else. You’ll find good ones and bad ones, smart ones and dumb ones. You’ll find editors who got hired because they’re related to the boss. You’ll find editors who got hired for no discernible reason that you can comprehend. You’ll find editors who are brilliant and make you shine like a diamond. You’ll find editors who turn your diamond into coal. They’re all “out there.” However, to really understand editors, you need to spend a bit of time on the other side of the desk, and find out how editors see writers. There is an interesting article in Salon on just this topic http://salon.com/books/feature/2002/02/25/slush/index.html If you are a writer who becomes an editor, chances are that you go into the job thinking that you’re going to help other writers like yourself get published. You have high expectations of writers, because, after all, you know what it’s like. You understand those hopes and dreams, and you want to help. You will, however, be very quickly disillusioned. What you will learn is not that editors “aren’t like you,” but that the vast majority of writers “aren’t like you.” In fact, the vast majority of writers aren’t like anything you’ve ever imagined. Some of them aren’t like anything on earth. Editors have to deal with the most whacked-out, clueless people in the universe: Wannabe-writers. These are the people who submit 80page single-spaced manuscripts written in first-person by a poodle. They are the people who type poems in font-script, in blue ink, on pink paper. They are the people who send book proposals hand-written on engagement-calendar paper, in a cigar box. They are the people who submit a manuscript about Atlantis—and who mean it. They are the people who call you and try to pitch an article by phone. They are the 108 Breaking into Magazines people who call you two days before you have to put their article into the magazine, to ask for more money before they deliver. Some writers make editors laugh hysterically. Some writers make us want to cry. Those writers, however, are the ones that stand out in our memory. The vast majority of the writers we encounter do not stand out in our memory, good or bad, because their material is neither good nor bad. It’s not bad enough to be atrocious; it’s not good enough to publish. It’s just—dull. Nothing there, no spark, no worthwhile information, no real reason for being. Most of the slush-pile is quickly forgotten. Unfortunately, this tends to give editors a very jaded view of writers. We see good writers so seldom that we tend to forget that they exist. We start to feel that the bad writers are representative of writers as a whole—and for some editors, this is what brings about the adversarial nature of the writer-editor relationship. As you “go forth and submit,” you’re going to encounter some of these editors. You’re going to meet the clueless editors and the burnedout editors. You are going to meet editors who do not treat you courteously or professionally. The point I want to make here is: do not take this personally. If you meet an editor who treats you badly, it is not because of you (assuming that you have behaved professionally). It may be that the editor never did learn professional courtesies—or it may be that the editor has simply developed a negative view of all writers, and is treating you accordingly. When that happens, don’t let it “fuss” you—and don’t let that editor’s negative vision of you change your vision of yourself. But you are also going to meet good editors. You will meet editors who still want to encourage writers, and who are still capable of being delighted by a high-quality submission. (Chances are, these are editors who are writers themselves, and who know what it takes to write well.) You will meet editors who become professional allies, who think of you first when they have an assignment in mind, and who contribute to your growth and your career. Sometimes you’ll meet editors who make you work a little harder than you would otherwise—and while you may resent having to do that rewrite, you’ll find that the resulting article is better and stronger than it was before. You may even meet editors who become genuine friends. Your goal is to become the kind of writer who can delight the editors who are still capable of being delighted. This may not happen overnight, but with dedication and faith, it will happen! Moira Anderson Allen 109 10: Rights, Contracts, and Getting Paid T his chapter will cover one of the most important issues you’ll have to deal with as a writer: Handling contract negotiations. This aspect of the writing business frightens many people (especially first-time writers)—but it needn’t. The important thing to remember is that you always have a choice—if contract terms aren’t acceptable, you can always walk away. The issue of rights and contracts actually begins long before your article is accepted. There is really no excuse for a writer to get to the acceptance point and then, and only then, start asking, “Oh, by the way, how much do you pay?” or “What rights do you want?” If you have reached this point without having this information, then you’re in a very bad position to start negotiating your way out of a bad contract. You’ve probably invested a lot of energy and emotion into getting that article out the door and accepted—and if you suddenly discover that the publication pays poorly or demands all rights, it’s hard to suddenly “pull out” once you’ve achieved your goal. It’s also unprofessional. In short, find out whether a market pays a fee you’re willing to accept before you approach that market. If you must spend 10 to 20 hours researching and writing this article, will the fee be worth your time? (It’s always a good idea to have a preferred “hourly rate” in mind as you approach a project—e.g., $20 per hour.) Similarly, find out what rights the market is asking for—does it want first rights, or all 110 Breaking into Magazines rights? If a market doesn’t meet your requirements, don’t bother submitting there in the first place. What You Need to Know 1) What does a magazine pay? Most magazines post a range of payment rates in their guidelines—e.g., “Pays 5-8¢/word,” or “pays $100 to $250 for feature-length articles.” (If a magazine doesn’t list this information, try to find out the payment range before submitting.) Some publications pay by the word; some pay “flat rates,” and some pay by the printed column or page. Magazines that pay by the word may pay for the number of words submitted—or for the number of published words. Thus, if you submit a 1500-word article and the editor trims 500 words, you might only be paid for 1000 words. Try to find out which basis of payment is used, especially if you’re being asked to submit an invoice. Magazines that pay by the printed column or page generally will not be able to give you a precise payment rate until the article is actually typeset and laid out. Generally, this type of magazine pays “on publication,” for obvious reasons: it can’t calculate a payment until the magazine is ready to go to press. However, such a publication should be able to give you an estimate based on the length of your article. Magazines that pay a flat rate generally have a range of rates, depending on the difficulty of the article (e.g., the amount of research required), the experience and skill of the writer, and how much work the editor has to do to whip the article into shape. If you find that an editor is offering you the low end of the scale, ask what it takes to get up to the higher end! Keep in mind that almost all quoted rates are (a) ranges and (b) represent the lowest range that a publication is willing to pay. Many publications offer higher rates to regular contributors, and to “better” contributors (i.e., folks who do lots of research and whose work needs little or no editing). I generally don’t recommend asking about “higher pay” on your first submission to a publication, but if you expect to be working for that publication on an ongoing basis, or if the editor comes back to you with new assignments, start asking how to get a higher rate. Even if you don’t get one, it never hurts to ask. 2) Does a magazine pay extra for sidebars or illustrations? Editors often try to get away with paying a flat rate for text and photos. However, if you did not have photos, that editor would have to pay another Moira Anderson Allen 111 photographer extra, so there is no reason why you shouldn’t receive that same amount of compensation. If you’re going to submit photos, therefore, find out what a magazine pays for artwork alone—e.g., $25 per b/w photo. Find out how much it pays for articles, e.g., 10 cents/ word. Then, discuss getting paid for each item rather than a “package deal.” Offer the editor a “deal,” if you wish—ask only $15 per photo instead of $25 — but try not to let the editor pay you the same amount for “text and photos” as he would for text alone. (Keep in mind, too, that cover photos generally pay very handsomely; if you’re a good enough photographer to get a cover, you should be paid for it.) Some publications won’t pay extra for sidebars, but others will. Generally, sidebars “pay” if you’re being paid by the word. They’re a good way to sneak in extra material over and above your “assigned” word count. If you’re writing a 2,000-word article that pays 10 cents/ word, add on a 500-word sidebar and see if you can’t boost the payment up another $50! 3) When does the publication pay? There are two basic payment schedules: “On acceptance” and “on publication.” A publication that pays “on acceptance” will pay you once the article has been received, approved, accepted, and contracted for—regardless of when it is actually published. A publication that pays “on publication” will pay you only after the material has been published—and not necessarily soon after! Most markets that pay “on acceptance” will pay you only after you have signed a contract. As I said in the previous chapter, however, “acceptance” usually means “after you’ve returned the signed contract,” which can mean a delay of one to three months between your acceptance letter and your check. Markets that “pay on publication” generally issue a check at the end of the month in which the publication is issued. If your article appears in the “November” issue of a magazine, for example, the publisher may issue checks at the very end of November, or even the beginning of December (even though the magazine itself may have been on the newsstands or sent to subscribers as early as September). Again, this is a way for publishers to hold your money as long as possible. I do not like to write for pay-on-publication markets, because there is often no way to determine when a piece will be published—and therefore when you will be paid. (I will send reprints to such markets, since I’ve already been paid for my original investment of time, but prefer not to use them for original work.) If you do write for such 112 Breaking into Magazines markets, here are some ways to protect yourself: • Try to get a commitment from the editor as to when the article should appear. Keep in mind that editor plan as much as a year ahead, so it could be a year (or longer) before you get paid. If possible, get a specific issue date. • If you can’t get a specific issue date, consider having a clause inserted into your contract that specifies that the article will be published within a certain time limit (e.g., two years). If possible, try to include a kill fee if the material is not published within that time—then, if it isn’t published in two years, rights revert to you and you will receive 25% of the promised payment. Not all magazines will do this, but it never hurts to ask. • Keep following up on the piece if it doesn’t appear. I’d contact an editor at least every six months to inquire about “anticipated publication date.” Keep in mind that as long as this article isn’t published, (a) you aren’t being paid and (b) you can’t use it as a reprint. 4) What rights are being demanded? This question can be even more important than the question of payment, because it influences what you can do with your material in the future. You’ll find that print publications tend to be far more demanding of rights than electronic publications—and the reason is fairly simple. A print publication can easily (and inexpensively) launch a website, and so might have a future need for electronic rights. An electronic publication, however, cannot easily and inexpensively launch a print publication—so it is not likely to ever want your print rights. Thus, while most e-pubs don’t ask for any form of print rights, most print publications do ask for some (or all) electronic rights. Here are some terms you’ll need to understand when negotiating rights: 1) Exclusive vs. nonexclusive rights. “Exclusive” means that only the publication offering the contract can use the material, for the time or use specified. For example, if a publication wants “exclusive” electronic rights, that means no other publication can use the material online. If the publication wants “exclusive electronic rights for three months,” Moira Anderson Allen 113 no other publication can use the material online for three months—but it can be used online thereafter. “Nonexclusive” means that other publications can use the same rights at the same time—e.g., “nonexclusive electronic rights” would mean that the material could appear in more than one electronic publication at the same time. (Keep in mind, however, that if you’ve sold nonexclusive rights to one publication, you can’t sell the material to another publication that wants exclusivity.) 2) First rights vs. one-time rights. “First” rights means that a publication will be the first, in that particular medium, to use the material. It does not mean, however, that a publication can claim the right to be first in any or all media to use the material. Thus, if you’ve sold first electronic rights, you could still sell first print rights to the same piece. (It might be difficult, but technically, you could do it.) One-time rights means that a publication has the right to use the material “once”—but not necessarily before any other publication. One-time rights are often used when selling reprints or syndicated columns. “First” rights, by definition, are also “exclusive”—as only one publication can be “first” in a medium. One-time rights are generally nonexclusive. 3) Use rights vs. distribution rights. Most publications obtain the license to use your material—that is, to print or otherwise publish it. However, a few also want to buy the right to distribute your material— meaning the right to sell it to other publications or to databases. Many periodicals sell their content to online databases and similar firms, and these may, in turn, offer your material to subscribers for a fee (for which you get nothing!). Watch out for terms like “nonexclusive right to distribute the material electronically.” This means that a publication can sell your articles (e.g., to databases) and not pay you a penny from the profits. You still retain the right to resell that material yourself—but you have no idea where it might turn up without your permission. 4) All rights vs. work for hire. There is a subtle difference between these two sets of rights, though from the perspective of the writer, it doesn’t make a great deal of difference. In both cases, you are giving up your rights to ever use that particular piece of work again. The subtle difference is that, when you sell “all rights,” you still retain the copyright to your work—you are the author, and the publication has 114 Breaking into Magazines only obtained use rights; it can’t remove your byline, or put the material out under someone else’s name. If you sell the work as “work for hire,” the copyright to the material is owned by the publication, not by you. This means that the publication not only owns all uses of the material, but could change the byline, put it out under someone else’s name, etc. In addition, if you sold an article as “work for hire” and then wrote a different, but similar, version of that piece to sell elsewhere, you could actually be sued for plagiarism—as you would no longer be considered, legally, the “creator” of the original piece. This is not the case if you sell all rights. This is something to keep in mind if you write fiction—if you were to write a story and sell it as “work for hire,” you might not be able to write another story about the same characters or “world” (if you invented that world), because you would not be legally considered the creator of the first story. (For more information on selling all rights, see http://www.writing-world.com/rights/ allrights.shtml) 5) “Rights” vs. “use”. Many authors become confused over what constitutes a “use of rights.” I get questions like, “How can a magazine own my rights if they didn’t pay me?” or “How can putting something on my website be a use of first rights?” The answer lies in the issue of “usage.” When you create something (such as an article), you own the copyright to that creation—which means that you have a bundle of “rights” to “use” that material in various ways. You can sell or give those rights to others, or you can use them yourself. When a piece of writing is “used” in a particular way, the accompanying right is said to have been used as well—whether you used it yourself, or whether you were paid. Thus, if you post your entire novel on your website and invite the world to come and read it, you are “using” the “first publication rights” to that novel—even though you have not sent it to a publisher. (To give a better example, when I write an article that I publish in my own electronic newsletter, I am “using” first electronic rights to that article, even though it is my newsletter and I’m obviously not paying myself for the material.) “First” rights, once used, cannot be “returned.” I always get a kick out of guidelines that say “all rights revert to the author after publication.” What the editor means is that the publication doesn’t have any more claims on your material, and that’s nice. But don’t let such a statement fool you; once the material has been published, first rights Moira Anderson Allen 115 have been used up; you can’t resell “first print rights” (e.g., First North American Serial Rights) to some other publication. Equally misleading are publications that state that they claim “no” rights from the author—again, if they use the material, they are using a set of rights, and it may be that those rights will thus be “used up forever.” For a more thorough overview of the types of rights you can sell, and what they mean, see “Rights and Why They’re Important,” by Marg Gilks, at http://www.writing-world.com/rights/rights.shtml Here are a few more important points about rights: 1) Do not assume that, because you are a new writer, you have to accept what a magazine offers/demands. Many new writers feel that this is their one big chance to make a sale. They don’t want to blow that first chance by getting picky over a contract. And so, if a magazine asks for all rights, they’ll take the deal. The reality is that if you are any good at all as a writer, you’ll have other chances. You do not have to accept the first offer that come along; if it isn’t good, you can always walk away. 2) Do not assume that a publication will blacklist you (or spread the word that you’re a “difficult” writer to other publications) if you try to negotiate a contract. Actually, editors are well aware that it is the more professional writers who try to negotiate (because they are more knowledgeable)—so politely attempting to negotiate a contract will not harm you. You may not succeed, but it won’t make you “look bad.” 3) Do not assume that you will never use a piece again. It’s very easy to think that you have no other possible markets for an article, so “why not sell all rights”? I’ve done this myself—and every single time I’ve been convinced that I would never use a piece again, a market has come up for it. Granted, I can often rewrite those articles for the new market—but that’s extra work. 4) Be aware that certain rights can only be transferred through a written agreement. If you have no contract with a publication, that publication cannot claim that it owns “all rights,” or that your work was “work for hire.” The general rule is that if no contract exists, a publication can only be assumed to have acquired “first” rights or “onetime” rights. Never let a publication try to bully you into believing that 116 Breaking into Magazines it owns more than it does. (For example, I once got a letter from a man who was being told by a publisher that “collective copyright”—the copyright that applies to a magazine as a whole—meant that the magazine owned his article. It doesn’t.) 4) If you don’t understand what rights are being requested, ask. I’ve seen some weird phrases that aren’t intuitively obvious. Don’t worry about appearing ignorant—chances are, the ignorant person is the one who made up the terminology in the first place! Getting and Negotiating a Contract When a publication accepts your article, you should receive a contract shortly thereafter. In some cases, the contract may be as simple as a “letter of agreement,” signed by the editor. In others, it may be four or five pages of dense legalese. Now what? First, read the contract! This sounds obvious, but it’s very easy to just scan it and think it looks OK. I’ve done this! (That’s how I missed the “electronic distribution” clause from one of my regular markets.) Also, don’t assume that, just because you’ve written for a publication before, its contracts will always be the same. Always read every new contract you get; you never know when something might change. At a minimum, the contract should specify: • The title of the article • What you are to be paid • When you are to be paid (acceptance or publication) • What rights you are giving up Some contracts will also specify a publication date, but not all will. If you are happy with the contract, sign it and return it (be sure to keep a copy!), and (with luck) you should get a check. If you are not happy with the contract, it’s time to negotiate. (If a contract does not match the publication’s stated guidelines, keep in mind that those guidelines are not binding, and are often out of date.) Can you actually negotiate with an editor? Can you really get a bad contract changed? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But ask! When attempting to negotiate a contract, be polite and be reasonable. What do you actually want out of this? What are you prepared to offer? Are you willing to sell the range of rights requested for a higher fee? Or are you simply not prepared to give up the requested rights? I’m going to toss out an idea here that I haven’t actually used, but that Moira Anderson Allen 117 seems intriguing—if a publication asks for “all rights,” try offering them “the nonexclusive right to reprint the material at any time, in any medium.” Note the term “nonexclusive” here. You’re offering them the right to reuse the material whenever and wherever they wish— which is usually all the publication wants. But, you are also retaining the right to reuse your material yourself. If that doesn’t fly, try asking the publisher to grant you that same right. Keep in mind that the editor may actually not be empowered to negotiate a contract. In larger companies, the contracts are often drafted by the legal department, and the editors have no authority to change them. If this is the case, you’re pretty much stuck—but even then, some editors may be willing to negotiate while others won’t. Again, it never hurts to ask—but if an editor says s/he can’t, and seems firm on this, there is little point in pushing. If the editor won’t negotiate, it’s now up to you to make a decision. Will you accept a contract you don’t like—or will you withdraw the article? Only you can make this decision. Don’t let anyone else make it for you. You’ll read lots of articles by writers who urge everyone to walk away from all-rights contracts. That’s easily said, but if you’re trying to earn a living as a writer, you may find that you aren’t willing to do so. Your choice is your own; do not let someone else pressure you or make you feel guilty for your decision. In addition to the question of payment, rights, and publication date, a contract may have a lot of other clauses that can seem confusing or intimidating. Here are some of the more common “extra” clauses: • A statement that the article is original and your property. This ensures that if someone else comes along and claims that they wrote the article, and that you stole it, the publisher isn’t liable. If you have signed a contract stating that the article is yours, you are the only person liable in an infringement case. • A statement that the magazine is entitled to edit the material. This is standard, and most publications understand that this means “within reason.” Basically, a publication has the right to do any amount of editing as long as the basic substance and meaning of the article remain unchanged. If the editor doesn’t like your style, and rewrites the piece from top to bottom—well, that’s what some editors do. 118 Breaking into Magazines • An indemnification statement. You’ll often see a long block of text about indemnification issues—i.e., if someone wants to sue over the article, for whatever reason, the publisher wants to be sure that you are the person who gets sued, and not the publisher. This doesn’t happen very often, but it’s one of those legal clauses that lawyers like. (I actually did run into an example of this type of situation: A woman once tried to sue a pet magazine for running a product profile of a leash that she managed to trip over—she wanted to sue the magazine for “recommending” a “dangerous product.”) If you see a statement that declares that everything in the article is “true and accurate,” it’s a good idea to insert the phrase, “to the best of the writer’s knowledge.” • A statement that the magazine can use the material, or excerpts of the material, to promote the publication. This is also standard. If a publication doesn’t send you a contract (not all do), I recommend sending a letter to the editor stating the terms of the sale as you understand them: Title of article, amount to be paid, rights to be granted. Once you’ve sent the letter (by mail or e-mail), follow up with an email or phone call to make sure that the editor agrees to those terms. Be sure to keep a copy of this letter, as you want to establish a “paper trail” if a question of payment or rights ever comes up later. Getting Paid Getting your contract is often just half the battle. The other half is getting your check. Some publications will only pay once they have been invoiced—a contract alone is not enough. Thus, it’s a good idea to learn how to do this, even if the editor doesn’t specify that an invoice is needed. An invoice can be very simple—it’s just a statement of what is due to you and why. Some publications like to be sent an e-mail invoice; in this case, here’s what I send: INVOICE TO:(Contact name, publication, address) FROM: (My name and address, for payment) FOR: (Article title) (Include a word-count if the amount is based on number of words) Moira Anderson Allen 119 AMOUNT DUE: $XX (2000 words @ 5c/word) SSN: (Your social security number) That’s all there is to it! If you are a U.S. resident billing a U.S. publication, you’ll need to provide your social security number for tax purposes. If you don’t wish to do this by e-mail, send it be fax or surface-mail. You can also develop a more formal invoice template to send by fax or surface mail. I have a standard template that I’ve created in Excel (shown on page 121). Send your invoice to the editor first. The editor is responsible for getting that invoice to the accounting department for payment. If, after a reasonable time has elapsed, you aren’t getting paid, contact the editor. If that doesn’t help, send your invoice directly to the publication’s accounting department. Some editors are good about making sure you get your check; others are not so good. There isn’t room here to go into all the things you can do if you don’t get paid; for more information on that, see “What to do when you don’t get paid,” at http://www.writing-world.com/rights/pay.shtml There is one more question writers often ask, and that is “what if the magazine never publishes my article?” Does this mean that you can resell it? The answer is: That depends. First of all, be aware that purchasing an article does not obligate a publication to actually publish that article. The publication purchases certain rights; it is under no obligation to use those rights. So the answer to this question depends on what rights you sold, and whether you were paid. If, for example, you sold all rights to an article, and were paid, you do not have the right to resell that article somewhere else, whether the magazine ever uses it or not. You’ve sold the rights, so you don’t have them anymore; the magazine owns them, and can use them or not. If, however, you sold first rights to a magazine that pays on publication, and two years have gone by with no indication that the piece will ever be used, you would be justified in going back to the editor and asking when (or if) the piece will be used. In this case, you could choose to withdraw the article after a period of time—because you have not been paid for the rights and therefore they have not been officially transferred. The key question is “who is violating the contract?” If you sell certain rights, and then try to use those rights yourself, you are violat- 120 Breaking into Magazines ing the contract. If, however, the publication has bought certain rights but has not paid for them (assuming it’s not a “pay on publication” market), it has violated the contract (by not paying you)—and you have some recourse. If you don’t get paid, and the article hasn’t been used, you can cancel the contract and withdraw your article, on the grounds that the magazine has violated the terms of the contract. Of course you want to see that article in print—that may have been more important to you than the money. But in some cases, it never happens—and all you can do is sigh, shrug, and move on. (And remember, in most cases, you can always write a different version of the article and sell it somewhere else anyway!) Some notes on the Excel invoice, opposite: 1) Note that the boxes and underlining can all be created within Excel, using various “border” commands. 2) I like to assign a number to each of my invoices. I begin with the year (“5” for “2005”) and then number each invoice sequentially within that year—so this example would have been my 8th invoice in the year 2005. 3) The “P.O.” field stands for “purchase order,” for those cases in which you are given one. Generally, you won’t need this. 4) I’ve included a column for “words” for those articles that are invoiced on the basis of word count. Moira Allen Address City/State/Zip Phone/Fax E-mail Sold To: Invoice # 5008 Date: 8/1/05 Jane Smith, Editor Fantastic Magazine Address City/State/Zip Project Description P.O. # Words Total Article: "Breaking into Magazines" $125.00 Total: $125.00 122 Breaking into Magazines More Information Basics/Getting Started Finding Time to Write - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/basics/time.shtml Take Control of Your Time! - Kelle Campbell http://www.writing-world.com/basics/campbell.shtml Enforcing Boundaries: Making Sure Others Respect Your “Right to Write” - Kristi Holl http://www.writing-world.com/basics/boundaries.shtml Setting Effective Writing Goals - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/basics/goals.shtml Coping with Rejection - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/basics/rejection.shtml Why You Get Form Rejection Letters - Jenna Glatzer http://www.writing-world.com/basics/form.shtml Excuses, Excuses... How to Guarantee Failure as a Writer Lee Masterson http://www.writing-world.com/basics/excuses.shtml For more tips on getting started, visit http://www.writing-world.com/basics/index.shtml Moira Anderson Allen 123 Personal Experience Articles How to Turn “First Experiences” Into “First Sales” - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/freelance/firsts.shtml Mastering the Personal Experience Article - Deborah Newton http://www.writing-world.com/freelance/personal2.shtml Writing (and Selling) Personal Experience Articles - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/freelance/personal.shtml Finding Markets Exploring New Markets - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/basics/markets.shtml Finding Sample Magazines Without Breaking the Bank - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/basics/samples.shtml How to Study a Magazine You’ve Never Seen - Mridu Khullar http://www.writing-world.com/basics/study.shtml Researching Markets: Looking Beyond the Obvious - Karen Ray http://www.writing-world.com/basics/obvious.shtml Mastering the Markets - Terri Mrosko http://www.writing-world.com/freelance/mastering.shtml Organizing and Maintaining Your Market Notes - Hasmita Chander http://www.writing-world.com/freelance/organize.shtml For information on specific market areas (e.g., travel writing, essays, etc.) plus information on developing a column, visit http://www.writing-world.com/freelance/index.shtml For links to market resources, visit http://www.writing-world.com/links/magazines.shtml or http://www.writing-world.com/links/guidelines.shtml Queries, Cover Letters, and Submissions A Quick Guide to Manuscript Format - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/basics/manuscript.shtml What to Do if You Don’t Have Clips - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/basics/clips.shtml 124 Breaking into Magazines Cover Letters: When, How and Why to Use Them - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/basics/cover.shtml Cover Me - I’m Going In! - John Floyd (more on cover letters) http://www.writing-world.com/basics/floyd.shtml Pros and Cons of Simultaneous Submissions - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/basics/simsubs.shtml Writing Your Bio - Terje Johansen http://www.writing-world.com/basics/bio.shtml Interviews Conducting Interviews,E-mail Interviews and Surveys - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/basics/interview.shtml Expert-Finding Strategies - Mridu Khullar http://www.writing-world.com/freelance/experts.shtml Creating an Expert File - Kathryn Lay http://www.writing-world.com/basics/expertfile.shtml Don’t Reach for Any Old Quote - John Rains http://www.writing-world.com/basics/rains.shtml How to Write Like an Expert - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/basics/expert.shtml Rights, Copyright and Contracts Understanding Rights and Copyright - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/rights/copyright.shtml Rights: What They Mean and Why They’re Important - Marg Gilks http://www.writing-world.com/rights/rights.shtml Protect Your Electronic Rights - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/rights/erights.shtml Selling All Rights: Right or Wrong? - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/rights/allrights.shtml Understanding Contracts - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/rights/contracts.shtml Moira Anderson Allen 125 Got the Contract! Now What? - Jenna Glatzer http://www.writing-world.com/rights/glatzer.shtml Increase Your Market with a Creative Commons License Josh Smith http://www.writing-world.com/rights/commons.shtml Research or Plagiarism? - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/rights/research.shtml Understanding Fair Use - John Savage http://www.writing-world.com/rights/fair.shtml For more information on rights and contracts, visit http://www.writing-world.com/rights/index.shtml For more links to information on rights, visit http://www.writing-world.com/links/rights.shtml Income, Expenses and Record-Keeping Handling Writing Income and Expenses - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/basics/expenses.shtml Keeping Records - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/basics/records.shtml Getting Paid The Worth of a Freelancer’s Work - Donald Denier http://www.writing-world.com/basics/worth.shtml How Much Should a Freelancer Charge? - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/rights/fees.shtml Five Magic Phrases: Tips for Negotiating Like a Pro - Jenna Glatzer http://www.writing-world.com/rights/phrases.shtml How to Make Sure You Get Your Check - Felicia Hodges http://www.writing-world.com/rights/hodges.shtml When Clients Don’t Pay - Melissa Brewer http://www.writing-world.com/rights/brewer.shtml 126 Breaking into Magazines Expanding Your Career Building a Writer’s Business Plan - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/basics/plan.shtml Creating a Writer’s Resume - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/basics/resume.shtml Newspapers: A Great Source of Freelance Opportunities Sue Fagalde Lick http://www.writing-world.com/freelance/newspapers.shtml To Plunge or Not to Plunge? Things to Consider Before You Quit Your Day Job - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/basics/plunge.shtml Fifty Tips on Taking the Plunge - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/basics/fifty.shtml Making the Leap from a “Real Job” to Freelancing - Kathy Sena http://www.writing-world.com/basics/leap.shtml Selling Reprints Making the Most of Your Inventory (Selling Reprints) - Dana Cassell http://www.writing-world.com/basics/cassell.shtml One Article, Many Checks: Selling Reprints - Kelly James-Enger http://www.writing-world.com/basics/enger.shtml Selling Reprints - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/basics/reprints.shtml Can I Sell a Previously Published Article? - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/rights/prevpub.shtml Selling Photos Eight Steps to Professional Travel Photos - Bob Difley http://www.writing-world.com/freelance/difley.shtml Have Digicam, Will Travel - Terry Freedman http://www.writing-world.com/freelance/digicam.shtml Picture Perfect: Using Photos to Sell Your Articles - Christine Ridout http://www.writing-world.com/freelance/ridout.shtml Moira Anderson Allen Selling Your Photographs - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/freelance/photos.shtml For more photography links, visit http://www.writing-world.com/links/photography.shtml Technical and Business Writing Succeeding as a Technical Writer - Michael Knowles http://www.writing-world.com/tech/tech1.shtml Marketing the Wily Technical Writer - Michael Knowles http://www.writing-world.com/tech/tech2.shtml Looking for Work as a Scientific Communicator - Geoff Hart http://www.writing-world.com/tech/techwork.shtml Ten Tips to Reaching Financial Success as a Freelance Writer Bev Bachel and Jennifer Lawler http://www.writing-world.com/tech/lawler.shtml Breaking Into Corporate Editing - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/tech/corpedit.shtml Writing Corporate Newsletters - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/tech/corpnews.shtml 13 Tips on How to Tech-Talk to Non-Techies - Hasmita Chander http://www.writing-world.com/tech/techtalk.shtml Digital and Personal Tech: Writing for The Next Generation of Technical Magazines - Mridu Khullar http://www.writing-world.com/tech/digital.shtml For more information on business and technical writing, visit http://www.writing-world.com/tech/index.shtml For business/technical writing links, visit http://www.writing-world.com/links/bustech.shtml The International Marektplace The Global Marketplace - Michael Sedge http://www.writing-world.com/international/sedge.shtml 127 128 Breaking into Magazines How to Become an International Correspondent—Without Leaving Home! - Ysabel de la Rosa http://www.writing-world.com/international/correspondent.shtml How to Become an International News Reporter - Huw Francis http://www.writing-world.com/international/francis.shtml Handling an Overseas Writing Business - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/international/overseas.shtml Improving Your Global Image - Huw Francis http://www.writing-world.com/international/francis2.shtml Reaching International Markets Electronically - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/international/elec.shtml Selling International Rights - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/international/intrights.shtml Taxes Abroad - Nancy Arrowsmith http://www.writing-world.com/international/taxes.shtml For more information on international writing opportunities, visit http://www.writing-world.com/international/index.shtml Promoting Your Writing Self-Promotion for the Emerging Writer - Gayle Trent http://www.writing-world.com/promotion/selfpromo.shtml Creating an Online Portfolio - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/promotion/portfolio.shtml Do You Need an Author Website? - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/promotion/website.shtml The Nuts and Bolts of an Author Website - Chris Gavaler http://www.writing-world.com/promotion/gavaler.shtml Your Publicity Photo - Patricia Fry http://www.writing-world.com/promotion/prphoto.shtml For more promotional tips, visit http://www.writing-world.com/promotion/index.shtml For more promotional links,visit http://www.writing-world.com/links/promotion.shtml Moira Anderson Allen Scams, Hoaxes and Other Pitfalls Avoiding Writing Scams - J.A. Hitchcock http://www.writing-world.com/rights/scams.shtml Canning the Spam - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/rights/spam.shtml Help! Someone Stole My Article! What To Do When It Happens To You - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/rights/plagiarism.shtml How to Protect Yourself from Editorial Theft - Kyle Looby http://www.writing-world.com/rights/looby.shtml Protect Your Writing from Plagiarism - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/rights/protect.shtml Protecting Your Work from Electronic Pirates - Charles Petit http://www.writing-world.com/rights/pirates.shtml Watching Out for Web Scams - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/rights/webscams.shtml Writing Contests: When Winners are Losers - Moira Allen http://www.writing-world.com/rights/contests.shtml What Is Libel? - David Taylor http://www.writing-world.com/rights/libel.shtml For more information on scams and perils, visit http://www.writing-world.com/rights/index.shtml For more links on scams and perils, visit http://www.writing-world.com/links/warnings.shtml More Information Writing-World.com also offers nearly 1000 links to such areas as: Sites for Writers http://www.writing-world.com/links/writers.shtml Publications for writers http://www.writing-world.com/links/publications.shtml The Business of Writing http://www.writing-world.com/links/business.shtml 129 130 Breaking into Magazines Job Sources http://www.writing-world.com/links/jobs.shtml Writing Classes (online and real-world) http://www.writing-world.com/links/classes.shtml Critique and Discussion Groups http://www.writing-world.com/links/critique.shtml Dictionaries and Glossaries http://www.writing-world.com/links/dictionaries.shtml Grammar http://www.writing-world.com/links/grammar.shtml Essays, Memoirs and Journaling http://www.writing-world.com/links/essays.shtml Travel Writing http://www.writing-world.com/links/travel.shtml Christian Writing and Market Resources http://www.writing-world.com/links/christian.shtml Columns and Syndication http://www.writing-world.com/links/syndication.shtml Website Development http://www.writing-world.com/links/website.shtml Sites for Young Writers http://www.writing-world.com/links/young.shtml Electronic Publishing http://www.writing-world.com/links/epublishing.shtml Self-Publishing http://www.writing-world.com/links/selfpub.shtml Other Categories... http://www.writing-world.com/links/index.shtml Moira Anderson Allen 131 You are also welcome to download the following e-books: 2000 Online Resources for Writers (last updated in 2004) http://www.writing-wor.ld.com/admin1/thanks.html The Writing-World.com Market Guide Series (offering a total of about 1700 market listings in 14 categories; last updated in 2003) http://www.writing-world.com/guides/00xg6/index.shtml Further Reading Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer, by Moira Allen (Allworth Press) The Writer’s Guide to Queries, Pitches and Proposals, by Moira Allen (Allworth Press) For more information on these books, plus links for ordering, visit http://www.writing-world.com/books/moira.shtml 132 Breaking into Magazines About the Author Moira Anderson Allen has been writing professionally for more than 25 years, and is the author of several hundred articles and seven books, including Writing.com: Creative Internet Strategies to Advance Your Writing Career; The Writer’s Guide to Queries, Pitches and Proposals; and Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer (all from Allworth Press). Allen has worked as the editor of a national magazine, a business and technical writer/editor, a publisher, and as web editor for the prestigious website Inkspot. She has also served as a columnist for such publications as Entrepreneur’s Home Office and The Writer. Allen now hosts Writing-World.com, one of the largest websites for writers in the world. She lives in Virginia with her husband and a varying number of cats. Her websites include: Writing-World.com - http://www.writing-world.com - offering more than 600 articles and columns on nearly every aspect of writing, plus a monthly e-mail newsletter and contest database. TimeTravel-Britain.com - http://www.timetravel-britain.com - the history buff’s guide to destinations in England and the UK (bimonthly). The Pet Loss Support Page - http://www.pet-loss.net - a site dedicated to helping pet owners deal with the pain and bereavement of pet loss (Allen is also the author of the award-winning book, Coping with Sorrow on the Loss of Your Pet). AllenImages.net - http://www.allenimages.net - a site that showcases Moira Allen’s digital photography.
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