Writing for Magazines --Part 2

By June Campbell

Part 2: The Editorial Guidlines

You have decided on the magazine or magazines that you want to contact. You have the editorial guidelines in your hands. What's the next step in writing for magazines?

Well, study those guidelines. They tell you how to proceed.

Some magazines ask you to write your article and send it to them on spec (speculation). This means you write the article, submit it and hope it might get published.

Other magazines ask you to send them a query letter outlining your idea. A query letter is your sales pitch - it's a one page letter that convinces the editor to publish your article. I'll discuss query letters in more detail in a separate article.

The editorial guidelines will tell you the word count. Take this seriously. If a print publication says it accepts 1,000 word articles, then that is what it means. You may get away with a few extra words (5%), but any more than that and the editor will either ask you to rewrite, have her staff rewrite it or change her mind about using the article.

When you are writing for magazines, you must realize that print is an expensive medium. Paper costs money. Printing costs money. Laying out the magazine is an intricate, time consuming business. Articles that are too short are preferable to articles that are too long, since the editorial staff can usually add filler content to fill the space allotment. However, if your article is too lengthy to fit in the allotted space, then the editorial staff will cut it or edit it. You have somewhat more flexibility when writing for the web, since web publications don't face the same limitations as print publications do.

Editorial guidelines will usually tell you the writing style that the magazine wants. Some magazines might refer you to a style manual, such as the Chicago Manual of Style, or the Associated Press Stylebook. Others will be more flexible and may simply indicate that writing should active or passive, use first or second person pronouns, be humorous or serious, etc.

When examining the editorial guidelines, take special note of the copyright information, or the rights that you give the magazine when they publish your article. Unless otherwise stated, most magazines ask for one time publication rights. This means you continue to own the copyright on your article, but give the magazine the right to publish it once.

Next, take note of the fee structure, if any. Magazine publishers may pay for your article, or they may not. I am not in favor or writing for free - unless there is a decided advantage to doing so. The glory of seeing your name in print is not a good enough reason. If that is your motivator, I suggest you contact a non-profit or charitable organization and volunteer to do some writing for them.

Otherwise, be clear about what you are getting back in exchange for your writing. Sometimes non-paying magazines will agree to publish your resource box or web site link in the article and on their web site. If this will attract business or raise your profile as an expert in the field, then it is a good exchange. If having your article published helps establish you as an expert in the eye of potential clients, then perhaps writing without monetary payment is beneficial.

Lastly, study the editorial guidelines to learn how to submit the article, should things progress to this stage. Depending on the magazine, you could be required to submit the article by in the body of an email, by attached Word document or PDF file, or by postal mail or by some other method.

This is the next step on your way to writing for magazines. ... the Copyright Information

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