Sunday, January 18, 2015

Advice on following submission guidelines – 2) newspaper, magazine articles and short stories

Today there’s no shortage of information about the road to publication and becoming a successful writer, and where to market your work. Freelancers, novelists, scriptwriters, poets, songwriters are all catered for – in fact, you could spend several months wading through a sea of literature on everything you ever wanted to know. I wish you luck!

But success does not come by magic – it’s a long hard road and it is up to the individual to be selective along the way. Using a bit of common sense also helps.

So, you have written an article (or other) and it is ready to send off. Next you must find the appropriate place for your piece. The Internet lists thousands of newspapers and magazines world-wide.
It sounds simple. Just pick the name of a magazine that sounds appropriate and press send.

Not so!

Here’s my advice on submitting articles, essays, short stories.

1.     Research the publication you are targeting. Don’t just pick a magazine at random because the name sounds right. Don’t send an article on growing oranges to Juice. That publication relates to music, film and TV. Or send your essay on Chaos Theory to Quad Wrangle expecting it to be a scholastic magazine. By checking, you will discover Quad Wrangle is the magazine of the Australian Quadriplegic Association. By failing to research your target market, you are wasting your own time and that of editorial staff. And you may look a fool in the process.

2.     Check circulation numbers. Depending on the type of article you have written, and your degree of confidence, you may feel that your work is worthy of a reasonable size readership. Eidelon has a readership of 350, whereas The Australian Women’s’ Weekly has a readership of almost 2.5 million.

3.     Consider what types of freelance submissions the magazine accepts e.g. articles, interviews, reviews and short stories. If the paper or magazine doesn’t handle the sort of piece you have written – don’t send it to them.

4.     Check the format required – hard copy, e-mail, disk etc. and what layout is required e.g. double-line spacing and the word length. It is pointless sending a brilliant 3000 word short story to a magazine which has column space for 800 words. No editor is going to spend hours chopping your article to pieces – and you wouldn’t appreciate it anyway.

5.     Supporting images.  If you intend to support your article with images (providing they are permitted), check if digital images are acceptable or medium format transparencies are required.

6.     Before you send your piece check the contact details and confirm the magazine is still in circulation. It’s also worth confirming the name of the editor as they swap and change regularly. Addressing your submission to the wrong person may result in it being unanswered or, if in hard copy, – it being returned to you unopened.

7.     Finally, find out what percentage of the magazine’s work is written by freelancers. Breaking into a market which sources only 5% of its work from freelancers is obviously going to be harder than breaking into a market that buys 100% freelance work.

Well done! Your article has gone to the correct person at the target magazine. Now, don’t hold your breath.

Response Time.
Don’t expect to hear how your article is proceeding two weeks after you sent it in. In many cases 3 to 6 months is not unusual even for short magazine articles.
     You must learn that patience is a virtue.

     Payment – What will you receive?
This information is provided in some cases but not all. And don’t get carried away with regular freelancer’s fees. Payment for articles may be quoted as x-number of cents per word, or as an amount per 1000 words, or it may be “by negotiation”. While some publishers provide vague information, others indicate that they pay nothing and merely provide a tear sheet. (That’s tear (rhymes with hair) as in a page torn out of a magazine and not tear (rhymes with beer) as in weeping – although you may resort to tears when all you get back for your hard work is a tear sheet!)

We all like to think that our work is worth some financial reward but, for the budding writer trying to breakthrough into print, the joy and satisfaction of being published may, in the early days, have to be remuneration enough.
But once you have jumped this hurdle and your work has seen the light of print, you have your foot on the first step of the ladder.


About the author: Today I can claim to be a multi-published author. But I started writing 20 years ago and it was 10 years before my first novel was accepted for publication. Initially, I wrote letters to the editor, short newspaper articles and submitted pieces of interest to targeted magazines. Eventually I was invited to write regular feature articles for a livestock magazine.

In the early days, the remuneration I received was either non-existence or negligible. My first payment for a freelance article was $80.00. My last newspaper article (in 2005) was with a prestigious Australian broadsheet. I was paid $800 which was more than the advance I got on my first book.

 Pics: 3x  Bigstockphotos, Bushranger x M. Muir 

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