In addition to field reporters and staffed editors, magazines rely heavily on freelance writers to deliver fresh and interesting content. Whether you are looking to transition to a full-time writer or you simply want to see your story come to life in the pages of a magazine, there are a few things you can do to get your foot in the door.
First and foremost, select a magazine that would be a good fit for your chosen topic. Every fishing magazine has a unique identity, with topics covering freshwater, saltwater, and some weighing more heavily on how-to and self help. Others focus more on regional insight, lifestyle, destinations, gear reviews and DIY projects. Once you have narrowed down the field you need to make sure your topic is not only interesting and original, but within the scope of the selected magazine’s writing style and overall vision.
From here it’s time to contact the magazine. Review the masthead or website for an e-mail, office phone number or physical mailing address and compile a query. You can also request a copy of the editorial guidelines. Remember that you may be working with a publisher, editor-in-chief, managing editor or executive editor, and all work with strict deadlines and often have a lot on their plate—your pitch should be short, professional and to the point. One page will suffice, with subject matter including the detailed article topic, possible sidebars and an author’s bio. It’s also important to note that an article isn’t much without high-resolution imagery that brings your story to life. Sharp, well-exposed images strengthen your chance of being published. Not only fish shots but tackle, accessory, scenery and destination photos all help complete a well rounded package. In the event your story is incredible and you don’t have supporting photos the editorial staff may look to additional sources to complete the package.
First impressions are very important so be sure to proofread and fact check. Magazine editors are often overwhelmed with submissions, so don’t be upset or discouraged if it takes a week or more to solicit a response, or if your idea is squashed altogether. Freelance writers need to have perseverance, knowing that eventually their hard work will pay off.
If an editor likes your pitch and has faith in your abilities they will contact you to discuss the details including deadline and pay rate. Now it’s time to start writing, and during the process don’t be afraid to touch base with your contact for any clarification you may have in regards to format, style and tone. However, there’s a fine line between asking a few questions and being a nuisance. There is no need for multiple phone calls and emails during the same 48-hour period.
Once your article has been submitted and reviewed, an editor will contact you and may ask you to make a revision, or simply tell you the manuscript isn’t a good fit due to lack of expertise, poor grammar, readability or failure to agree with editorial policies. Don’t be offended as it is simply part of the learning process. If everything goes well your article will be published, but remember that until the magazine is on the printing press there are no guarantees.
With either outcome you’ll want to establish a working relationship with the editor for the possibility of future opportunities. Once you’ve become a respected freelance writer editors will turn to you when they need field reports, gear reviews or have specific assignments.
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