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Magazine Writing

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by HeinekenMan, Feb 14, 2007.

  1. HeinekenMan

    HeinekenMan Active Member

    I'm hoping to explore some magazine freelancing opportunities this year, and I'm looking for feedback on which magazines use the most freelance stuff, how to get a good list of contacts from the magazines, dos/don'ts and so forth. I have done some surfing and digging, but I haven't come up with much to guide me.
  2. jambalaya

    jambalaya Member

    Try Writer's Market, it's probably at your local library.
  3. HeinekenMan

    HeinekenMan Active Member

    I have an old copy of the thing. I've been planning to snag a new one, but it's so darned expensive. I guess I'll have to bite the bullet if I want to go that route.
  4. FishHack76

    FishHack76 Active Member

    You're HIRED!
  5. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest

    Heinie -

    I wouldn't bother buying Writers' Market. You can always check it out of the library, and most of the information in it is dated by the time it's published.

    Better just to get your hands on current issues of the magazines you're interested in querying and taking the necessary information off the masthead. Lots of magazines now include their submission guidelines on their websites, so don't forget to look there as well.
  6. Obscure Sports Quarterly is always looking for stuff.
    I just did a feature on Irish Road Bowling for them.
  7. fishwrapper

    fishwrapper Active Member

    I've seen some West Coast papers cover surfing. Who covers digging?
  8. clutchcargo

    clutchcargo Active Member

    Digging? That's Digger Phelps' beat.
  9. HeinekenMan

    HeinekenMan Active Member

    Or the Undertaker's.

    How is the Sporting News? I know they went through some changes. Do they pay well? Quickly? Are they easy to work with?
  10. In Exile

    In Exile Member

    Reasonable opportunity and decent pay from the larger alternative weeklies (formerly New Times now Villiage Voice media), city and other regional magazines. Newspaper Sunday supplement magazines were once a viable market, but hardly any exist anymore. Better opportunies also at second tier sports magazines (Baseball America, Basketball Times, etc.,) rather than with the larger magazines. You start at the smaller publications and build up. Some of the .coms, like ESPN, also use free lancer to write feature length material.
  11. Grizzled veteran here. Lots of do's and don't's.

    The best piece of advice I can give you -- besides developing an extremely thick skin -- is to come up with very specific ideas for very specific publications. A good place to start: spot the trend before anyone else (or, before anyone else has written about it). Versatility is a huge asset; the more you know about different things, the more assignments you will get.

    The second best piece of advice is to call to find out which editor at the magazine is responsible for a topic, then tailor your pitch to him or her. (I'm embarrassed to say this, but I've never used Writer's Market.) If you have a name, number and e-mail address of an editor, you have won part of the battle. Ideas submitted to general "have a story?" e-mail boxes, like the one at The New Yorker, might as well be tossed in a Dumpster.

    Also, one other thing: This may work for others, but I've found that coming up with one good idea and shopping it around to 10 different places doesn't tend to work. Most magazines have niche readerships, and they want really, really precise angles. In other words, they don't tend to tailor your Barry Bonds profile idea into a story about how he decorates his house.

    That's Step 1. If someone accepts an idea, Step 2 is to work out, in specific terms, how much you will be paid, how much you will write, and a deadline. This is absolutely critical. Most top-of-the-line magazines tend to pay $2 a word, but beware: an idea you like at 5,000 words they might like at more like 500.

    If a magazine takes your idea under those conditions, you can take it elsewhere -- but I wouldn't. If you do a good job on something shorter, they may be willing to listen to a bigger idea. Get your feet in the door first. At the beginning, if they have another idea, no matter how much you don't want to do it, take it. I've accepted some real crappy stories about topics I know nothing about. But the editors are more open to my own ideas.

    I've done some work for dot-coms, but be careful: I've never heard of any that pay anything close to $2 a word. At specialty sites (and I don't know about espn.com), you'll write an 800-word story for something like $300. What you're trying to do is gain a foothold, and if you do a good job, more work will come your way.

    And finally: aim big. I'm not necessarily saying you should shoot for SI or nothing, but this becomes a really hard job to do if you're not paid well.
  12. Just thought of something else: I will never, ever, ever do a story on spec. With very few exceptions, publications won't accept them, and you'll be left with nothing to show for your hard work. (Editors: I'm not saying you're bad guys; in fact, I've found editors tend to be pretty receptive and polite.)
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