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Writing for mags like The New Yorker, GQ, Esquire, etc.

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by WaylonJennings, Oct 22, 2008.

  1. xswriter

    xswriter Guest

    Great link there man.

    I'm probably asking a question already asked on this thread somewhere, but feeling too impatient at the moment to read through all five pages. I'm 21 years old, about to graduate from college, and would love to ... well, love to become a full-time "author," which is in my mind writing books for a living while maybe, um, blogging on the side. Unless, of course, God decides to extend my baseball career beyond college, but not many Division II dudes make it too far with that haha.

    But until that glorious day arrives, I'd prefer magazine writing to newspaper writing for a career. But I would need something relatively steady. I'm marrying a girl who will have a solid job, so it's not like I have to be a sole breadwinner or anything, but would obviously love to contribute more than my fair share.

    I absolutely love to write, always have, always will. Someone on this thread said that is a key to magazine writing. I just got done with my first "big" story for a mid-sized national publication, and did the whole ten-plus rewrites/edits deal, so I guess I've "got what it takes" in that regard.

    I'm living in North Carolina. What's the best way for me to begin breaking into a magazine writing career?
  2. Paper Dragon

    Paper Dragon Member

    Read the whole thread and then ask your question.

    Hint: There is no quick, easy answer.
  3. xswriter

    xswriter Guest

    *taps chest* My bad for being too lazy to do that right away.

    It's already been said by plenty, but this is seriously the best thread on this board.

    Thanks a ton to jcmacg and Jones and everyone else for offering their advice.
  4. mojo

    mojo Member

    Cosmo, as a dearly departed football coach of a friend used to say, is the other team's playbook. Hell yes I want to work for Cosmo.
  5. My first lesson on the art of Shutting Up came from an old cop friend who said it was Rule No. One in interrogation.
  6. My own freelance semi-success story

    I'm still far, far away from scuffling about with the j-macs and Joneses of the world, but I'm wrapping a rather successful year of freelancing and thought I'd share for those who think it cannot be done.

    In 2007, I made about 800 bucks on freelance jobs. This year, I made five figures, stemming from roughly three sources of income, on top of my full-time job, and around the schedule of my full-time job.

    For employer No. 1, I made a solid first impression last year and saw my workload basically sextuple this year. I wrote clean copy, adhering to the publication's style rules, and made deadline. Next year, I might get some work proofing and copy editing, too.

    A friend of mine who previously worked for employer No. 2 put in a good word. Said employer was dubious, but I quickly picked up on the style. The individual pay rate per story is poor, but the stories are short and during the summer months I got assignments in bunches.

    I've done work for employer No. 3 in its various forms since I was a fresh-faced lad straight out of college. The masters and pay rates have changed over the years--thankfully for the better as of late. My previous body of work for the publication led him to give me a chance on phoner interviews with subjects outside of my immediate coverage area, which led to more of the same for a sister publication.

    Now, none of these publications are in the league of the GQs and Esquires. Hell, their only similarity is that they're all on printed pages, and written in English.

    But it's something. And it helps build my resume.

    I definitely want to echo that people skills and networking are vitally important. You also have to be pro-active. You can't just post a "writer available for X, Y and Z" message on a jobs site or here on SJ and expect the offers to come in. You've got to pound the pavement, be it concrete, virtual or otherwise.

    Every single freelance job I got this year, every check I cashed, came as a result of my persistence and diligence. I was regularly checking with editors to see what they might need for the next issue. Note on this: There's a fine line between being involved and being a pest. I've also found editors definitely prefer e-mail to phones.

    Also... don't shy away from the small gigs. They can add up. My aforementioned Employer No. 2 pays about 30 bucks per story. When it's busy, I was getting 10 to 15 assignments per week. Yes it got a bit tiresome dealing with it on a weekly basis, especially when trying to walk the tight-rope between a regimented style that requires certain information in each piece and varying up the language so each write-up didn't come out with an identical voice. But, at its worst, I was putting in a full 8-10 hours and getting paid $300 to $400 for my efforts. I'm OK with that as an "hourly wage."

    I'm rambling now so I'll stop here. I guess what I'm trying to say is that the freelance work is out there. You just have to find it.

    Merry Christmas to all, and remember to take 30 percent off the top for Uncle Sam when those freelance checks come in.
  7. Sneed

    Sneed Guest

    Sweet thread. Loads of helpful advice for grasshopper types like myself. Thanks to all you big shot writer dudes for sounding off.
  8. In Exile

    In Exile Member

    I just stumbled across a very useful website, mastheads.org. It is a pay site - $24/year, or less for shorter periods, but it keeps close to up to date masthead info for about 700 magazines and includes e-mail formats to make contact with staffers. For anyone trying to break into magazine writing, it might be worthwhile. You can check the list of publications covered without signing up.
  9. JLaff

    JLaff Guest

    I, too, am embarrassed to have just read this thread, but I read the first page and was immediately tuned in.

    Jgmacg made an excellent point about talking to subjects, not simply interviewing them. It's easy to forget, but subjects are people, just like us. They all have likes, dislikes, passions and hatreds. Treat them like people, not quotes.

    With that said, thanks Jones and jgmacg, and the other SportsJournalists.com vets. I rarely post but read this site often, trying to soak up everything. It makes it 100x easier when you've got people like Jones and jgmacg sharing their knowledge so eloquently.
  10. RobCrotch

    RobCrotch New Member

    I don't post very often, for reasons unknown to myself, but I must deliver praise -- and thanks -- to all that have contributed to this thread. There were several times during my adventure here that I said to myself, "Well, that's the best post I've ever read." This truly has been an inspirational journey. Again, thanks.
  11. micke77

    micke77 Member

    Waylon....i am new on SJ and love reading the various threads, but this one is the best and most useful. i agree so much with what you were saying about the need of crafting sentences, etc. no one should mock you for having that mindset, because that's what all of us as writers should have. i know sometimes i will simply pick up a dictionary and start reading through like a novel simply to learn more words and their meanings.
    i have written numerous stories for magazines through the years--The Sporting News, all of those Century Publishing Company pubications (Football, Baseball, Basketball Digest), even some short stuff for SI--but I stay so involved in my daily duties as the sports editor of a small daily, that I don't devote as much time or pursue such opportunities as much as I used to.
    And i'll admit part of it has to do with not having confidence in myself to write at a level that some of these writers do for such magazines. I've lost some of my "touch", but I know it's within me. Sometimes, maybe, the "excuse" of being so locked in to my daily assignments, etc., works for me. and heck, in my role as the sports editor, I average 20-30 stories of 600 to 1,500 words every week. so i know i have it in me to get back to doing more of these longer magazine and freelance pieces.
    anyway, pardon the rambling, but truly appreciate your thoughts and offerings on this topic.
  12. JimmyOlson

    JimmyOlson Member

    After a week that saw my company institute a mandatory furlough program and a month that saw my company layoff 3,000 people, re-reading this thread is exactly what I (and I think, we) all need.

    The business may be lousy right now. The industry may be lousy right now.

    But the craft ... that's what matters.
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