I'd love to hear your advice on how best to track down and connect with the right magazine editors. Writers Market? Or searching on the publications website? Also do you always e-mail query? Do you ever snail mail?
The best way to track down the right editor is to look at the magazine's masthead. Or go to mastheads.org and pay a small fee for access. If you're unsure which editor handles which dept, simply call the magazine and ask. Sometimes, these things are self-explanatory (i.e., the beauty editor), and sometimes, they're not (i.e., senior editor). Now, I know, I know, what could be more intimidating than calling a magazine? Well, to be honest, a lot of things. Seriously, in the overall scheme of things, picking up the phone, heart beating through your chest and asking whom to contact, really isn't THAT big of a deal. So before you talk yourself out of it, have a little perspective: calling and asking won't make you look like an idiot. Who cares if the receptionist is a bitch? Who cares if she's a condescending snarkster? You need this info, so go get it. Chances are, she'll be plenty nice, and besides, it's not like she's taking names and reporting them to editors who then create a blackball list.
Anyway, moving on...I find Writers Market to be terribly outdated and really not that specific. As I've mentioned in the past, someone at the magazine is responsible for including a listing in Writers Market, and it's not like this person is interested in advertising specific names and email addresses so that these editors can be inundated with random emails from potential beginning writers. So they'll often lob in a generic email addy, or worse, a generic snail mail addy, and this automatically serves as a filter. After all, if a query is coming into that addy, they know that the person got the info from WM. It's much, MUCH better to make the extra effort and track down a specific name and address. I've emphasized this before, but part of being a successful journalist is having the skills and the energy to go the extra mile when it comes to researching, and trust me, by sending your query into the generic email@example.com address, you're basically tossing your name (and idea) into the slush pile (read: garbage).
In case you haven't figured this out from the above comments, I only query via email. ONLY. And, in fact, unlike some book agents who are still on the anti-technology horse, magazine editors really rely on email. In fact, none of the successful journalists I know use anything BUT email for their queries. Snail mail is like the horse and buggy in our industry: outdated and pointless. Sure, some editors might ask for a few snailed clips once you've made initial contact, but that's it. Our industry is all about expediency, and snail mail certainly isn't expedient, right? Thus, the nickname, snail mail.
Anyone have any other brilliant ideas as to how to track down specific editors?