Monday, October 23, 2006

Timing is Everything

You've mentioned the "six month lead time" a few times in your blog. Can you elaborate on that? Does this mean that you see your stories in print six months later?

What this means is that most monthly magazines work about six months in advance. Now, this can fluctuate from magazine to magazine, and there's no hard line about when an article will come out. Mostly, I think it's a good guideline to keep in mind for pitching. For example, right now, I have several editors who are looking for ideas for April and May. Given that it's late-October, they're scheduling their issues six months out...so pitching an idea for New Year's or even Valentine's Day isn't going to cut it. (Keep in mind once again that I'm talking about monthly mags. Scheduling is going to be quite different for weeklies and newspapers.) I know that it seems weird to have to drum up ideas for next spring, but that's just the way that this industry works. By the time they've done the editing, layout, art, shipping, etc, it's six months later.

Now...as to when those stories will actually appear, it's anyone's guess. Just last week, I opened up my new issue of SELF, expecting to see my byline, only to discover that my story wasn't there. Turns out it had been bumped for a few months. And looking over my spreadsheet of assignments for this past year, I have no less than seven stories that have been pushed back from a designated issue and are lingering in limbo-land...accepted and paid for but not yet published. I guess the key here is not to get too attached to any one story because while nearly all of them will come out eventually, you never can be certain exactly when they'll see the light of day. In fact, I have one piece that I filed well over a year ago that still hasn't been scheduled. You know what? As long as they pay me, I don't complain. I've fulfilled my end of the contract; they've fulfilled theirs.

So what's the longest you've ever gone from having a story accepted to seeing it published?

3 comments:

Therese said...

Probably about a year.

I think the strangest thing about the six-month lag is working on Christmas articles in June. It's hard to work up the proper enthusiasm for a low-fat Yule Cake recipe when you're worried about slimming down to fit into this season's low-cut bathing suit. ;)

Aimee Cirucci said...

How did you learn the business side of writing? Whether or not to incorporate? Intricies of running your own business, billing, making sure you get payment, keeping track of it all for taxes? Can you suggest any resources?

Allison Winn Scotch said...

Therese-I know...isn't that weird? I also have a hard time mustering up cold weather ideas when spring is just cracking.

Aimee-Thanks for the question! I have a longer-term project planned for the blog over the next week or so, but will then answer it. Promise!