Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Writers' Guidelines, Schmiter's Guidlines

I have an article I have been working on that would be great for a bridal magazine, however I am not sure where to find writer/submission guidelines for any of them. I have tried finding them online. Do you know of a resource to find magazine markets?

This seemingly simple question raises a whole slew of smaller questions that I want to address. The first of them covers writers' guidelines. Okay, now, just like I told you before, in terms of emailing agents, I'm going to tell you to toss writers' guidelines out the window. (Pause for the collective gasp of readers.) Yes, really. I know of very few established freelance writers who read them, much less seek them out. The true guidelines for most magazines are these: write a great query, email it to the appropriate editor (check the masthead for the correct name and dept), then follow-up a few weeks later. If they don't want to use it, they won't. WGs are often written to weed out the riff-raff (a word I've now used twice in one week, which has to be some sort of record). Don't know if the section you're interested in takes freelancers? Check the articles: if there's a byline there that doesn't match up with an editor's name on the masthead, it's probably freelanced. And even if it's not, so what? You sent a query, and if they can't use it, no real loss.

Before you complain that you don't know how to find email addys for editors, I'll tell you two things: 1) what makes a great freelance writer is not only his or her ability to write, but to research. This information is out there, it's up to you to find it. One great place to start is
mastheads.org. Another is at the magazine's parent company's website, such as Conde Nast or Hearst. You can often track down the generic forumla somewhere on there (check the press releases or media kits), and then just plug in the name of the editor. 2) Because you're faithfully reading my blog, I'll make it a little easier for you. Here are some formulas for major publishing companies:

American Media:
Conde Nast:

Love me yet?

Writers Market is obviously another way to find new markets. A word of caution, however. Many of their listings are outdated. And many of them aren't entirely accurate. For example, they'll give you a generic email address or tell you to snail mail your query or whatever. Again, riff? Meet raff. Whomever submits this info to WM figures that a lot of beginners are using WM, and they're simply trying to weed you out from the get-go. You are MUCH likelier to have success if you contact someone with a real name and real email address, rather than a general email inbox (or snailed address). I do think that WM is a good place to research potential new markets, especially when you've exhausted all of the ones you can think of on your own, but google might work just as well.

The other thing that your question brings up is the bridal market. I think that wedding writing is a wonderful, wonderful way to break into regional and online magazines. There are SO many out there: everything from, I dunno, Northern California Winery Brides (I made that up) to The Knot to a gazillion in between, and I know a lot of writers who happily toil for these mags and sites. They're a great way to build reputable clips and have some fun. I actually got my first national clip from Bride's, and I'll forever be indebted to my wonderful editor there for allowing me a shot at the big time.

Does anyone use writers' guidelines anymore? Care to prove me wrong?


Anonymous said...

If the others don't LOVE you by now; don't worry, I DO!!! ;o)

Honestly, there's not much more we could ask for, since you're spoon-feeding us a wealth of information sprinkled with a sweet honesty of the writing/publishing business.

As for the riff raff...hmmm, maybe you'll shape them up as well? *g*

Dawn said...

As usual, you're dead-on. WG's -- big fat waste-o-time. I have this vision from the past of me, 25-years-old, yearning for a freelance writing career while slaving away at a job I hated. I spent my weekends sending off for guidelines with SASEs. I don't even want to know how much cash I blew on stamps, enevelopes, paper and printer ink.

Anonymous said...

How good to know I wasn't the only one naive enough to follow the rules. (sigh)

It's amazing how -- in less than two weeks here -- I've learned that making your voice heard doesn't only apply to your writing. By using confidence and manners, one's personal approach is likely to garner more attention from an agent, editor, etc. The meek might inherit the earth someday, but I wonder how many of them will be published writers? ;o)

Allison Winn Scotch said...

L-I think your post hit on two very important points: confidence and manners. They really can't be underestimated in this field. Jeez, I can't even begin to tell you how rude some people are when they approach me asking for help...and I'm sure it's 10x worse for editors. I think I'll post on this soon.

Anonymous said...

I think a lot of the rudeness has to do with the internet as the messenger. Not that folks weren't rude before but I think that the fact that it is so easy to reach via the WWW these days makes it easier to be careless -- even when you aren't meaning to be.

But while I'm thinking about it, have I mentioned how awesome this blog is? Thanks for taking the time, Allison!

Anonymous said...

I really disagree with this advice. In the Internet age, finding writers guidelines online or requesting them by e-mail is not a big deal.

And in those guidelines you can find a lot of information that could save you from wasting your time. Aside from giving you insight into their needs, you may learn that to avoid viruses, they won't open ANY attachments or that to avoid spam, they won't open e-mails without a certain phrase in the subject line.

And of course many guidelines discuss their rates. If you know in advance that a 1,000-word article will earn you $50, you may think twice about sending that query in the first place.

I know, everybody thinks *their* idea is so special and *their* writing is so irrestible, editors will magically find it in their budget to fork over $2 per word. Mazel tov, but along with that contract, they'll probably send you -- guess what -- their writers guidelines. They may overlook that you broke their rules before you had the guidelines, but once you have them, ignore them at your peril.

I know from experience. I was given pages and pages of guidelines from an editor I just wrote for. It was a lot to digest, and I missed a few points. Well, she was a little miffed that I sent my first assignment with Word's default 1.5-inch margins instead of 1-inch as her guidelines specified. She let me continue with the ensuing assignments, but those margins help her estimate her layout, and my job is to make her job easier.

You can bet that I went through her guidelines and made a special Word template set up with her preferred margins, her preferred font and type size, etc., etc. Before I sent anything in, I double-checked that nothing had magically reset itself to Word defaults.

There's a lot you can't control in this business, so why not take care of the things you can control. Showing that you take the time to read the guidelines and follow them puts you ahead and marks you as easy to work with. It's a very easy way to make yourself look better than the competition.

If you are up for a writing job against someone who had equal writing skills, it's going to be the little things that make the difference.

Joy Choquette said...

Hi Allison,

I just came across this post while doing some research for writing and found it incredibly helpful. Thanks so much for sharing those address formats and also the masthead.org info--I had never heard of them and as a freelancer I think it will be a really, really big help to me. Thanks again!

Kerrie McLoughlin said...

i agree. i mass query to lots of local parenting pubs so i can get some credits going. most that are publishing me i don't have a sample copy or guidelines. i just wing it and keep submitting different things, different sizes, etc.

Josh said...

Gosh, thanks for this post. I've been freelancing for a while, but largely for the same handful of reliable clients; thanks to the economy and a recent move, I really have to get down to business pitching new editors, and I've been spending a lot of time flipping through Writer's Market and looking for contributors' guidelines, kind of feeling like I was spinning my wheels. As it turns out, one of the most promising replies I've gotten was from an editor whose email address I pieced together the same way you recommend. I guess I'll stick to a similar strategy and see what happens.