What You Can Learn about Magazines while Standing at a Newsstand — And How It Helps You Get PublishedPosted: December 1, 2007
1. From the Cover (including name, photos or other graphics) you can learn a magazine’s focus. That helps you determine if you want to write for the publication.
2. From the Coverlines, you can learn the types of articles editors think readers want to find in the publication. If Coverlines promote weight loss or low-fat diets, you’d be on target proposing a healthy lifestyle article. If Coverlines entice readers to visit Tahiti or go on safari, a travel article query should be a good fit.
3. From the Contents page, you can learn about the magazine’s departments, often a good break-in area for freelancers. Learn what the departments cover and what they include — short articles, quizzes, news items, tips, regular columns, etc.
4. From the Masthead, you can learn the names of editors, assistant editors, department heads. This helps you find the right editor for your query and the correct spelling of the editor’s name (spelling it wrong is a strike against you even before the query is read). You can learn magazine’s mailing address and often its web address.
5. Also from the Masthead, you can learn which editors and contributing editors have bylines in the publications. If bylined articles don’t have editors’ names, they’re probably freelanced. Knowing how many freelance articles are in each issue give you an idea of the competition you are up against.
6. From the Articles, you can learn the number and type of articles used (first person, third person, how-to, narrative, profiles interviews, etc.), and what the articles cover. You can learn how experts are presented, who they are and how the magazine handles attribution (some use speakers’ professional titles; more informal publications may use first names). If sidebars are used, you can learn how many, how large or small, and kind of information used.
7. From the Ads, you can learn about the publication’s readership. Advertisers want ads placed where customers can find them. If you find ads for camps, day care and recreational facilities, the magazine are probably targeted to readers with growing families. Don’t query that magazine about a singles cruise. Ads for exercise equipment and workout clothing are aimed at readers of fitness magazines. Don’t send them your query about home decorating.
Next scoop up one magazine of your choice and head to the bookstore cafe. While you enjoy a cappuccino or a cup of Earl Grey, read every article thoroughly (you might even buy the publication to take home). Let your subconscious digest everything you have learned. Back at your computer, go to the magazine’s web site and read two or three back issues, plus the writer’s guidelines.
What have you gained? A wealth of information about how to slant to your chosen magazine. Insight into what editors look for. Plus what you need to craft a query (we’re assuming here that you have an idea that’s a perfect fit for the magazine). You’re definitely ahead of other, less prepared writers. Put your writer’s imagination to work visualizing a query so intriguing an editor can’t put it down, then get busy and write that query.
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