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How To Submit Articles To Magazines
A Few Words Before We Begin
“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.”
In the quote above you have your first tip about submitting articles to magazines. Never give up!
Listen, nobody said that writing was an easy business. There are millions of writers in the world and most of them want the same thing, namely to be published. At the same time, there are a limited number of magazines, so to say the competition is fierce would be a gross understatement.
That is why it is so important that you do not give up. You must believe in yourself and you must work harder for you than you ever worked for another employer. You are the artist but you are also the Marketing Executive of your writing firm, and a good marketing executive is armed with the knowledge necessary in order to achieve success.
What follows is the knowledge necessary to achieve success when submitting articles to magazines. The pointers mentioned below really apply to submissions to agents and publishers as well, but today we are just going to concentrate on the magazine industry.
Are you ready?
How to write a query letter
- How To Write A Successful Query Letter
How do you get the attention of an agent/publisher? Probably the single most important step is to craft a professional query letter. Follow these suggestions and you just might hook an agent.
BE A SKILLED WRITER
If you do not have skills then don’t bother submitting work. I hate to be so blunt but quite frankly, until you have improved your writing skills you have no chance of being published.
Let’s assume, however, that you already have the skills necessary. If so then let’s move on to the second tip.
MAKING AN INVESTMENT
There is a book on the market called The Writer’s Market and I highly recommend that you buy it. In my opinion this is the Bible for all writers.
In it you will find a complete list of agents, publishers and, for the sake of this discussion, a complete listing of magazines. The listings will be separated by topic, so there will be pages of magazines that focus on travel, sports, lifestyle, women’s issues and much, much more.
Not only that, but each listing for each periodical will have the editor’s name, the submission guidelines, the address and a section that tells you what kind of work they are currently looking for.
This is a must-purchase for anyone interested in being published in a periodical. Each year a new edition comes out. You can buy the new 2013 edition, or go cheap like I do and buy a year-old edition on ebay for half the price.
THE QUERY LETTER
Other than your article, the most important part of the submission process is the query letter. You can write the most brilliant article ever composed, but if your query letter is sub-standard your article will forever sit in your personal files gathering dust.
I wrote an article awhile back about the 10 Second Rule, stating that you have about ten seconds to win over the heart of an editor. In truth, it is closer to five seconds, so your query letter had better be wowzers.
Let’s take a look at the important aspects of a magazine query letter:
- Use a normal font and keep the query letter to one page, single-space
- Include your name, address, phone number, email address and website if you have one
- Address the letter to a specific editor by name
- Begin with a hook. Remember, if you cannot grab the editor in five seconds you lose. The first line of your query letter should be fireworks and lightning. Why should the editor read on…that’s what your first line should answer.
- The second paragraph can expand on what the article is about. Include the length of the article, a working title and reasons why this article would be relevant for that magazine.
- A short third paragraph listing your qualifications and previous publications.
- Finish with a thank you and a hope that you will be hearing from them soon.
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How to pitch a magazine article
Submission guidelines must be followed to the letter. If they call for a sample of the article then give them a sample and not the whole article. If they ask for articles in the 800 word range do not tell them you have an article of 1,000 words.
Many magazines now accept queries for future articles or for articles already written. If the submission guidelines allow you to do so, then send the article along with the query letter, but only if that is specified in the guidelines.
I cannot overemphasize this point enough. You must follow the submission guidelines exactly as they are stated or don’t bother to contact the magazine.
EMAIL OR SNAIL MAIL?
Again, if you own a copy of the Writer’s Market, this question will be answered, because for every magazine it is explained if the editor accepts email submissions or the old-fashioned snail mail submission.
Once that has been established, make your submission and then sit back and wait. It can take as little as one week to hear back or it can take three months, depending on the time of year and the individual magazine. Usually in the submission guidelines it will tell you how long it takes for a response.
Remember, if sending snail mail, to include a SASE along with your query letter.
Be patient but, as the next step explains, also be vigilant.
I am a huge believer in the follow-up letter. Try to understand that editors will literally receive thousands of emails and letter each month. Thousands! It is quite possible for them to lose your email or snail mail submission. It is also quite possible for them to misplace it or forget about it.
It is your job to remind them. If you do not hear from them in the time designated in their submission guidelines then for goodness sake follow up and contact them. This is not a time to be shy; this is your business and livelihood at stake, and if you don’t follow up nobody will.
Let’s say, however, that you do hear back and your submission is rejected. It is my opinion that a wise writer will contact the editor thanking them for consideration. Establish a good working relationship whenever possible. Who knows when that connection will pay dividends in the future? So I would suggest you keep a file of rejection slips so you can follow up from time to time with new proposals, and keep that connection fresh and in the mind of the editor. This falls under the category of “a squeaky wheel gets the grease.”
You must not give up. Often times writers are published because they were in the right place at the right time. They happened to have the perfect idea at the exact time an editor was looking for that idea.
Yes, there are millions of writers, but there is only one you. You hold the key to your future in your hands. Be persistent! The best writers on this planet have received rejection slips. Consider them a badge of honor and keep sending out those submissions. If one editor doesn’t like your idea then send it to another editor. Heck, send it to ten editors at once and first come first serve. Once you have exhausted the entire list of editors then either change your query letter or change your article, but keep at it.
Were these suggestions helpful?
If it is worth wishing for then it is worth working for. I was taught the value of hard work a very long time ago, and I have never forgotten it.
I was also taught that there are days when the best we can hope for is to simply move forward. There will be days when a writer feels there is no point in this quest. There will be lonely days and frustrating days and what-the-hell days, but through it all we have to keep moving forward.
In these days of instant gratification, the writer faces many days of no gratification whatsoever. Those are the days when you need to work harder. If your submissions are not being accepted then you need to find out why and change things. My grandma used to say there is no point in beating a dead horse. A bit graphic for sure but the meaning, with regards to submissions, is right on. If you are not getting published there is a reason for it. Figure out that reason and then make adjustments. Who knows when you will be in the right place at the right time, and a whole new world of possibilities will open up for you.
Best of luck to you all!
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
Dedicated to my writing friend Vicki!