Submitting Articles To Magazines Requires Patience
Laying the Groundwork
How patient of a person are you? This is an important question, so think before you answer. Are you the type who expects instant results? If so then why in the world are you a writer? Seriously, what have you seen so far in this writing world that makes you think anything happens quickly? We build our platforms and we network and we put together a website and we, of course, write, and then we write some more and twiddle our fingers and give ourselves twenty lashes for being stupid enough to think we could make it as a writer and….and….and….
Welcome to the world of writing, where dreams are huge and reality has the taste of ten day old linguini with clam sauce.
Nothing happens and when it finally does, it happens in such small, miniscule, seemingly insignificant increments as to leave us questioning our sanity and looking for a good bottle of single malt.
Yes, welcome to the world of writing.
So having said all that, today I’m going to talk about one aspect of writing that requires even more patience than you have already exhibited….. magazine submissions.
If you are a writer then at one time or another you have dreamed of having your byline appear in Ladies Home Journal or National Geographic. Admit it, you have! There is no shame in admitting this fact. Maybe you have your sights set on Hotrodder or Field and Stream, or any of the other major periodicals, but most if not all of us have that dream….and good for us, because dreams feed the soul of a writer during those lonely hours of solitude when it’s just you, the computer and your dog, and even the dog is getting on your nerves.
You know I speak the truth!
I am not here to shatter those dreams, but I am here today to inject you with a couple milligrams of reality so you can plan accordingly.
Are you ready?
The Query Letter Is Crucial
- 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.
The Submission Process
I have written about this in some length so I will just briefly highlight the process for you.
You have an idea. You want to write about the wildlife in Topeka, Kansas, and you think Kansas Magazine (yes, there really is a Kansas Magazine) will be interested. You write your query letter, possibly the most important letter you will ever write, and then you sit back and wait for the immediate response from the editor of Kansas Magazine.
Or you send a query to the Topeka Capital-Journal newspaper pitching this wildlife angle and looking for a series of articles in their newspaper, and then you sit back and wait for the immediate response.
And a week goes by and nothing; and another week goes by and nothing; and your kids have birthdays and nothing; welcome to the world of magazine submissions.
Some tips that might help you
- How To Submit A Magazine Article: A Step by Step Tutorial
Follow along with the author as he takes you through the submitting process.
The Bitter Pill of Reality
The first thing you must realize is that magazine editors literally receive thousands of query letters per month….thousands! Many of those letters are written by experienced writers with bylines to their credit and many who have a working relationship with that particular editor.
You, on the other hand, have a dream and little else.
Logic dictates that just sifting through all the query letters will take an editor a fair amount of time. I have found one month to be a reasonable amount of time to wait before I hear back about a query. Any response quicker than that is like a cherry on an ice cream soda.
If you do not hear back within a month then one of two things has happened: one, they did not like your idea and are too busy to respond; or two, they lost your query. At this point you probably should follow up with a second email asking if they received your query and are they interested.
Now hooray, your idea has been accepted and you come to agreement with the editor about your article. You write it up, it’s pure genius and you submit it to them. At this point it will either be accepted as the first draft or you will be asked to make revisions. Let’s say revisions are needed; you make them and send it in again and it is accepted and…..it is scheduled for the August edition of the magazine….six months from now.
Now we get to the matter of payment. Some magazines pay upon receipt of the final draft. Some pay after the publishing date. Even if a reasonable payment date is set, some magazines are slow in paying.
More Reality and a Reasonable Game Plan
If you are just starting out in the magazine world, you need to be aware of this and work accordingly. I have said often that submitting to magazines is a numbers game. The more mags you submit to the better your chances of being published, and if you are a relative unknown to editors then you are going to have to submit, submit and submit again before you finally get your break. The percentages of success are very low for those just starting out in this game so embrace that fact and work with it.
Because you will need to submit to many magazines, you need to have a system of keeping track of your submissions. I make a simple online chart that tells me the date that I submit, who I submitted to, the title of the article, when I received a response, if I have received payment, etc. I then check that chart weekly to keep track of the submissions and decide when it is necessary for me to make a follow-up contact with that editor.
If I receive a rejection then that is a good thing because at least I received a response of some kind. I put those rejections in a separate folder on my computer for future reference. I also have a separate folder for rejections that state they like my writing but this is just the wrong time for my idea. Those are great rejection letters because they have stated that they like my writing. That is pure gold for someone who wants to break into this business. Trust me when I tell you that editors rarely send those types of letters, so if you receive one then celebrate. You now have a contact who you can submit to again.
A very realistic viewpoint
A must-have book for writers
What success have you had submitting to magazines?
So Is the Picture Clear to You?
In my opinion, and granted this is just my opinion, if you decide you want to channel your efforts into being a magazine writer, you should be sending out query letters daily. A reasonable number, depending on your time availability, might be three query letters each day, or fifteen per week. Yes that may sound like a lot, and it is, but all it takes is one editor who is impressed with your work to start the ball rolling. Once you get one article published then more will follow.
How long does this process take? Realistically? It could take a year or more for you to break through the logjam of other writers, to establish a bond with editors and to finally receive a steady stream of work. Does a year sound like a long time to you? Only you can answer that question, but I can tell you with certainty that there are no overnight successes in writing. Everyone pays their dues in this field of work, so plan on putting in the time.
One final note and I’ll close for today. Start small and work up to the Bigs. Find small, local publications and pitch to them; the important thing is to get published and build your platform. Once you actually have a platform with some bylines, then you can start pitching to the big name magazines.
That’s all, folks! Get busy working on those query letters and then remember….above all…..
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”