Tales from the Biz

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Want to submit something for publication (well, paid publication)? Take heed of these tips.

1. Read the publication. Like every Number-One reason, this should be fundamentally obvious. Unfortunately, writers are fundamentally oblivious. And whiny. And they always want to be “paid.”

But seriously: Know for whom you are writing. Know that most of them would crack a bar stool over your delicate tête for writing that. Your diction may be impeccable, but will your readers be able to understand you? Is your topic consistent with the publication’s content? If you want to get published in Elle, don’t submit your piece to Maxim

2. Check out the Web site. Most publications will have all the answers you seek on their Web sites, usually under the Submission Guidelines. Go there. Explore. Read the publication. Don’t waste Editors’ time with questions you could have looked up yourself.

3. Don’t ask for ideas. If you’re querying a publication for the first time and you ask for ideas, you’ll be lucky to hear back at all. Why? Because Editors are not here to advance your career; we’re here to manage a publication. When someone submits a query to the effect of:

Dear Editor: I’d like to write for your magazine, and was wondering if you had any ideas for what I could write on.

we read that as

Dear Blumblepuss: You don’t know me and, save for this query (in which I improperly used a comma, ended my only sentence with a preposition, and asked a question altogether different than what I intended and which I should be so fortunate not to have answered with ‘Try a desk’), have never read anything I’ve written, but in my mind I’m a brilliant writer who deserves a chance (and, of course, my standard fee) and you should be so fortunate to publish me and by the way, I never read your magazine (much less subscribe to it), so cough up some great ideas so I can write them up and submit to a better publication.

We’re paying you for your ideas; if we had the idea we'd save some money and write it ourselves.

4. Include pictures. Well, good pictures, which is to say, digital pictures, which is to say large digital pictures. Regular photos, prints, x-rays, etc. take time, which is to say money, to scan, so most publishers will prefer digital images, which is to say digital images larger than 3k, you idiot.

5. Don’t ask if you can trust Us. We’re still amazed at how hesitant freelancers are to an on-spec request.

Terrified Freelancer: How do I know you won’t steal my article if I send it to you before you buy it?

Us: You don’t….MWAHAHAHAHAHA! [Presses button, sending Terrified Freelancer to the Rancor pit.]

For starters, how do you expect us to answer that?

In general: No, you should never trust an Editor: Our hearts are frosty-cold, our fists clench tightly our money, and we feed on kittens and tender Grandmothers. But we’re also terrified of copyright laws as well as tarnish on our reputations. If you’re still worried, read the publication—if they’ve had the same writers working for them since before the Hoover Administration, chances are they’re marginally honest.