Monday, August 31, 2009

Dear Kerrie: Following up and Breaking into National Magazines

Dear Kerrie,
I sent my manuscript to a publisher whose submission guidelines said would respond in 4-6 weeks. I'm in the sixth week now and wonder if I should follow up in some way. What's your advice if I don't hear soon? ~Janie

This is a great question. We have to remember that publishing is a business. Imagine if you had your car in the shop and they said it would be ready Tuesday by 1:00 and they said they will call you when its ready. 1:00 on Tuesday rolls around, then 2:00, then 3:00. What would you do? You would call and ask them when the car will be ready.

Publishing is no different. I figure if they give me a time line and then don't follow through with it, I have the right to follow up. Be polite and business like, but definitely follow up. You can do this with a phone call or if you don't feel comfortable calling, then email. Either way just tell them your name and that you are checking on the status of the manuscript you sent them on _________.

Good Luck and keep me posted on what happens.
Dear Kerrie,
Hi! Here's a question for you . . . How do you break through the national mag barrier without national writing experience? I'm published in regional magazines, which is lovely. Now, I'm trying to crack the national mag barrier. Obviously, I am sending the usual irresistible query letter with clips and hoping that with persistence will get me in. What are your suggestions? ~Melissa

Another great question and I get asked this one a lot. The answer is to study, study, study. I highly recommend you pick 3-5 nationals that you want to be published in. Then research those magazines. Subscribe to them, study their guidelines, study the articles and study the advertising in the magazine.

The guidelines will tell you exactly what they are looking for and how to submit to them. Usually the guidelines don't list specific editors. Your job is to find out who you need to submit to. This can be done with a quick phone call. All you have to say is, "Who should I direct a travel (or whatever topic you are writing about) to?" Ask them if they accept email queries and ask for the exact spelling of the name. Sometimes you get transferred to the editor. Don't panic, stick to the same question.

Study the articles so you understand the tone, length and style the readers are looking for. Pay attention to whether or not the articles are in first person, notice how many expert quotes are included, study the tone/voice and pay attention to who is writing the articles. Refer to the masthead often to see if contributors or editors are typically writing for a certain section. Note, contributing editors are freelancers--they are not staff writers.

Advertisers pay big bucks to get their product in front of their target demographics. So the advertising in a magazine can tell you a lot about who is reading the magazine. Look at the ages of the people in the ads and pay attention to what is being advertised. This will tell you a lot about the typical reader and that is who you keep in mind when you are writing for a particular publication.

After you become an expert on the magazines, then query. Don't be afraid to refer to articles from past issues in your query. For instance, "My article, Living the High Life, will have a similar format and style as the article "Trendy Teens" from your August 2009 issue.

Editors want to know that you understand who their readers are and what they want. You need to conform to them, not the other way around. Query them often and show them, that you do understand their readers.

Whew, I hope that helps to answer your question. Give it a try and let me know how it goes or if there are any other questions you may have.

Happy Studying,


Carol Kilgore said...

Hi Kerrie,
There's an award for you on my blog.

Janie said...

Thanks for the advice, Kerry. I'll get right on that follow-up.

Melissa Taylor said...

Thanks, Kerrie! Great advice.

Melissa Taylor

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