July 28, 2009

How to write for magazines

NOW AND THEN someone asks me how to write for sailing magazines. And I reply: “Frequently, and without hope.”

Frequently, because they often ignore or lose unsolicited articles. And without hope because most beginners fail to understand what a particular magazine is looking for.

I have written for many of the biggest sailing magazines, and I’ve worked as managing editor of a powerboat magazine, so I have labored on both sides of the aisle.

As a professional writer, trying to sell my wares, I have been ignored by the best of them. Even if they’ve published you before, even if you’re well known, it makes no difference. Both Sail magazine and Cruising World have taken more than a year to reply to proposals or articles I submitted. One day, I guess, in an emergency, they shuffled through the slush pile to find something usable, and accidentally came across my stuff. There was rarely an apology or an explanation. Just some mumbling in the background about my submission “falling through the cracks.” Again.

When I became a managing editor myself, I made it my business never to keep a writer waiting longer than one week for a decision. I may not have been a good editor, but I was very popular with my writers.

One day I’ll tell you the best way to go about writing for sailing magazines, but meanwhile, if you are serious about earning money, I’d suggest you find another more lucrative field than sailing. Almost anything from gardening to gangrene will find you a wider audience and better compensation.

I must, of course, reveal that I am the copy-editor for Good Old Boat magazine, and I happen to know that the Editor, Karen Larson, will give you answers in considerably less than a year. Furthermore the magazine’s editorial requirements are listed on the website <www.goodoldboat.com>.

(But I still think you’d be better off writing about gardens. Or babies. Or knitting. Anything but sailing.)

Today’s Thought
With pen and pencil we’re learning to say
Nothing, more cleverly, every day.
--William Allingham, Blackberries

“What caused the fire on Fred’s yacht?”
“The investigator said it was spontaneous combustion — a $20,000 policy on a $10,000 boat.”

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