Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It's complicated

I have been writing for a long time now- with limited sucess. When I sell something it is amazing- but mostly I don't sell. If you are writing and submitting to magazines, it is going to sometimes feel like the world is against you, or all the good ideas are gone, or that someone else has stolen your idea. Truth is- magazines publish a LOT of articles every month which equals to a lot of articles every year. They really really want your articles! But they want something different and fresh. It also means that they recieved a lot of manuscripts and articles in the mail- over the transom- meaning they didn't ask for them-and some are good and some are not so good and some have promise and some are, frankly, just horrible. You want to provide them with the very best you can do. No mistakes in format, wording, grammer or content. If you can provide artwork or photos to illustrate you have a better chance of selling your article to a magazine, but those photos better be super sharp, interesting and printable. Check their illustration guidelines before submitting.

If a magazine rejects your article and you later see something like it in the same magazine a few things may be happening.
First- there are no new ideas. Sorry gang- eveything under the sun has been done or thought of or in the works already.
It may mean that they had already contracted for that article before yours ever came in. A Magazine works at least 6 months to a year 'out'. They buy Christmas articles in January of the previous year-Halloween articles in March, etc.
Your article didn't fit they theme of the magazine at that time. Many magazines have a schedule of things they want to print- Stallion issue in January, foal issues in March. You can write to the mag and ask for their magazine theme list.
Or your article was not well written or perhaps you couldn't provide photos.
Unless you can prove that they took your article word for word and put it into print, you can not say that they stole your article.
You don't need to copyright your articles-BTW. If you have it on your computer it will have a date stamp, if they did plagerize it word for word, you could prove it by that stamp on your word program if you needed to.
What can you do to make your articles stand out?
Read the magazine you want to submit to, study it and know how they format their articles and photos. Then you can ask for their theme list for submissions.

Have an unusual story to tell. Did you drive to Montana to pick up an old horse then take it to a Rescue in New Mexico, all alone and in the dark? That is something a magazine might want to know about, and if they have the resourses they may have someone help you write it. But the same old articles about how to bridle a horse, buy a saddle, load a horse in the trailer etc... they will either pass on to their staff to write or just reject as not interesting enough.

 Buy the Writers Marketplace. It is a book that has the name address and everything else you could want to know about all the magazines you can imagine. It is worth the twenty five dollers you'll pay for it. It also tells you how to submit a manuscript, how to accept a contract, get an agent ( for those writing books) and lots of other useful information. Don't submit without it. Magazines and Book Publishers are VERY PICKY about how the manuscripts should be presented to them. If you stray from that format you show them that you are not a professional and they will not take you seriously nor will they want to buy your work or work with you.

Of course if you have a slam bang article and photos and you send it all in, you might just get lucky and have someone fall in love with your stuff- but it is not very likely. Do the ground work, just like with your horses- and then submit. You might be pleasantly surprised by a phone call or letter stating that someone is going to buy your words and stick them in a magazine for the whole world to see! What a rush!

I hope this helps some of you begin or continue your writing careers. I know that you all love to write or you wouldn't be blogging! Go for it, and if you have any other questions I'd be happy to help. Just drop me a line!