Surveying the Magazine before Submitting

You have the idea and you’ve found a magazine that you think matches. Great. If you’ve read this blog before, you know I encourage people. You might think I’d say email the editor and go for it. Not so fast. First you have some surveying to do. Don’t worry; you don’t have to buy new equipment. surveying involves:

1. A To examine a condition, situation, or value: appraise B – To query (someone) in order to collect data for the analysis of some aspect of a group or area 2. To determine and delineate the form, extent, and position of (as a tract of land) by taking linear and angular measurements and by applying the principles of geometry and trigonometry  3. To view or consider comprehensively.

Studying a magazine comprehensively before submitting an idea is one of the biggest keys to getting published.

First, Take a Virtual Tour.

Does the magazine have a website? Fortunately, today most do. It’s rare that a publishing manager will show you around the operation, but with a good website you can peek in the window at least. Find out as much as you can about the articles and the audience.

Get into the Editor’s Head.

Search for the submission guidelines. Read and understand them, but don’t stop there. If you can’t find any guidelines, find the best contact you can and ask if they ever use freelancers. If they respond, find out what their current needs are.

Go Ahead, Judge the Cover.

Forget the saying, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover.’ Magazines are hoping that you will.  The cover is designed to get you to pick it up. Who does the front page target? Think age group, nationality, subject matter, photos, titles, and the style of the layout. It takes days to create a cover layout. Spend at least a few minutes studying it.

Start Surveying the Magazine.

The best part about a flesh and blood, um ok, paper and ink magazine is that you can touch it. Buy a copy or write for a sample copy. Mark it up; make notes on everything.

  • Do they prefer titles with a sentence, or only a few words? For example; Find Every Day Bargains without the Dollar Store, or Slash Your Budget.Writing - Magazine page-Suveying the Magazine
  • Note if the articles have sections and headings (like this article)
  • Do they use numbered lists and shorter paragraphs or longer in-depth articles?
  • Check to see if they use expert interviews.
  • Notice things like the use of charts, sidebars and pictures.

Don’t Overlook This Part of the Magazine.

You may miss one important thing out of habit, the advertisements. You can be sure the people who paid serious money to place the ads have analyzed the magazine. An ad may actually give you an idea for an article.

Now that you have taken the time to survey the landscape of the magazine, you have a better idea of what it is all about. Does your idea still fit? If so, it’s time to start working on your pitch.

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4 comments on “Surveying the Magazine before Submitting
  1. dmswriter says:

    I’ve got a related question for you, Peter – do you have any posts on how to write a good query letter? I’d like to write for a few larger magazines, and would appreciate any posts or ideas you have on what makes for a successful query letter. Thanks!!

  2. Another idea to use in learning about the magazine: ask for their advertising rate card. On it you’ll find the demographics of the readership: who reads this (i.e.avg. age 34, female and income above $35,000), the what (i.e. interested in sightseeing both domestic and foreign locales) and the where (i.e. lives in small to medium cities). You’ll also find the obvious: how much they charge for each kind of ad (which in itself tells you a bit about the readership).

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What is Writing?

"A writer looks at a screen or piece of paper like a canvas. They see a country unexplored, a picture unpainted, a tale not told. They dare to venture into the barren land, explore its dark corners, and paint its pictures. Then they unveil the epic with the goal of compelling people to visit their newly discovered territory.”
Peter D. Mallett

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