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Writing for magazine
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magazinewriting · 14/11/2021 20:31

Name changed for this

A few months ago i was interviewed by a feature writer from a well know n upmarket county magazine as part of a piece they were doing on people who did my hobby.

She came with a photographer. They were both chatty but admitted because they did so many features they knew very little about each topic. She was a freelance but not the photographer. The piece was ok and i have now noticed that she does quite a lot for this magazine and the neighbouring county one.

I would like to do this too. I am told that I write very well and am a very chatty person who people relate to. It seems interesting to travel about meeting different people and then write short pieces. It was over 4 pages but pictures took up a lot of that.

I think I have the skills. I would certainly prepare better than her and probably could write just as well, certainly so with practice. I can also relax people and get them to chat to me.

I want to get in touch with the editor but I'm nervous.

Should I ring or email? Should I offer him an idea or ask him to give me one. She told me it was a mixture for her. I would prefer him to give me an idea and the contact details of people to speak to but I imagine as time went on I could come up with my own ideas as well. Should I ask him then what the fee will be or will that be too pushy?

Do you think he will want to see examples? I've never being published but I have written newsletters-that's how they got my contact details-that other people in my hobby look forward to. I was also very good at English at school.

Do I have a chance?

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chipsarnie · 14/11/2021 21:23

In my experience (20+ years as a staffer on mainstream consumer magazines) editors are very approachable, so don't worry about getting in touch. A very few may have their own secretary, but usually you'd just call up the main switchboard and ask to be put through.

Ring and introduce yourself. Eds get a lot of emails. They'll probably want to hear ideas for articles. After this initial chat, send an email with those ideas - and links (or 'tearsheets') to your work, even if it is only those newsletters. Then follow up that email with another call. To be honest, I can't imagine an editor of a regional or national magazine commissioning a feature from an unpublished journalist, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. But it is a very tough gig to get into, no avoiding it. At the very least you could get some valuable pointers - one of which will likely be to write a blog about things that interest you. The best blogs are like online magazines - a mixture of news, interviews and features - and some really are excellent.

Good luck!

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magazinewriting · 14/11/2021 21:32

@chipsarnie Thank you for replying and for the encouragement I was worried i might get some harsh answers

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Cinabunn · 14/11/2021 21:44

Really good advice from @chipsarnie

They'll want a portfolio of your writing, evidence you can write and that you will be able to understand and adapt to house style.

They'll want good, solid original ideas too.

And you'll need to read their publications thoroughly so you know what they're looking for.

Interviewing is a skill like any other so you'll need proof you can do it or are at least very willing and able to learn.

You could always ask for work experience if you are interested. If you spend some time in their offices and come across well that can lead to other things. Although Covid may well put a damper on that sort of thing.

If it's anything like the journalism that I do (TV news) then it could be an industry that will often expect free work before they start to pay. It's hugely unfair but likely.

A blog is an excellent suggestion by @chipsarnie

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chipsarnie · 14/11/2021 21:53

You're very welcome.

You really have nothing to lose, so you may as well have a crack.

Also worth bearing in mind that even in this digital age, there are still dozens and dozens of 'dead tree' publications. The smaller, more obscure titles from more minor publishers may be more likely to give you a tryout to get you some experience before you pitch to the bigger guys.

Most journalists will have come in as a junior writer straight from a journalism course and then risen through the ranks, so to speak - and then gone freelance when they had enough published articles behind them.

I've also worked with several writers who started their career doing (often unpaid) work experience in a publishing office - which may be another option for you. One magazine I worked at for a number of years had a different 'workie' in for a fortnight every month - the ones that showed aptitude were sometimes taken on, or recommended to a pal on a different title (it's a small industry in many ways - everyone knows everyone). I believe the policy was limited to a fortnight so we didn't just get the rich kids who could be supported by their parents for six months (and which definitely happens at some of the more upmarket mags).

Something to think about, anyway.

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chipsarnie · 14/11/2021 21:58

@cinnabunn

"Although Covid may well put a damper on that sort of thing."

That is a very good point.

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magazinewriting · 14/11/2021 23:23

That is all good advice. I think i would like some fee though if i write for the county magazine so don't think I would want to write for nothing at all. maybe a reduced fee for the first ones? I would be prepared to review local restaurants and hotels for no fee as i would take the meal or stay as my fee. Could that be a suggestion to put forward? They do those often.

I am a bit too old for work experience but might consider it for a limited time.

I just feel that I am a good writer, at least as good as the lady who came to see me and i think my interviewing skills could be honed. To be honest, she didn't really interview me it was more like a chat with a friend so maybe for this type of magazine, interviewing skills aren't so valued.

I will ring the editor this week because as you say, nothing ventured nothing gained. I will send him copies of my newsletter and i think I may have a good idea which would make a nice piece with pictures so I will put that forward rather than ask him for an idea.

Do you think I could re-write the piece featuring me, so that he can see I can write well and it is a topic I know far more about than the lady who wrote it!. Good point about the style. I think I can emulate it.
Thank you for wishing me luck.

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languagelover96 · 14/11/2021 23:43

Hello

Try it and see what happens.

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TedMullins · 14/11/2021 23:46

I’m a journalist, and I’ve got to be honest it is quite frustrating that people seem to think our job is some sort of hobby they can dip in and out of. I disagree with the previous poster about ringing the editor - I don’t know any editors who would entertain this. You need to send original ideas via email, if you contact asking to be given ideas you’ll be ignored because that’s not how it works. Get to know the regular sections of the magazine and come up with an idea for them and write a compelling pitch. Things like hotel and restaurant reviews are usually done in-house. It would probably be helpful for you to read up about magazine journalism and how to pitch - it’ll be obvious a mile off if you send a very amateur email and it likely won’t be replied to.

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ScribblingPixie · 14/11/2021 23:57

Hi, OP. This was my job for several decades. My advice would be to offer something of value. Come up with an excellent idea, preferably something unique to you, that would really attract an editor's attention. Then write the article - in your chosen magazine's style and to the correct length (not cover story length but one of the lesser pieces). Really work on it until you're happy with it. Be absolutely meticulous on spelling, grammar and fact checking. If you think it's good enough to be published, contact the editor and ask if you can submit it for her consideration. Say that you would welcome feedback. If you decide to go down the path of ringing the editor instead, I would strongly advise you not to criticise the journalist who interviewed you or think about rewriting the article she wrote. And definitely don't mention hotel or restaurant freebies!

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TheSpiral · 15/11/2021 00:00

@TedMullins

I’m a journalist, and I’ve got to be honest it is quite frustrating that people seem to think our job is some sort of hobby they can dip in and out of. I disagree with the previous poster about ringing the editor - I don’t know any editors who would entertain this. You need to send original ideas via email, if you contact asking to be given ideas you’ll be ignored because that’s not how it works. Get to know the regular sections of the magazine and come up with an idea for them and write a compelling pitch. Things like hotel and restaurant reviews are usually done in-house. It would probably be helpful for you to read up about magazine journalism and how to pitch - it’ll be obvious a mile off if you send a very amateur email and it likely won’t be replied to.

I am also a journalist and I agree. I did a postgrad journalism course and worked in-house for 15 years before going freelance. Having been a commissioning editor it isn’t only how well you write, it is also being able to have your work edited without complaint, writing for a particular audience, being aware it is journalism not creative writing, going back again and again to clarify things and get extra info…this is not to say don’t go for it, but when I was a commissioning editor/ features editor/ editor I sometimes used to commission people who didn’t have a journalism background and it was always, always a complete nightmare. They hated being edited, they wouldn’t go back to the source and clarify things, and they just argued and argued every point. Don’t do that!
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TheRustler · 15/11/2021 00:02

To be honest, she didn't really interview me it was more like a chat with a friend so maybe for this type of magazine, interviewing skills aren't so valued.

She's maybe better at her job than you think - that's actually how features interviewers coax out a warm, relatable interview piece, by getting you to relax and chat naturally, instead of doing a full Paxman on you!

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magazinewriting · 15/11/2021 00:06

@TedMullins I don't want to do it as a hobby or dip in and out of. I want to do it as a career or regular freelance like the lady who came to see me. I have more respect for my own ability as a journalist and other journalists than to think it could be a hobby on the side. I didn't mean to sound as if I did!.

I will ring because as @chipsarnie said i think most editors must be approachable but I will have my follow up email ready. In that I will give him my idea, some of my newsletters and maybe a rewrite of the piece that had me in it, not for him to re-publish but to show him that i can write in the house style and as I know more than the original writer about the topic, it will be better in that sense.

Good point about reviews being inhouse but this lady has written them for the magazine and i know she is freelance because she told me. I might just ask for a reduced fee for my first piece rather than step on someone's toes.

In my idea outline, I will give the title and the point of the piece and who I would like to interview. I can also suggest the pictures that would be needed. My son takes good pictures, he is a gifted amateur so I wouldn't need to take the magazine photographer which might make it more compelling as it would be two for the price of one and a reduced price at that!.

I did think of contacting the lady who came to see me as she could introduce me to the editor, so I wouldn't be cold calling as such but it might put her in a tight spot and realistically she probably wouldn't want to help another freelance who could end up taking work away from her.

Anyway, wish me luck!. The worst that can happen is he can say no-yikes!

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ScribblingPixie · 15/11/2021 00:09

Are you on a wind-up, OP?

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magazinewriting · 15/11/2021 00:14

@ScribblingPixie

That's a bit unsettling. I thought I was taking advice and adding it to my own ideas. I have been mulling it for a while. You know how to put a needle in someone's balloon.

Thank you everyone who has offered advice and encouragement.

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chipsarnie · 15/11/2021 09:26

"My son takes good pictures, he is a gifted amateur so I wouldn't need to take the magazine photographer which might make it more compelling as it would be two for the price of one and a reduced price at that!."

Your son would have to approach the magazine's art director with an established, coherent style and a solid selection of outstanding images. It's worth noting that editorial photography is even tougher to break into than journalism - there's an unbelievable amount of competition.

Magazines also tend to have a small stable of proven photographers that they repeatedly use.

But again, I wish you the best of luck.

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magazinewriting · 15/11/2021 14:35

My son doesn't want to get into editorial photography-I'm just thinking that if he illustrated my piece, he is very good, it might make my pitch more compelling. He did actually study graphic art but wants to design graphic books, he might find working for county magazines a bit stuffy!.

I did ring the editor today but he was unavailable. I didn't leave my details because I would be on tender hooks waiting for him to call me back and knowing my luck, he might ring for an in depth conversation about what I can offer when I'm in the bath or in driving!.

I'm not going to ring the lady who came to see me because I think that might be awkward and if she asked me what my idea was, I don't want to feel obliged to tell her. I've only got the one really good idea for now so don't want to give it away.

I'll come back to the thread when I've spoken to him to update.

Thanks again for the good wishes. You have been generous.

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TedMullins · 15/11/2021 20:10

Please don’t tell the editor that your son can do the photos. It sounds desperate and frankly a bit demented.

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GoGoGretaDoll · 15/11/2021 20:18

While you're waiting for another chance to ring the editor, have another 20 ideas. At least. Generating ideas is the job. No-one is going to invest their time in someone who has one idea. What about next month's issue? And the month after that, and the month after that?

What if they covered your idea three months' ago?

I think you should put a pin in this for a couple of weeks and do some research. There are some excellent writers' magazines out there that will give you ideas on how to pitch. Many commissioning editors have calls for pitches on Twitter and link to their style guides there. At the moment, you're coming across as somewhere between a well-meaning amateur and someone actually quite critical of one of their trusted freelances. A nice editor may not hold that against you. I would.

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magazinewriting · 15/11/2021 23:20

I hoped it might sound helpful rather than desperate.

I don't think i can come up with 20 ideas right now although i have lived in the county that this magazine represents all my life. It is a big county so i suppose if others can do it, I can give it a go. That was why I was hopeful that the editor might help with ideas.
I looked up who owned the magazine and it is a big company that has lots of magazines so i suppose there is scope there too. Thanks for the idea about editors asking for ideas on Twitter.

I don't mean to be critical the freelance who came to see me. Just that i thought i might be able to do as well because I can write just as well and could interview in the way that she did. It really was just a chat and I love chatting and finding out about people!.I wouldn't critise her to the editor and when I said i might re-write her piece, I meant that I know more about that particular topic than her-it's a hobby I've done for a decade, so it would show that i could also write-not that mine would necessarily be better in any way and I wouldn't expect him to publish it. I do understand they can't repeat stuff. It would be a sort of showcase because I am aware that I will need more than my hobby newsletters!.

I wouldn't dream of trying to oust her and wouldn't say anything critical about her at all. I want to be commissioned but not by pushing someone else out. She was very nice and smiley and polite and nicely spoken as I am!

I will try ringing him again. I have my follow up email ready, as advised and surely the more trusted freelancers he can rely on the better. I wish I could say what my idea is because I don't think it will make me look like an amateur but I don't want it pinched by writers on the thread (joke!!)

If i hear anything,I will update the thread. Thank you the advice, I've taken a lot on board and know more than before I started my thread.

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Lovelyapplecrumble · 16/11/2021 20:15

OP, unfortunately you currently sound like someone who looks at teachers playing games with small children and thinks "I could do that", not appreciating all the hard work and skill that goes into their job. You do sound like an amateur, because you are an amateur.

I'm a journalist and I completely agree with the other journo PPs who have advised caution. Offering for your son to take the photos sounds, to be honest, mad.

Also, please don't offer to write for free or for a reduced fee. This undercuts other freelancers and will make them hate you.

However, starting a blog is a great idea. Maybe also think about doing a journalism course?

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shallIswim · 17/11/2021 17:04

I was you, OP, back in 2008. I had a background in journalism, albeit broadcast, but wanted to change direction. I emailed the editor of a magazine like the one you have described. But I did so with an idea which, having read the magazine, I was pretty sure would work. And it did! A top tip is to point out the picture opportunities. So as well as pitching the story, tell him/her what it might look like. Magazines are as driven by image as word
Editors need good people and they need good ideas, so with the right approach it can work.
I do need to tell you however that the pay is hopeless and you need to write a LOT to make a living.

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Drybird2020 · 18/11/2021 23:12

What an interesting thread. OP please remember to come back and tell us how you get on!

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littlequestion · 01/12/2021 07:45

How did you get on, OP?

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languagelover96 · 01/12/2021 09:56

Tell us more OP

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