Transcripts

"Nuts and Bolts of Magazine Marketing" with Jennifer Reed.

Thursday, August 1, 2002

Moderator is Kristi Holl, web editor of this site and author of 24 books for children and teens, plus l50+ articles for adults and children. Kristi also taught writing courses for fifteen years.

Jennifer is now the editor for the online parenting magazine, Wee Parent (also part of Wee Ones). She's written articles for various adult magazines and newspapers including GRIT, Baltimore's Child, Parent Magazine Online, and more. She was the assistant to the editor for Scuba Times Magazine, editor of a newspaper, and wrote regular articles for Family Adventure, and Eating Out columns at Baltimore's Child.

Names in blue are viewers who had questions.

Interviews in the Professional Connection room begin at 9 Atlantic/Canada, 8 Eastern, 7 Central, 6 Mountain, and 5 Pacific.

Moderator: Good evening! I'm Kristi Holl, your moderator, and I'm here tonight with editor and author Jennifer Reed who will be talking with us about the "Nuts and Bolts of Magazine Marketing." Jennifer Reed is now the editor for the online parenting magazine, Wee Parent (also part of Wee Ones). She's written articles for various adult magazines and newspapers including GRIT, Baltimore's Child, Parent Magazine Online, and more. Welcome, Jennifer!

Jennifer: Hi, Kristi. Hi, everyone! I am so excited to be here!

Moderator: Jennifer, since we're focused tonight on adult writing, how did you first get started in writing for adult magazines and newspapers?

Jennifer: I got my degree in English with a focus on creative writing. Shortly after I graduated I received a job with Scuba Times. I loved the hustle and bustle of a magazine, the creative edge and working with such talented people. When I moved to Japan, I had a lot to share with people back west, and I knew I wanted to write for a living, so I submitted some short personal essays to my local newspaper. They were about experiencing Japanese culture and how I coped as a westerner. My home town paper said they liked them because they were about an exotic place, somewhere most in my town had never been to.

Moderator: Where did you have your first publication?

Jennifer: Even though I was writing photo captions and product reviews for Scuba Times I didn't consider them necessarily a publishing credit, though the job itself was a great experience to use on my resume. The Norwell Mariner was my very first "adult" publication. It was my hometown newspaper. Very small but still it was a publishing credit. They didn't pay either, but I didn't care. There's something about seeing your name in print that makes it all worthwhile, at least the first time around. Well, maybe the second or third time around. :)

Moderator: What exactly does "marketing" entail, and why is marketing important?

Jennifer: Marketing is hard for a lot of people to do. I think it first entails having confidence in yourself. So often, especially with writers I think, in the beginning we have low self-confidence. We haven't been published enough to feel like our work is good. Marketing yourself to an editor means looking as professional as possible whether you are in person at an interview or mailing him or her your resume. You don't need to have a lot of writing credits under your belt, but know you will probably have to start at the bottom and work your way up. Always be professional, polite and have a positive attitude towards yourself and the line of work you want to do. Otherwise, you won't get the job, the assignment or whatever you are going after!

jack: Is there a trick to getting that self-confidence to market, or does it come AFTER you push ahead and make yourself do it?

Jennifer: I suppose you can tell yourself every day that you are a good writer and that you will succeed; definitely start there! But definitely, as the acceptances come in, your self-confidence builds. I think it takes time not only to become a better writer, but to have faith in yourself. Do you feel a strong desire to write? If so, I don't think it is by chance. I think there is a reason you need to write. Believe in this desire and have faith. It will take time, but you will get there!

Moderator: Are local newspapers a good place to start then, if a new writer wants to get published?

Jennifer: Absolutely. Make yourself known to the editing staff. Write a letter first making it clear what you are interested in doing. If you want to work as an assistant or write copy, let them know. If you are just starting I wouldn't say, "Hey, I want to write a column!" Unless you've written one before, editors probably won't hire you; you need some prior experience. Expect low pay and expect to start on the bottom of the totem pole, but it really doesn't take long to work your way up!

paulplqn: What kind of writing credentials will one need to have to approach a newspaper?

Jennifer: Did you write for your high school yearbook? Do you enjoy writing in a journal? Poetry? Have you done any writing in the past? Think hard about your past writing experience and use it in a beneficial way. Any courses you're taking will also help. If you haven't any publishing credits, start with the basics and don't be afraid. Often if they see you are eager and have written a good letter, you still could land a job! Everyone has to start somewhere, right?

michelle weslager: What kind of writing would I expect to be doing "at the bottom of the totem pole"?

Jennifer: It depends on your editor, the publication and how much they like you. I wrote photo captions for Scuba Times - their swim issue was a lot of fun and very creative. I also edited and rewrote parts of articles authors sent in. The funny thing was, I didn't know a darned thing about fish and scuba diving!

Moderator: Then you WERE creative! How do you submit to a local newspaper (or any newspaper?)

Jennifer: Newspapers generally don't have writers' guidelines, and many of their writers are their staff. I would make a resume and cover letter and mail it to the editor explaining briefly what you are interested in doing. Follow up later with a second letter, or if the editor has an e-mail address, this is usually okay too. Check periodically for "help wanted" ads put in by the newspaper for staff writers, editorial assistants or copy writers. Then apply. Keep trying. Also submit short special interest pieces or editorials that are more likely to get published.

michelle weslager: How did you initially get involved working with Scuba Times?

Jennifer: I found an ad in the local newspaper and I applied. The editor interviewed me and I wouldn't say I begged, but I did make it clear that I was willing to be a secretary as well as work on the magazine. I think my college degree in English and my eager beaver attitude got me in, BUT you don't need a degree either!

tigger: What is the difference between a staff writer and a copy writer?

Jennifer: A staff writer will cover local events, newsworthy topics. A copy writer writes ads, press releases, public relation type stuff. Both are on the pay roll; they just cover different types of writing.

tigger Can you approach a small regional magazine the same way you would approach a newspaper?

Jennifer: Yes, but I would always check and see if the magazine, no matter how small, has writers' guidelines. Then I would follow their procedures. Keep your eye out for ads too and see if and when they are hiring. It doesn't hurt to call the human resource department either and ask if they are hiring or know if they will be hiring in the future.

Moderator: How do you submit to a larger magazine?

Jennifer: Generally, most magazines have writers' guidelines and I would seek these out first and follow them to a "T"! Writers' guidelines are great tools to you, the writer. This tells you exactly what the publisher is looking for. They vary, of course, depending on the publisher.

Moderator: Do you need to look at a market listing first, before writing your story or article? Or do you write the story/article first, then look for a market for it?

Jennifer: Personally, I hardly ever write something for a specific market listing. I write what I know and from the heart, then I look and see who out there might be interested in publishing it. I've worked on assignment where the editor assigns me a topic, but I think it is harder to write for a specific market listing, unless you really know the subject or have something you are sure they would publish. Write what you know, find a list of publishers who might use it, and then go back and curb your piece towards each market. Some might require certain word lengths; others might like to use first person stories. You could take one story or article and change it ten different ways to appease each market listing. Personally, I still would write what I know and enjoy and then find a home for it. Writers do write for specific market listings though, and you will have to find out if this is right for you.

michelle weslager: If I were to work for a newspaper, how much would I be working from home?

Jennifer: Again, that depends on the newspaper. You'll probably have a desk or cubby and you'll probably be expected to show up. But with computers and if you're going out on an assignment you might also work at home a bit. I submitted articles to a newspaper, though I never worked for it, so I did all my writing at home. But then again, I wasn't on their staff. If you are a freelance writer, you'll do most of your work at home. If you're on someone's payroll, you'll probably have to go to work.

tigger: Can you be a freelancer for a newspaper?

Jennifer: I believe so. Again, :) you'd have to check with your newspaper editor. Most of the time you'll see the byline says: Staff Writer John Doe, but some accept freelance material on a regular basis. You could also most likely work out something with the editor. Remember, editorials are almost always from freelancers; they are a good place to start, but don't pay.

paulplqn: Do newspapers pay by the article or by the word?

Jennifer: Often if they pay it is by the word- it depends on the size of the newspaper. However, if you're a staff writer, which is probably the best way to work for a newspaper, you'll be paid by the hour or salary. Freelancing with newspapers is much harder than magazines. Magazines generally work with freelance writers rather than have their staff write everything. If you want to freelance from home, target magazines!

Moderator: What is the difference between a query letter and a cover letter?

Jennifer: A query letter is asking the editor if they'd be interested in you submitting an article on a specific topic. A cover letter goes along with the already written article or story. A cover letter is short. You let the editor know you are submitting this article or story for possible publication. You let the piece stand on its own and don't go into detail about what it is all about. You also might list some of your writing credits and thank the nice editor for considering you! A query goes into much more detail because the editor won't have the actual article or story in front of him/her. You have to sell your idea to the editor in one letter!

paulplqn: Which do editors respond most favorably to? Cover letter or query?

Jennifer: I would say with a newspaper- a query letter- but then you would be selling yourself and any ideas you might have. For magazines, you need to know ahead of time if the magazine only accepts queries or only accepts the full manuscript. Everything is different, depending on each editor and publication. Their guidelines will tell you which they prefer.

Moderator: Do you always need a cover letter with a manuscript?

Jennifer: Yes. It is important to establish some kind of relationship with the editor. If you send just an article or story and nothing else, how will he/she know your intentions? It is the polite and right thing to do. I don't read manuscripts without a cover letter. It tells me that the author really isn't interested in getting published. If they can't take the time to introduce themselves, then forget it!

Moderator: What if the guidelines just say to send to "Submissions Editor" or something like that? Should you try to find a specific name?

Jennifer: I think so. It is always better to send it to a specific person. You can call their number, but don't ask to talk to the editor. Just ask the receptionist who the submissions editor is and get a name that way. Also talking with other writers will help in getting names, addresses and knowing who is out there in the industry. If you can't get a name, don't worry about it too much. The editors will still read your work, and they'll base their decision on how well you write.

paulplqn: How prone have the editors you've worked with been to offering advice to authors whose style or content is a little "off" from what is normally published in their magazine?

Jennifer: I find that most editors are honest. If your style is only a little off, then most are willing to work with you to get your style a little more like theirs. However, if your style is off and the subject matter isn't really what they are looking for, then they will tell you this too and reject your work. Editors receive many submissions each day and so they need to be very choosy in what they accept. Some will offer lots of advice and encouragement, others won't. It depends on them as a person and how busy they are!

Moderator: I know we're supposed to study copies of the magazines. Is there a cheaper way to study magazine copies than send away for them?

Jennifer: Definitely visit the library. Libraries have many adult magazines and newspapers and some have an entire room devoted to them. Also, electronic news stands (on the Internet) are a great place to discover a magazine or newspaper's style or tone. They are easy to access and mostly free. If there is a particular magazine you are really interested in though, it is worth the money to get a copy. Don't forget when you visit the doctor's or dentist office, rummage through their piles of magazines and newspapers. I often find new markets doing this!

jack: What's an electronic news stand?

Jennifer: It's a place on the Internet that lists the news agencies and gives you all sorts of access including links etc. to these places. As Kristi pointed out me earlier, they are trying to sell subscriptions, but you find a slew of markets you probably never even knew existed. Www.enews.com www.newsdirectory.com www.mmnews.com - these are a few you can access to get an idea.

Moderator: Backing up a minute, what (in your opinion) makes a good query letter?

Jennifer: An idea that will sell. Magazines look for ideas that will grab their readers' attention. Also a good slant, and this is different than just a title. You will focus your subject to the magazine's content or style or just focus it on one subject. For example: How to Cook Chicken is vague and a huge subject. A slant would be : How to Cook Chicken Cajun Style! With all queries, a good hook is vital. Also a short list of any writing credits is a good idea. Remember, sell yourself! Entire books are written on the subject and I would invest in one. One of my favorites is How to Write Irresistible Query Letters by Lisa Collier Cool and published by Writer's Digest. Also, read any information in your student manuals on queries as well as handouts the school might give.

Moderator: As an editor, what things in a query make you sit up and take notice (both positively AND negatively)?

Jennifer: Positively, an author who comes across as professional and knowledgeable about the subject he/she is talking about. One who sounds eager to write, but not self-absorbed. Negative things are when a writer says his best friend thinks this is a great idea or his mother really enjoyed the piece. Another is an author who really doesn't know what he/she is talking about. It does show.

Moderator: Can a writer send the entire manuscript instead of a query?

Jennifer: If and only if the editor or the writers' guidelines specifically say send entire manuscript. I find that for a lot of magazine markets, they want queries first. Writing a query is time consuming and can take as much effort as writing an article. I would find examples of queries. The book I mentioned has some and the Long Ridge course offers more information on this.

jack: How do you find a slant or a narrow focus?

Jennifer: If you want to write for Southern Living, will you send them an article about how to cook chicken? Or will you find their niche - their focus - being things southern. It takes some brainstorming, but find a southern way to cook chicken that hasn't been done already, like fried. This is why studying a market is so important. Yankee Magazine out of New England accepts only New England related subjects, but a lot of them have been done already so you need to find something unique and different. Like Ten Ways to Eat Maple Syrup. It's okay to use an old subject, but find your slant by making it new and interesting. Brainstorm! Study the magazine.

Moderator: "Writing for free" is such a controversial topic among writers. What do you think? To get experience, should a writer consider volunteering their time at a newspaper? Or a magazine?

Jennifer: Absolutely! Of course we all want to get paid for our work, but when I first started out, I didn't care. I wanted the byline, the writing credit first. This built my resume and in a relatively short time, I was getting paid for my work. I think we always have to make sacrifices and new writers should make some. I still donate some of my work but it doesn't matter. I know the reward will come in another way. Name recognition, a writing credit, or I just made an editor's day because they don't have to pay me!

Moderator: What should new writers write about? What kinds of topics?

Jennifer: I would start with a subject you know well. Do you have a hobby? An unusual activity? Do you travel? Are you an expert at something? Do you like to write nostalgic pieces? Find your niche and write! Obviously there are hot subjects that sell more easily than others. You will need to decide what kinds of magazines you want to write for and learn all you can about them. Some hot subjects are: seasonal material, self help, financial advice, sex advice, relationships, travel and technology. Check out the magazines to see what people are reading about these days. War and crime might also be one!

mary: Can you send multiple queries out for the same article?

Jennifer: Yes, but be careful because some publishers only accept exclusive submissions to them. Unless I really want to get published with a magazine that does this, I send out my article to everyone first. After all, we are in the business to make money with our writing and I'd hate to hold up that process because one publisher wants to view it before anyone others. Don't send an article out to a publisher that wants it exclusively and also to other publishers. If it gets accepted somewhere else, you'll have to pull it from the other publisher and this could be embarrassing. I wouldn't know though from personal experience. You don't want to jeopardize your relationship with any editor.

mary: How long should you wait before you withdraw your article?

Jennifer: If it gets accepted with one publisher, withdraw it immediately from the others. Usually a letter will suffice.

paige: If an editor asks for a rewrite, is it acceptable to phone that editor for clarification of what exactly is required - content, word count, required time -- or should one write for information not outlined or made clear in the editor's letter?

Jennifer: See what kind of vibe you get from the editor's letter. I would probably write first since I don't know the editor that well. Sometimes you can call or even e-mail - e-mail is a good way to go because the editor can answer you in his/her own time.

bingocliff: What is an average length of time you should wait for the rejection/acceptance notice?

Jennifer: Oh boy, that depends on the publisher. Usually 3-6 months, but I've waited a year only to get a rejection. That is hard! This is why I try all my other options before I send it to a publisher exclusively.

mary: Should you choose a couple of target markets when you are starting out, or saturate the magazine market with queries?

Jennifer: I would choose a couple of target markets first. By studying the magazines, you'll know where your article or story will fit in best. By saturating the market with your queries you'll most likely end up getting a lot of rejections back, and all at once. Stay focused and take the time to study the magazine's guidelines and their content.

paulplqn: Do you copyright your work?

Jennifer: No! Because it's a waste of money. Did you know that your work is automatically copyrighted the moment you put pen to paper? Let a book publisher spend their money to copyright your work. When I first started out, I copyrighted some things only to find this out. Not only did it take months to get the copyright, but I spent nearly $100 doing it! If any of you have a Chicago Manual of Style it is a great reference for copyright material too among other things!

paulplqn: How do you legally protect yourself from plagiarism?

Jennifer: If you know that you have been plagiarized you hire a lawyer. You have to prove that a person stole your work. Most people in the industry, especially editors, know that work is automatically copyrighted and would never steal an idea or story. Honestly, I don't worry about this, but then I am careful who I send my material to. Again, it goes back to knowing your markets. By the way, be leery of subsidy publishers for this very reason. They are usually book publishers where you pay to have them print your work, but there are some dishonest people in this side of the industry...a little off topic, but something to be aware of.

mary: How do you prove it's your work without copyright? Is your dog-eared original enough?

Jennifer: You keep everything- your first draft to the last. Edits, rewrites, keep it all and date it all. It's a tricky business and you would need a lawyer, but I don't know anyone who has ever had this problem. It's common knowledge that your work is copyrighted once you get it on paper, though I am sure it is listed somewhere. I will have to find that out. Maybe Kristi knows?

Moderator: Yes, you're right. I do know a couple people who had this problem, and their drafts were enough for the lawyer to write nasty letters to the parties involved. Both cases got settled out of court because the authors could prove they'd written the pieces. Computer files of your various drafts would show the same thing, in case you don't want to keep all that paper around.

Moderator: Does a writer always need a bibliography for nonfiction?

Jennifer: I always request a bibliography for articles with factual information. This shows me where the author got their sources and that he/she didn't plagiarize. Bibliographies are good practice and I recommend you always include one with nonfiction. It won't hurt and could only improve your chances. Nostalgia and memoirs obviously don't need one, and even perhaps an expert in a specific field wouldn't necessarily need one unless they quoted someone directly.

Moderator: Does a writer need to provide photos or illustrations for nonfiction?

Jennifer: Again it depends on the publication. However, often a photo or illustration will seal the deal. It makes for less work for the editor if you provide him/her with all the things they need. Sidebars are also a good idea to put with a nonfiction article. I would not go out and hire an illustrator though. If you are a professional illustrator, do it yourself or wait and see what ideas the editor has if they accept your piece.

Moderator: Should a writer send pictures with the query or just say they're available upon request? And should the photos be purchased, if necessary, ahead of time or only if they're requested later?

Jennifer: This depends on the publisher. If I have photos I say that I have them and they are available upon request. I don't purchase any until I have sold the article. You will waste your time and money if you do buy them and then the piece gets rejected. Play it smart and treat your writing like a business.

Moderator: Jennifer, since you're an online editor for an e-magazine, let's talk a bit about publishing opportunities on the web (both in general and in family/parenting-related topics.)

Jennifer: There are tons of writing opportunities on the web. Many do not pay, but some don't. Often sites will publish material, but don't actively seek it. If you are interested in writing about technology for example and know of some great tech sites, find an e-mail address that you can write to. Ask if they are interested in articles on a particular tech subject. The worst they can say is no! There are also a huge number of parenting and family sites, many of which accept articles and essays. The bigger ones often have submission guidelines. They are not as easy to find though, so search the site from top to bottom. There are lots of smaller sites that are always looking for well written articles and essays. Your credit list will grow by writing on the web, but don't just do web writing. Seek out print as well.

Moderator: How strict are writers' guidelines? Are they rules to follow or just suggestions?

Jennifer: Very strict and follow them. There are usually few exceptions to their rules and they are not suggestions! By not following the guidelines you risk getting a rejection. If they want an article or story 1,000 words or less, don't send them one that is 1500! I can guarantee the editor won't read it or if he does, it's still too long for what they accept. He might ask you to rewrite it if it is really good, but save yourself time and the postage by following them - strictly!

bingocliff: Do these online sites have subscribers like magazines?

Jennifer: If they charge for a subscription, then yes. Parents magazine has a print magazine that you buy a subscription to, but they also have a web site that is free access. They publish articles on this site as well. My e-mag Wee Parents is purely an online magazine and so we don't have subscribers, but we do keep track of the number of people who read it each month - around 35,000. Some sites as you probably know request you to log in where you have to supply a user name and password. This is another way they keep track of their readers.

paulplqn: Is web writing viewed as a "lesser" credit than print?

Jennifer: It depends on the editor. I write and edit both print and online pieces and I accept both equally. Many others do see it as a lesser credit, but I think this opinion is changing. There are many high quality sites that publish fantastic writing, and I would not hesitate to use them as a credit.

Moderator: Do deadlines matter a lot as long as you let the editor know you'll be late? How important ARE deadlines?

Jennifer: Deadlines are very important as you may well know in taking the Long Ridge course. I hate it when an author tells me they will be late with a piece because I am on such a tight schedule. It messes up how I operate the magazine because I have to allow for this late person. It may sound harsh, but please stick to your deadline. Unless there is an illness or death, an accident or major world event, I don't tolerate tardiness. It will also make the editor not want to work with you in the future. :)

paulplqn: Are there concerns about the safety of work published online? What prevents someone using cut & paste to keep/steal your work?

Jennifer: Well, unfortunately, there is little one can do unless the e-magazine is like ours and puts in the program - an HTML code that prevents this from happening. People can't copy and save the information in our e-mag, but many sites don't know how to do this. Because the Internet is so huge it would be very difficult for you to find this out and sadly, this could be a risk. But if you do find out, hire a lawyer!

tigger: When you list an online credit in a cover letter, do you need to specify that it is an online magazine, or are most print magazine editors familiar with online magazines?

Jennifer: I wouldn't necessarily specify, but often I put Parents Online, or published at Wee Parents.com. It's best to be honest when it comes to your cover letter regardless and don't be ashamed of using online credits. I don't know that most editors know all the e-magazines out there simply because there are so many and so many sites. Again, be honest!

Moderator: You see many people writing monthly columns for magazines, both online and off. If you'd like to write a column, how do you go about it?

Jennifer: I have many authors write to me about writing a column. Dr. Fred Bortz is one and Kathy Dobson writes for Wee Parents. They simply e-mailed me, told me their credits and their desire to write a column. They also told me how they thought it would be beneficial to our e-magazines and bring in readers. I would have a resume and a list of writing credits. Know the magazine you want to write for and let the editor know how you can benefit them by having a regular column. Columns are good because people know and trust the writer and come back again and again to read their work, but I think you do need some writing experience.

Moderator: Being a Baby Boomer, I've noticed all kinds of nostalgia writing and memoirs being published. How do you find publishers for this kind of adult writing?

Jennifer: Writer's Digest Books and Long Ridge put out a market guide that lists many, many publishers in the adult writing industry. Go to your local library to study a copy, or buy one and go through all the listings. Find the publishers that use these kinds of pieces and submit! It is very popular these days after recent horrific events. People are returning to their roots and everyone has a story to tell!

Moderator: Jennifer, since you're an editor too, let me ask you some things from that perspective now. Can you tell us a bit about the demands on editors, both magazine and newspaper editors?

Jennifer: It's such a tough life...ha ha ha. Deadlines are hard and working with people from many backgrounds make it both a joy and difficult at times. We receive many submissions which have to be read through and answered. Time is short in this business, so we must make good use of it always. It is a joy though to read a good piece and make someone's day by accepting it - by far the best part of the job!

mary: How do you know which online magazines are reputable?

Jennifer: You need to study them, then ask questions by e-mailing them. I say if they've been online 1 year or more, pay their contributors and answer you honestly and in a reasonable amount of time, they are probably reputable. If they are listed in your market guides, I would also go with them. Use your own judgment and don't be afraid to ask some questions.

Moderator: What can you share, as editor of Wee Parents, about submissions you'd like to see?

Jennifer: Well, Wee Parents and Wee Teach is being combined into one teaching resource as of January, 2003. So we are not looking for parenting articles and essays as we have in the past. We will be focusing - finding our niche - on children's literacy, children's books, e-books, and reading. We are still hashing this out and will be posting new guidelines on our site in the next couple of months. If you're a teacher or have a love for reading, this may be a good market for you. We do have specific guidelines which we follow closely and expect authors to do the same. :)

Moderator: Sounds very exciting, the changes you're making! I'm sorry to have to stop now, but we're out of time. Jennifer, thank you so much for coming and sharing your expertise with tonight's viewers. It's especially helpful to hear from someone who is both a writer AND an editor. We appreciate your time tonight!

Jennifer: Thank you! That was great and I wish you all the best success!

Moderator: Do come back in two weeks on August 15 for our next Professional Connection interview. And in the meantime, enjoy your writing! Good night, everyone.

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