Thursday, 28 February 2008

Know Your Reader!

You stand more chance of getting published if you write with a specific reader in mind. It doesn't matter whether you are writing a letter, article, short story, novel, non-fiction book ... whatever. You need to know who you are talking too.

If you're writing for the magazine market, let me give you a sneaky little secret. Do a seach on the internet for the 'media pack' for the name of the magazine you're interested in writing for. They are often available as PDF files, which most computers can open particularly if you have Adobe's free reader programme (

A Media Pack is designed for advertisers, not writers, so it isn't all of interest to writers, but they have their uses. Let me give you an example. Eve magazine is a woman's magazine here in the UK and they have a media pack, which you can view online at

Go through and you will discover useful information about Eve readers including:

  • the magazine views itself as a 'truly, luxurious treat for intelligent, independent and stylish women in the 30s'
  • they are well educated, interested in personal development
  • 30% of its reader earn between £50,000 and £100,000 per annum
  • spend over £90 per month on beauty products
  • the magazine has 294,000 readers

The media pack also mentions a special website for their readers about cars

The average eve reader is 37 years old.

Wow - that's quite a lot of information. But already you can see that if the readers spend an average £90 per month on beauty products, then your "Ten Top Beauty Tips for under £2.50" clearly isn't going to fit.


Using media pack information is NOT a short cut to market analysis. A media pack WILL NOT tell you how long the average article is. It WILL NOT tell you which pages are open to freelance written material. It WILL NOT tell you how much they pay for reader's letters.

But used in conjunction with your own magazine analysis, they will help you gain a better understanding of who your reader is.

Here are some media packs for a range of UK magazines which may be of interest:

That should keep you busy!

Good luck.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Outstanding Achievement

One of my students, Penny Legg, is tackling the course from the beautiful island of Anguilla, and one of her challenges has been finding markets. There's clearly no WHSmiths, Borders, or Tescos store there with a huge array of publications to choose from. Which has meant that Penny has had to be creative in her markets - a step that has led to a recent award for the recognition of her work.

This is a picture of Penny receiving an 'Outstanding Achievement Award' from the President of the Anguillan Chamber of Commerce for all the hard work she has put in producing their regular newsletter.
Now a Chamber of Commerce newsletter is not a 'traditional' market for many writers, but I think it's a clear reminder of a very basic fact - every word you read has to be written by somebody. So if that's the case, why shouldn't it be you?
Effectively, Penny is the writer, photographer and editor of the newsletter, (does she reject herself at times, I wonder?) which are all great opportunities in helping her to hone her skills. And despite being based on a tiny island, she's also achieved many other successes.
One of which is a regular column with the local paper - The Anguillian. Penny's column "Thoughts of an Expat Living on Anguilla" have covered a variety of topics, ranging from Robert Burns, her 25th Wedding Anniversary, through to going on a First Aid course.
She's also written numerous articles for "Island Where" magazine and "Anguillan Life", which has meant interviewing some colourful characters along the way.
I know that Penny wants to explore bigger and better paying markets when she returns to England later this year, but I think her achievements to date demonstrate that success can come in a variety of formats and not necessarily the ones that you expect. As I often say to students, the joy of writing is that you never know where it will take you. Sometimes I think it does us all good to go back to that very first assignment, the one where you have to write about why you want to be a writer, and then look at what you have achieved.
Well done Penny!

Monday, 11 February 2008

Success comes to those who persevere

One of my students is walking on cloud 9 at the moment, (if not cloud 99). He's just been asked by an editor to write an article. Yes, the editor approached him. He's been commissioned. How did he do it? By hard work and perseverance.

The editor knew him, because he'd submitted several pieces of work on spec, some of which the editor had used. So the editor knew that my student could write and produce publishable work. 

It's so easy to give up. It's so easy to become despondent when a manuscript is returned. We spend so much time putting our thoughts and efforts into producing a piece, it is so disheartening when an editor says 'no'. But that time is only wasted IF we just shrug our shoulders and give up. However, writers who pick up their pen once again, or switch on their keyboards, will use the experience in which to grow as a writer. 

So instead of working on just his assignments, this student has written other material and had confidence in submitting his work. Yes he's had rejections, but he's also had several successes. But he wouldn't have had an editor commission him if he had given up. 

Keep persevering and it will pay off. You too could get that phone call from an editor asking you to help him out. And that feeling is one of the best in the world.

Oh and John - well done, by the way.  

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Professionals follow the rules

I'm currently in the process of judging the Essay/Article category of The New Writer magazine's Poetry & Prose Competition 2007.

What astounds me is the level of rule breaking. The rules clearly state:

All work should be double-spaced - 10 entrants decided this rule didn't apply to them - one of whom had submitted more than one entry. Unfortunately, because they broke that rule, in fairness to the other candidates, I couldn't judge their entries, I HAD to disqualify them.

All work should be paperclipped - another 9 entrants felt that stapling would be better. Well they were wrong. I HAD to disqualify their entries.

There should be no identifying marks on the entry - working on the principle that your name helps to identify who you are and is therefore an identifying mark, I HAD 5 additional entries to disqualify. Is this harsh? Well how else am I supposed to judge a competition with impartiality if an entrant's name appears on the entry?

With writing competitions the rules are there for a reason. If you break the rules YOU WILL BE DISQUALIFIED. Why not save the postage and just give the entry fee to the next beggar you pass in the street?

How much time and effort those entrants put into their submissions, I don't know, but it was all wasted because they didn't put enough effort into reading and adhering to the rules.

And the same goes for publication too. If a magazine states that no unsolicited manuscripts will be considered, don't even waste your time in sending one. It smacks of amateurish unprofessionalism. Do what they ask and send a query letter first.

I'm now in the final shortlisting stage of the judging process, so while I mull things over in my mind, I've cast an eye over the disqualified entries. There are two there that showed promise. Had they read the rules and followed them to the letter, their entries could now have been in the final shortlist. But they're not because they broke the rules.

Congratulations to all those entrants who did follow the rules. Your chances of success are therefore much, much greater.