Monday, 27 June 2011

Whoops!

Here's evidence that magazines get it wrong from time to time. In the latest issue of MacWorld magazine, a reader has written in to the Letters page pointing out the fact that last month's (July issue) Star letter seemed a little familiar. When the writer investigated, his sense of deja vu was not without grounding - the letter had been published the previous month - in the June issue of the same magazine!

The writer went on to ask why the letter was not the Star letter in June, but was deemed suitable as a Star Letter in the July issue!

Well, the magazine owned up to a mistake and printed an explanation (sort of) - apparently a new member of staff had taken over and so was not aware of what had been printed on the Letters page the previous month. Hmmm. Not sure I think that explains everything. After all, I'm sure there would have been a spare copy of the previous issue lying around the office somewhere!

Anyway, there are two points I want to make here - firstly, it just proves that magazine staff are human too, and they can make mistakes. And secondly, it also proves that you can get published by pointing out these errors! (The magazine could simply have ignored the writer who wrote in to point out this error, but they didn't - they published his letter.)

So, if you spot something in a magazine that doesn't look quite right ... then write in and let them know.

Good luck.

Monday, 20 June 2011

There's No Such Thing As Standing Still ...

Fellow writer and friend, Julie Phillips, has started a Facebook page on the theme of 'Bring Back Fiction to Women's Magazines'. This is as a direct result of the weekly Take a Break magazine dropping its Coffee Break fiction slot. (It is continuing to publish its Fiction Feast monthly magazine though.)

This is a shame, because I have sold a couple of fiction stories to the weekly magazine, and this paid more for the story in its Coffee Break fiction slot, than it does for stories it uses in its Fiction Feast publication!

If you'd like to join Julie's Bring Back Fiction to Women's Magazines campaign, then please visit:
http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_217894074910266 (you will need to login to Facebook to see this).

I mention this for two reasons - firstly, to publicise Julie's Facebook page. Secondly, this is a good example of demonstrating that magazines don't stand still. They change over time. They evolve. Every so often, a new editor will be brought in and they will revamp the magazine, give it a new style, drop some regular slots and bring in new columns and writers. Other magazines that have undergone such changes recently are MacUser magazine and Esquire.

Following on from last week's post, where I recommended that you actually scrutinise a physical copy of a magazine, this week's message is that once you've done this, that isn't the end of the matter. If it has been a while since you last looked at a particular title, then take a look at the latest copy. Not only may you spot a change in the contact details, but the magazine may have changed quite drastically too.

Occasionally, when magazines want to increase their circulation, or appeal to a slightly different audience, they will undergo a radical change. One such magazine is My Weekly. Six years ago, the average age of its readership was 62. In 2006, its owners, DC Thompson, spent £1 million revamping the magazine, targeting it at a younger readership, aged mid-40s and upwards. It ditched a lot of its 'comfy' features, such as nostalgia, and children's stories, and began offering articles on health, travel and, of course, celebrities!

So the message here this week is, magazines don't stand still and rest on their laurels. It's a tough market place out there for advertising. To get the advertising revenues in, a magazine has to attract a regular readership. Every now and then, it might change or update the magazine in an attempt to keep its existing readership, whilst trying to appeal to new readers too. If you haven't looked at a specific magazine for more than 12 months, it might be worth picking up the latest issue. You may be surprised by what you see.

Good luck.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Let's Get Physical!

I've noticed a trend amongst some of my students, recently. Their market analysis hasn't been as detailed as it could be. Now, I know that some people are just so keen to get started on writing up their great idea that they think this is an easy bit to skip, but there's more to it than that. They are using the internet as their ONLY source of analysis, and when you are starting out, that isn't sufficient. You can learn much more by looking at a physical copy of the publication.

Whilst many magazines have an online presence, the amount of information they have on their website varies. Some magazines upload a virtual copy of the entire contents, adverts and all. Those are great - just like looking at the physical copy. However, some merely offer an abridged version, with shortened articles, and this is what is causing the problems. One student had read example articles at 500 words, but when I looked at a physical copy of the magazine, I realised that these were abridged versions and the print copy articles were nearer 1,000 words. So, clearly, if you've written a 500-word article and the editor uses soemthing that is twice a long, then your piece simply doesn't fit. It will be rejected.

Seeing a physical copy also has other benefits. I think it is easier to gain a better overview of the publication's style and ethos, simply by the way that other objects, like photos, sidebars, further information panels, boxouts, etc are dealt with on the physical page. This isn't necessarily the same as on a webpage. A computer magazine that I read has a laid-back, humorous approach to articles and information, yet if you were to read the same material online, the friendly, chatty style does not come across as well - not because different words are used (the words are the same) but the website uses a blogging format, which means there isn't the creative freedom to design the webpage in the same humorous way as they do on the physical page.

Also, some magazines only share the information online that they think will bring in the most online advertising. So, an online copy of a magazine may not show the letters page, whereas the print version will.

The Internet is immensley useful, but it doesn't always give you the whole picture. Sometimes, the best way to get to know a publication is to look at a physical copy. That isn't always easy, but it's an important point to note. It hasn't been lost on me, the fact that the foreign publications I've had successes with are the ones where I've been able to obtain a physical copy of the publication, rather than rely on the Internet version.

And just before I go, a small plug ... I've been invited to run a weekend course on behalf of the Relax & Write workshops, in Derbyshire in April 2012, where I'll be offering my Seven Steps to Publication Success. A breakdown of the weekend's course, (and who to contact with regards to booking - not me!) can be found on my website here:
http://www.simonwhaley.co.uk/tutoringtalks/relax-and-write-courses/

Essentially, we'll look at quick ways to get published, how to analyse magazines, identify the best slots in magazines that are open to freelance writers, the different ways to structure an article and how to deal with boxouts, fact files and photos.

Good luck.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Think Like A Writer ... Not A Reader

"None of the magazines I like use freelance writers," is a common moan I hear from students. "Women's magazines just don't interest me," is another I hear from some of my male students.

One thing these comments have in common, is that these potential writers are going into their local newsagents, gazing at the magazines on the shelves in front of them and thinking like a READER.

NO. NO. NO. NO! If you want to be a writer, then you have to look at magazines as a WRITER. Don't buy a magazine because you think it looks like one that you'll enjoy reading - buy it to see if you might be able to write something for it.

This means going out of your way to buy a magazine you wouldn't normally buy. Buy titles you've never looked at before. Buy titles you've never heard of before. Buy titles you can't even pronounce! (The picture in this posting, being one such publication.)

I am no gardener, but I have had articles published in gardening magazines. I haven't built my own house, but I had an article published in SelfBuild & Design magazine. I don't live in Cumbria, but I've had several articles published in the county magazine, Cumbria.

Every publication you see is a potential market. Remember, every word you read has been written by somebody, so take a closer look. Why shouldn't that somebody be you? For the men, that means buying the women's magazines ... and yes, they do use articles written by men, because I've done it. And for the women, that means buying men's magazines, like Men's Health or What Car? ... and yes ... I've seen articles written by women in both of these.

Don't let your prejudices as a reader, influence your thinking as a writer. I often say to students that writing for the magazines they enjoy reading can be a good thing to start off with, because as a regular reader, you already know what the magazine is about and the type of articles they like to use. (As a reader, you'll have been subconsciously doing the market analysis bit, as you've read the publication for your personal enjoyment.) However, the publications you read are simply the very pinprick at the tip of that iceberg of publications.

Next time you see a magazine you've never seen before, take a closer look. If you've never looked at it before, how do you know that you won't be able to write something for it?

Good luck.