Monday, 27 February 2012

How Many Editors Does It Take To Edit A Magazine?

No, this isn't a joke - there is a reason for discussing this. Some magazines have more than one editor. Take a look at Coast magazine, for example, which has the following:

  • An Editor-in-Chief
  • An Editor,
  • A Deputy Editor,
  • A Chief Sub-Editor,
  • A Picture Editor,
  • An Acting Assistant Editor,
  • A Deputy Web Editor,
  • An Associate Web Editor.
I've even seen some magazines who have an 'Editor at Large'. 

Now, if you're looking to submit a pitch to a magazine, which one are you going to pitch to?

Avoid the 'Editor-in-Chief' or the 'Editor-at-Large'. These people are rarely involved in the day-to-day running of the magazine. They're there to oversee the general direction of where the magazine is heading. It is quite common for an 'Editor-in-Chief' to be the 'Editor-in-Chief' for more than one magazine within the company's group of magazines. (It's the Editor in Chief, who gets invited to all the swanky lunches - and let's face it - there's little point in sending an email pitch to someone who isn't sat at their desk.)

A good editor to look out for is the Commissioning Editor - for it is their job to commission! But if no one is listed in the staff list as that, then consider approaching the editor, or the deputy editor. If you're pitching an article, then the Features Editor is another job title worth looking out for.

There are some magazines who have editors for specific sections of the magazine. For example, there may be a cookery editor, a travel editor, a health editor or a beauty editor. If any of your ideas are targeted at a specific slot within the magazine, then you may be better approaching the editor of that slot, rather than the main editor.

The job description of 'editor' can be bandied about a little too easily at times. Salaries within the publication world can be lower than other industries and one way to give someone a perk is to 'boost' their job title!

When I had a regular column in one particular magazine, I was most surprised to see the editor refer to me (in the editor's letter at the beginning of the magazine) as their Outdoor Editor. It was the first, and only time, I was referred to as such!

Next time you analyse a magazine and spot a selection of editors in its staff list, make a note of all of the names and then make your pitch to the most suitable editor. Sometimes, going to the top won't always result in a response. Picking someone lower down the editorial ladder might be a better way of getting an answer to your query.

Good luck.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Got A Favourite Recipe?

Do you have a favourite recipe? If so, and you can take a photo of it, then look out for Take a Break's new magazine My Favourite Recipe.

They're looking for readers [or writers :-)] to send in their favourite recipes, which could be a classic recipe, or one you've adapted for everyday use, or for those special occasions.

What they need is:

  • the recipe,
  • a photo of the final, cooked dish,
  • and a photo of you.
For each recipe they feature they pay £25, and readers have the chance to vote for their favourite recipe of the month. The recipe for the most votes wins £500.

Taking photos of the finished dish isn't straight forward, so Take a Break have offered some useful tips:

  • Keep the background clear and unfussy. Take the finished dish on a white table cloth, not up against the microwave with a family pack of Doritos hanging over the edge!
  • Don't zoom in too much - take the whole dish, not just the fancy parsley crowning the top.
  • Hold the camera about a foot (30cms) away from the dish.
  • Take a couple of photos - one from above and one from the side.

Further details can be found on

Now, where's my recipe for beans on toast?

Good luck.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Are You Running In The Same Direction?

Are you running in the same direction as everyone else? By that, I mean are you treading the same path of ideas that other writers are walking in?

It's not yet February 14th, and already I've been overwhelmed with Valentine's Day stories and articles. Don't get me wrong; it can be good to give your ideas a topical hook, but sometimes by avoiding following other writers and going down a less obvious path you can make your writing more interesting.

This February 14th, millions of people will go out for a romantic meal (hopefully, with their loved ones!). I'm sure there will be some who do it purely because that's what everyone else is doing. Therefore, they think that what's they ought to be doing.

It can be like that with writing sometimes. If you're targeting the February issue of a magazine, for example, (which you may have been doing back in August) the temptation to give it a Valentine's angle or theme, or even simply a love theme, may have been strong. And that's what many other writers will be doing - and indeed - many magazine editors will be looking for something about Valentine's Day for their February issue. However, they may not want EVERYTHING in their publication to be Valentine's Day themed. As a reader, I would find it pretty monotonous after a while.

So, instead of following the pack, consider veering off at a tangent. Why not give your article / story a Shrove Tuesday angle? Or what about the following day? Ash Wednesday. Focusing on the theme of repentance, or abstinence, still gives your piece a February angle, but it's a little more different to the romantic one.

There are other ways in which you can break away from the writing pack. For many people, publication is what they seek from their writing. To do this though, it is necessary to follow the pack and write the sort of material that publishers want to publish. However, don't forget about the writing that you enjoy. Break away from the pack, from time to time, and indulge in a little writing of your own.

Running in the same direction as everyone else, means that you'll make the same observations as many. Go off in a different direction and you may see something that everyone else fails to spot. Your destination could still be the same as everyone else's - but your journey doesn't have to follow the same route.

Good luck.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Snow Falls In Winter!!!!!

As titles go, the title of this post is hardly newsworthy, yet looking at the headlines in some of the weekend newspapers, that's effectively what they were saying! Still, the newspapers make such a fuss when the sun shines in summer, so I suppose it is only to be expected.

Whether you're writing non-fiction, or fiction, titles are important. Yes, an editor can change a title to one they think is better, but the one you choose is the one the editor sees - and he/she is the person whose attention you want to grab! So, time invested in a title isn't wasted.

Take a Break's Fiction Feast magazine has stories that it classifies as Tale with a Twist, Put Your Feet Up, Spine Chiller, One from the Heart, and Love Story. Here are the titles (in italics) for the stories for each section of the March 2012 issue:

  • Tale with a Twist: I Can See The Future, Mummy; Drama on the Balcony; My Secret Valentine; The Baby Problem; Who Needs Taking Care Of?; One Night At the Movies
  • Put Your Feet Up: Tumbling out of love;
  • Spine Chiller: Destination Terror; You Belong To Me Now; 
  • Put Your Feet Up: Not A Happy Shopper; Smile, Smile, Smile; What Goes Around;   
  • One from the Heart: A Shed full of Secrets; On the Seashore
  • Love Story: A Good Judge of Character; The Love Spell
Look at how the titles emphasize the story's theme. Destination Terror and You Belong To Me Now clearly suggest they deal with some quite terrifying situations or characters. Whereas Smile, Smile, Smile puts a smile on your face and tells you that this is a story you can relax with.

The style and tone of a publication is frequently reflected in the titles it chooses for its features, or stories, so it's useful to try to emulate this in your own title. In the weekly Take a Break magazine, (issue 26th January 2012), the following titles appeared:

  • I'm putting you up for sale, Aaron!
  • He showed me NO MERCY.
  • Sue's big FAT bucket list
  • The baby who bounced.
  • My face is ON FIRE!
  • My kitten was COOKED
The sensational style comes across in many of these, and the use of capital letters for emphasis is interesting too: NO MERCY, FAT, ON FIRE and COOKED.

Whereas, Country Living magazine (March 2012) has the following titles:

  • The Otter
  • Patterns and Pins
  • AHEAD of the HERD
  • Fleeting Visions
  • A Sense of Style
  • In the midst of magnolias
  • Rustic rewards in Cornwall
Notice how these titles are calming and relaxing, compared to Take a Break's.

However, despite the difference in style and tone between the two publications, there are also several similarities the two magazine's titles share. For example, for some titles, simply tell the reader what the article is about is enough: The baby who bounced (TaB), The Otter (CL).

Alliteration, the repetition of a particular sound, or first letter, is popular title choice too. My kitten was cooked (kitten, cooked) My face is on fire (face, fire) The baby who bounced (baby, bounced) - all in TaB, and Patterns and Pins (patterns, pins), A Sense of Style (Sense, Style), Rustic rewards in Cornwall (rustic, rewards), In the midst of magnolias (midst, magnolias) all in CL.

Quotes can make great titles, especially if they encapsulate the essence of your piece. An article I wrote about the Royal Yacht Britannia I decided to title as A Country House at Sea because that's the phrase Queen Elizabeth used when she was involved in designing its interior.

Song titles, proverbs, sayings, can all provide inspiration for possible titles. In fact, you might find playing about with other people's titles as a useful way of generating a new title, and a new idea. At a short story workshop, we were asked to change film titles, replacing one word with a similar sounding word. So, instead of Judgment Day we came up with Judgment Drey. As a group, we plotted a story about a small brewery who were going to replace their Shire horse and cart with a white van, unless the staff could come up with a reason why the Shire horse shouldn't be retired. On the day the judgment was going to be taken, heavy rain flooded the local village, which meant no cars and vans could get through ... but a Shire horse and cart could! And all that came about from simply playing around with the words in the title.

Titles are your sales banners. They need to catch your reader's attention and encourage them to read the first paragraph of your piece (so that your excellent writing in your first paragraph will hook them into the rest of your piece). They won't reach that fist paragraph, if the title doesn't grab their attention. If you've put a lot of effort into your work, remember that it's worth putting the same amount of effort into your title too. That first reader, the editor, is your most important reader.

Good luck.