Ten days ago I received a phone call. Country Walking magazine enquired if I could undertake an urgent walk for them. Naturally, I said yes. Then I made the mistake of listening to the weather forecast and believing it when it said things would brighten up on the Sunday.
Anyway, I did the walk and spent Monday writing it up and processing the photos. Later on Monday afternoon Country Walking got back in touch. Could I do them some additional text for a new section they’re doing, linked to the walk I’d just done? (Naturally, I said yes again.) The deputy editor emailed the specific requirements, and when I say specific, I mean specific. I was given a breakdown of the number of words required for each heading. Some needed fewer than 50 words, others could be as long as 90 words.
Why am I saying this? Well, I recently marked a student’s assignment where he’d written an article that he thought could be suitable for two markets. But he hadn’t decided which one. When I reviewed them online I could see that although both markets used 1,000-word pieces (the length he’d written), they were both structured completely differently. My student had written one straightforward (no headings or other structure) 1,000-word piece. However, one of his target markets preferred three similar length sections (about 300 words each with a 50-word intro and conclusion), while the other had up to ten separate headings, with short paragraphs underneath.
My student’s article didn’t follow either of these, but at least it was relatively simple to adjust the text accordingly. However, before he does that he still has to make a decision: which one market is he going to go for first?
While it’s a simple exercise to alter your text for a different market, it makes sense to write it in the right structure to begin with. As my instructions from Country Walking show, some publications have detailed requirements for some sections of their publication. And if you’re targeting that section then you need to adhere to its structure.
So the next time you target a publication examine the structure the magazine uses in the slot you’re hoping your text will be bought for. Do you follow the same structure, right down to the number of words per heading? It could make the difference between a sale and a rejection.