Print Writing: Getting The Goods

Today we have a few tips for "getting the goods" in print writing. Let's begin with finding guidelines so you can craft a query...

Getting The Guidelines

When you are writing for print, the guidelines for the publication are the golden rule you need to follow. Problem is...not every magazine puts these on the web for you. So where do you find them?

Here are the two things I do most often:

+ Send an e-mail and ask for them.

Keep this simple. Don't go on about yourself or send half-baked pitches. Simply request guidelines and thank the person for their time. Don't get sent to the spam folder by trying a clever subject line. Just put something in there like "guidelines request" or "guidelines for writers".

Who do you send the e-mail to? Depends on who is available. An editorial assistant is fine, but you can also ask for them from a managing editor, or an editor. Don't try an editor-at-large (they may not even work directly for the publication), and if there are many choices, it's probably a good idea to avoid the top editor position.

+ Google.

Not all guidelines can be found this way, but many can. Also, if you are looking for one magazine, you might also find related publications that you can pitch an idea to if you're lucky. For example, if you are searching for guidelines for "Chicago Magazine" you might also find info on the "Chicago Reader".

Getting A Response

Once you send in a query, the next step is waiting for a response. This can be a maddening experience. Here's how to survive it:

+ Wait the amount of time the guidelines state before following up.

Don't be pushy. If the guidelines say that you should receive a response within three months, don't follow up in two. Respect the time-frame. If you don't, you might blow it.

+ Send a gentle reminder.

If you have followed the previous step, follow up--but gently. (And wait two weeks or so before you do for good measure.) Send the original e-mail with a brief follow-up, and don't write too much. Simply state you are checking in on a query submitted (add the date) and request an update.

Getting Paid

When the article has been submitted and you are ready to get paid, there are some things you should be aware of first. Some publications require you to invoice them, others do contracts and still others simply send a check. If this is your first time working for the publication, just ask what they prefer if they haven't already made it clear.

If you have worked with them before, be sure to follow the protocol. Some things to keep in mind if you invoice include:

  • Dating the invoice
  • Submitting all of the information for payment (name, address or PayPal addy, SS# or EIN# if applicable)
  • Describing the work completed

For contracts, be sure to:

  • Know what you are signing
  • Do the best you can to protect your rights to sell the piece again
  • Keep a signed copy for your records
  • Send them in immediately

Do you have any suggestions for getting the goods in print writing? If so, please share them here!

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Catherine L. Tully has over nine years of experience writing for magazines such as American Style, AAA Living and Boys' Life. She is the editor for an award-winning blog on freelance writing and also owns and edits a blog for dance professionals.

1 thought on “Print Writing: Getting The Goods”

  1. This is helpful information, especially about getting paid. I was burned by a magazine because I didn’t have a contract in place before I started writing. I know. It was a tough lesson to learn. What can I say, I was a newbie freelance writing starting out, and I wanted to be published in a magazine. I got my wish; I just didn’t get paid for it. The silver lining is I have clips to show potential clients.

    I’d like to add that it’s important for writers to read previous issues and reread them. If the publications are online and allow readers to comment, read the comments. This is a great way to make sure your story ideas are in alignment with the publications you pitch and that readers will be interested in your story ideas.

    Good luck!


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