A thought. A word. A sentence. A paragraph. A page. A chapter – or a Magazine Story!
by Marcus A. Nannini
Combine all the concepts in the above title, and a person is looking at the first solid step in completing a book manuscript or magazine article. It’s not easy, but it isn’t all that hard, either. Completing a writing project is a matter of imagination and discipline. I can’t supply either, but I can offer some thoughts.
What, you don’t think you have a good enough imagination? Then write about real events, people, and/or places – based on your own experiences. If you don’t have enough for a book, I bet you’d have enough for a 2,500-word magazine story, and magazines are always looking for stories to print. Many of them pay $200 and more per article. Two hundred bucks would buy a brief getaway at a resort and beats making nothing from your writing efforts while simultaneously getting your name out there.
But before you begin writing a magazine story, take an hour or two or three of your life to devote to magazine research. I routinely post links on the Phoenix Publishing and Book Marketing Facebook page. How do I find them? Research.
Here’s a sample from earlier this month: thewritelife.com/where-to-submit-short-stories.
Using Google, or Yahoo, or MSN, research becomes much easier. Let me provide a sample search term: “magazines seeking stories about pets.”
I entered that search term into MSN and came up with seven good sources on the first results page. Read through the results and study which magazine is most on point for your story. Then check out the submission requirements and either copy and paste them onto a Word Doc or print them out. You will need to follow the submission requirements to the letter, so keep them handy.
Now you have identified at least one magazine that will pay you money for your story and you know what they are looking for in terms of submitting to them.
Next, set your font to either Garamond or Times New Roman, 12 point, DOUBLE SPACED, and you are ready to begin. Always double space any writing you are submitting for consideration and use a 1-inch margin, unless otherwise specified. Yes, Ariel uses less ink and takes up less space on a page, but if you want someone to read your work, don’t use it. For one thing, it pixelates and is difficult to read. It also marks you as an amateur.
In the upper right corner of the Header, line #1 should bear the title of your work; line #2 is your name. All professionals will expect your header to contain the foregoing. Then add your page numbers, usually at the bottom. Now you can type Word Number 1 of your manuscript.
What if you already have 40,000 single-spaced words in some 10-point font you happen to like? It’s time to highlight your entire work and change the line spacing and fonts. Of course, if you had checked out publisher and/or agent manuscript requirements before you wrote Word Number 1, you’d be ahead of the game.
If you are in the position of working with an editor under contract and that same editor tells you to single space your manuscript, RUN! You will be wasting your time. A single space mentality conveys to me the editor never (successfully) submitted a manuscript of their own. I am not making this stuff up – I am only stating what you would have learned in Journalism 101. Also, use a standard left margin. Don’t cheat by using narrow margins so you can fit more words onto a page. This doesn’t make your submission any shorter; it just makes you look like a greenhorn. Your time should be spent writing, not going back and reformatting!
The submission guidelines will also tell you how many words the publication is seeking. If they are looking for 1,500 to 2,000 words, don’t submit 2,500 words. You might get away with 2,030 – but not 2,500. Don’t waste your time or their time. Never waste an acquisitions editor’s time through carelessness if you want to be considered in the future.
Acquisition editors, the people who review submitted materials for possible publication, have zero patience for writers who fail to follow their stated submission guidelines. No matter how good your story might be, it must follow the magazine’s stated submission parameters, or you wasted a lot of time because they just won’t read it.
Do I know what I am talking about? I have published two stories with online magazines this year alone, and sold three more pieces to WW II History Magazine. All three of these publications require vastly different word counts, but they all want them double-spaced with a 12-point font, as I have indicated above.
Magazines are a good way to break into the ranks of published authors and are an excellent tool for establishing a platform for yourself. And there are hundreds of magazines out there covering every obscure, and not-so-obscure, topic you can imagine.
If you don’t have a book in your head, then try the magazine route. Once you have published your first story, you have commenced creating your Publishing Curriculum Vitae. The more stories your write, the more likely you will be to discover you do have a book manuscript in you – and guess what? When seeking a publisher or a literary agent for your book manuscript, your magazine publishing history will pay-off in a big way!
Why are you still sitting there reading this? Get going!
Marcus Nannini began his journalistic career when he published his own newspaper in the sixth grade, charging 25 cents for the privilege of reading the only printed copy of each edition. During his undergraduate years, Nannini was a paid reporter and worked three semesters as the research assistant for journalism professor and published author Richard Stocks Carlson, Ph.D. Nannini is a life-long history buff with a particular interest in World War II and the Pearl Harbor attack. His continuing curiosity over several Japanese aerial photographs and the turtling of the U.S.S. Oklahoma lead him to write Chameleons, first as a screenplay and now as a full-length novel. His latest work, Left for Dead at Nijmegen, has recently debuted to great regard, internationally.
As usual, very informative. Thank you.