In my last post, Writing Magazine Articles – The Easier Way to Get Published, I promised you two case studies of successful magazine articles. Apologies for the delay but I’ve only just returned from two weeks exploring Austria and Slovenia (neat places) in extreme temperatures, but here they are:
Case Study 1 – Big Fish for Adventure Travel Magazine
This was the first article I ever submitted and it has a story all of its own.
Whilst living in Uganda I took a break and flew down to Namibia, in southwest Africa. One of the highlights of my trip was a multi-day hike through the beautiful Fish River Canyon. When I returned to the UK I thought a write-up of my adventure might be of interest to a walking magazine.
Following a bit of research I discovered Adventure Travel magazine, a monthly publication that featured adventurous multi-day hikes. And, even better, they produced submission guidelines for would-be contributors spelling out exactly what their requirements were.
Full of excitement I wrote the article and posted it off via recorded delivery as I also sent a number of transparencies to accompany the words.
Disappointment turned to joy
Because I had sent the package via recorded delivery I could track its journey on the Post Office website. Unfortunately, even after a few weeks, it didn’t show up as having been delivered. Gutted that I had lost my transparencies (the originals) I made a claim to the Post Office for my lost package and duly received £10 compensation.
Imagine my surprise when seven months later (and three days before my wedding) I suddenly received an e-mail from Adventure Travel saying they were intending to publish my article the following month and checking the return address for the transparencies.
Not only had the package not been lost but I had achieved publication with my very first submission.
Why was the submission successful?
Two reasons: luck and meeting the submission requirements.
Luck because it was the right subject at the right time – they hadn’t already featured that hike.
I can’t stress how important it is to give editors exactly what they ask for. In this case the guidelines asked for an article of X words, a Let’s Go section of X words outlining how someone else could do the hike, a hand-drawn map of the route and a number of photographs. They also suggested the style of article.
Apart from changing the title to Big Fish (I preferred my original title, Baboons at 12 O’clock) and a few words here and there the article was printed largely as I wrote it.
Case Study 2 – Challenging Times for Women in Canterbury for Latitude Magazine
The path to publication for this article was somewhat different. I had moved to New Zealand and was looking for markets for travel articles. I found Latitude, a lifestyle magazine covering the Canterbury region, which featured a travel article in each issue.
Although perusal of a few issues showed that the same person contributed most of the travel pieces I thought it worth a shot. I e-mailed the editor and asked if they accepted freelance contributions and, crucially, I attached a piece I had written about a trip to the Arctic.
The editor wrote back saying their travel section was covered but she liked my writing and asked if I could write a feature on a local event. Too right I could. I had me a commission!
The event was an annual multi-disciplinary (running, rafting, cycling) team competition for women only, which that year was due to be held in Canterbury for the first time.
Challenging time for me
The brief from the editor was an article of 1200 words covering the history of the event and interviews with the organiser and some of the previous participants. Aargh! I had never interviewed anyone before so this presented a challenge.
Fortunately, a quick internet search provided me with the organiser’s name and contact details. I e-mailed him and he was more than happy to talk about the event. He wasn’t local so it would have to be by phone. Nervous does not describe my feelings. However, I did my homework, typed up a series of questions and called him up.
It couldn’t have gone better. He was charming and helpful and gave me some great quotes. He also gave me the contact details of one of the previous event’s winners. She was local so I was able to meet her in person. And it snowballed from there. Having interviewed the professionals I needed to speak with two ‘ordinary’ participants to provide a balance and the winner gave me two names – a first-timer and the oldest entrant (67).
I ended up conducting two telephone and two face-to-face interviews and it was nowhere near as scary as I first thought. People love to talk about things they are enthusiastic about. I just prompted them and off they went.
Integrating the juicy quotes into the article and keeping it to 1200 words was surprisingly easy and off it went with a series of digital photographs provided by the organiser.
Why was the submission successful?
Simple – I met the brief.
The article was published exactly as I wrote it with no changes, not even to the title. When the editor says, “I love what you have done with this piece . . . I think you have done a wonderful job”, you know you have nailed it.
There is more than one route to a successful article. In my next post I’ll discuss pitching – another way to get a commission.
Links to the articles featured above, Big Fish and Challenging Times for Women in Canterbury, can be found on this webpage.