Archive for June 15th, 2007

The Secret Language of Editors: Anatomy of a Magazine

Abigail GreenFreelancers’ Phrase Book
By Abigail Green

Sometimes it can seem like editors are speaking a foreign language. After college, I worked on staff at a regional magazine. The editors were always talking about “the book.” And I kept thinking, “What book? We publish a magazine.” Come to find out, “book” is editorial lingo for “magazine.” Don’t ask me why.

You may encounter such puzzling terms even as a freelancer. For instance, an editor might say, “The front of the book is a good place to break in.” The front of the book, often abbreviated as FOB, refers to the short, newsy items in the first pages of a magazine, after the TOC (Again with the abbreviations! That means “table of contents.”) Cooking Light calls their FOB section “First Light”; The Writer calls it “Take Note”; and Amtrak’s Arrive magazine calls it “First Class.”

But while short FOB articles – sometimes called “fillers” or “shorts” – are a good way to break into some magazines, that’s not true for all publications. To my knowledge, Working Mother writes their news and trends section in-house. When I was pitching Men’s Health, they did not give bylines in their FOB section. The best way to find out such information is to study the most recent issue of the magazine you’re targeting, or call the editorial offices and ask whether they accept freelance submissions for that section.

After a magazine’s FOB section, you usually find department pieces and columns. These are the regular sections you see in every issue. Often, these are written by staffers or contributing editors. Match up the bylines to the masthead to learn if this is the case with your target publication. In some cases, though, department pieces are ideal for freelancers. They’re usually longer than FOBs but shorter than features, and since they’re in every issue, editors need more of them.

“The well,” also called “the feature well,” refers to the middle part of the magazine where the longest articles are found. These are usually, but not always, reserved for big-name writers with longstanding relationships with the magazine. Even so, it doesn’t hurt to aim high. If an editor rejects your feature pitch, you might reply with an offer to focus on a smaller piece of the subject matter for an FOB or department piece. Or it could happen the other way around. I once pitched a department piece on “girlfriend getaways,” only to have the editor assign it as a feature. Score!

By familiarizing yourself with the anatomy of a magazine, it will become clearer to you which sections are the best bet for freelance submissions.

Abigail Green (www.abigailgreen.com) is a freelance writer in Baltimore. Over the past 10 years, she has written about health, travel, weddings, business, education and more for national, regional and online publications including AOL, AAA World, Bride’s, Baltimore Magazine, Cooking Light and Health. Her latest project is raising her first child, which she chronicles in her blog: http://diaryofanewmom.blogspot.com/.

Parenting – Planning Your Summer

sharonwotrhead.gifThe Parent-Writer: Strategies for Success
By Sharon Miller Cindrich

It’s time to start figuring out how you’re going to handle your kids, your schedule and your blossoming writing career this summer. Between trips to the pool, backyard barbecues, little league practices and camping retreats, you may be wondering how you’ll balance a house full of kids buzzed on s’mores with your deadlines and inspirations. With a little forethought, it can be done by keeping these ideas in mind.

Check with your rec
In our area, the local recreation department offers tons of summer programs FREE of charge – from supervised playground hours for little ones to extra math and reading practice. These workshops and classes are worth their weight in a little free time for mom and dad to get that writing done. Look to your community center or school district for fun, educational and FREE activities that help give your summer structure, help you map out work time and are kind to your writing budget.

Consider a writing vacation
Forget the dude ranch and the Alaskan cruise; build a writing getaway into your summer plans to help your progress. Seminars and conferences on writing are offered at universities each summer, and the cost of instruction can be written off as a business expense. Even a weekend retreat at a friend’s cabin or an overnight at a cheap hotel without the kids can act as your “Spa Scribble.” Pack your writing gear, some comfy clothes, candles or music to set the mood and bubbles for a deep soak to soothe your writing spirit.

Stay portable
Don’t go anywhere this summer without something to record your thoughts – be it pen and paper, a tape recorder or your laptop. Summer adventures offer fodder for seasons to come, and you never know when inspiration will strike.

Use the light of night
Take advantage of long daylight hours, and plan an evening period of writing each week in the solitude of your garden or on your deck with a glass of lemonade. Make sure to string some cool summer lighting nearby in case you get carried away in the flow as the sun sets.

Summer camps, beach vacations and home improvements can be that much more satisfying when you’ve balanced your home and family needs with the demands of your writing life.

E-Parenting, Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids by Sharon CindrichSharon Miller Cindrich is a freelance writer whose work has been published nationally in magazines and newspapers around the country including The Chicago Tribune, Parents Magazine, and The Writer. She is a Contributing Editor at FamilyFun Magazine and writes a bimonthly humor column for West Suburban Living Magazine in the Chicago Suburbs. She is a regular contributor to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Lifestyle section and Metroparent Magazine. Her book E-Parenting: Keeping Up with Your Tech-Savvy Kids is due out from Random House at the end of the year. Read more about Sharon at http://www.pluggedinparent.com/.

An Interview with Literary Agent Rita Rosenkranz

Rita Rosenkranz

Agent & Editor Insights for Getting Published
By Lori Russell

A little research can take a writer a long way. This month I talked with agent Rita Rosenkranz about what authors need to know before they send a query letter to an agent.

A former editor at major New York publishing houses, Ms. Rosenkranz founded Rita Rosenkranz Literary Agency in 1990. She represents adult non-fiction about health, history, parenting, music, how-to, popular science, business, biography, popular reference, cooking, spirituality and general interest titles.

What groundwork should a writer do before contacting an agent to pitch a book idea?

I’d suggest that authors investigate thoroughly the competition for their book, which includes the titles that are now considered classics and that all readers interested in this subject will buy, as well as the titles that are fresh on the market and are drawing attention. I handle non-fiction and most of the time I sell a project on the basis of a proposal and not a complete manuscript. When an author pitches me, either at a conference or through a query letter, I expect the author to understand the book’s place in the category, with the competition in mind. I prefer that the proposal is ready (or at least close to ready) to submit if I’m interested.

Finding the right agent can mean different things to different people. What suggestions do you have for writers who want to gain a deeper knowledge of the agents they are pitching?

I think many authors don’t consider the nuances of the agent/author relationship beforehand. More than to simply know they want an agent, authors should identify what matters most to them. Do they want an agent who will simply get them the most money or one who will help them become better writers and who will be available for matters large and small? More than ever, writers can learn about agents thanks to the Web. On many sites authors exchange experiences––offering recommendations, sob stories and everything in-between––undiluted and uncensored. Writer’s Digest, as well as other print and online venues, regularly profiles agents, offering writers a deeper sense of the agent’s personality, taste and approach to the author/agent relationship.

You advertise that you are interested in “familiar subjects presented freshly and less-known subjects presented commercially.” Can you give some examples?

I was instantly moved by Betty DeRamus’ Forbidden Fruit: Love Stories from the Underground Railroad. While the Underground Railroad had been mined extensively, no one had written about it from the lens of love, a mainstream and commercial perspective.

Harrison Monarth and Larina Kase are co-founders of TheConfidentSpeaker.com, a public speaking and communication coaching Web site. Monarth is the founder of GuruMaker, a professional speaking consultancy. Kase is a peak performance and anxiety management expert. Though there are many public speaking books on the market, in The Confident Speaker: Tap into Your Hidden Power to Communicate at Your Best, together these authors offer a uniquely informed perspective and can reach a wide readership.

Jim Kane’s Western Movie Wit and Wisdom gathers more than 2,000 quotations from more than 1,100 western movies. Iconic characters of the American West offer advice, words of wisdom, humor and an occasional historical fact. Although they were uttered in a western setting, they were about life. Jim’s approach makes the material popular and fun, helping to broaden the audience for this work.

Once a writer signs with an agent, what type and what frequency of contact can she or he expect?

It’s impossible for me to generalize, since writers have different needs and agents handle business differently. I personally want my authors to be in the loop in a real-time way, whether it involves rejections or other matters that can play a part in their well-being. At the same time, I’m sensitive to authors’ individual personalities and preferences. While maintaining my basic approach to the relationship, I’ll adapt wherever I can. This might mean not sharing rejections but only letting the author know when there is an offer.

You have worked in the publishing business for more than 20 years, first as an editor and then as an agent. How has the business changed over time? How has it stayed the same?

The business has changed tremendously thanks to the Web, where an author can cultivate and connect regularly with readers. The marketing potential is phenomenal. Many thousands of books are published every year and it’s harder to gain a foothold for a book that isn’t launched with any fanfare. Independent bookstores used to be able to build a book based on hand selling. Now there are significantly fewer independents to make that happen. Despite the extreme changes in the world over the last two decades, publishing remains a business built on relationships, a people business.

What is the most important thing for writers to know about agents?

There is great variety among us, in the kinds of writers we’re attracted to, our approach to the author/agent relationship, our editorial sense, our publishing connections, and our stick-with-it-ness, even when a project doesn’t win a publisher’s interest right away. This should give authors hope that within the large and diverse community of agents, there will be a perfect match.

Writers may query Ms. Rosenkranz via e-mail at rrosenkranz@mindspring.com.

Lori RusselLori Russell is an award-winning writer who has had the pleasure to work with several great editors in her 17 years as a freelancer. She is a contributing editor to Columbia Gorge Magazine and has been a regular contributor to Ruralite for more than a decade. Her articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the country and her short fiction and poetry has been published in several journals and anthologies. Lori recently completed her first novel, Light on Windy River.

Writing Book Review: Writing to Change the World by Mary Pipher

Susan W. ClarkReviewed by Susan W. Clark

If you aim to create writing that rights what is wrong, check out therapist and author Mary Pipher’s book “Writing to Change the World,” which came out in 2006. The dual dedication is given to Anne Frank and Nelson Mandela, two major models for changing the world. Delivering on its promise, the book is peppered with inspirational quotes and plenty of substance that can inspire you to write a better world into existence.

Pipher has organized the book into three sections: “What We Alone Can Say,” “The Writing Process” and “Calls to Action.” In the first section, she urges the world-changing writer to be bold and honest, and to look for your own daring, unique observations. She cautions against taking a preachy tone, advising that sharing how you came to your own conclusions will be more compelling.

In the second section, a useful comparison of two letters showed the author’s willingness to expose herself. She included a letter she had written about a community conflict, and then critiqued her own letter. She then shared another person’s letter, pointing out why the second was more effective. Nicely done.

I particularly liked Pipher’s exploration of worldview: whom the writer stands with and whom we stand against. She suggests that a writer try crafting a story from the point of view of someone you don’t respect or like, to get inside the head of your opposition. She believes in starting your writing with where your readers are, and not expecting that you will change ardent opponents. Pipher states, “The truth is, most preaching is to the choir. Choirs produce almost all the important social action in our world. The people most likely to read us are people who think as we do. And readers generally seek reinforcement of their beliefs, not arguments or challenges.”

What works, she says, is to attract readers with common needs. Look for a title that invites and avoid highly charged labels. She says, “Good storytellers heal the world. The stories that save us are the stories that give us what some Buddhists call a ‘bigger container.’ They open us up to new understanding and growth.” This book is a very readable reflection, helping us hone our writing skills to effectively express what is most meaningful in our lives.

Photographer, editor, and award-winning writer, Susan W. Clark is an ardent advocate for sustainability. The Utne Reader applauded her article “Sustainable Revolution” from In Good Tilth magazine as “world-changing.” She is a regular contributor to In Good Tilth and Touch the Soil. Her work has appeared in the Capitol Press, Portland Tribune, Small Farmer’s Journal, and Permaculture Activist. She edits Salt of the Earth, the quarterly journal of Oregon Sustainable Agriculture Land Trust. Her observations about living within our ecological means are posted at http://susanwclark.wordpress.com.

Brand Your Writing Career with eBooks

gregorywotr_002.gifWriter-preneur: Building Your Writing Career Using Technology
By Gregory A. Kompes

eBooks are electronically published material with content your readers will find helpful, useful, or of interest. They’re easy to produce and distribute, and they can add another dimension to your writing career and branding platform. eBooks range from a few pages, such as a 5-10 page “White Paper” or “Special Report,” to a tome of hundreds of pages. You’re the expert writing about your niche topic and you get to decide on the content.

A few reasons to write eBooks include:

  • sharing your niche topic expertise for profit;
  • building a larger readership;
  • offering incentives for eZine subscribers; and,
  • delivering a free gift for readers.

Most successful eBooks are fewer than 100 pages. While longer works such as full-length novels are offered electronically, the buying public gravitates toward shorter eBooks that answer a question or solve a problem.

The writing style you choose for your eBook is determined by two factors: you and your audience. If you’re writing for an academic audience, then by all means use an academic voice. If you’re writing an eBook to help home gardeners grow better roses, your style should be more casual. For most eBook topics, you’ll want to use a conversational tone––a writing voice that makes the reader feel you’re talking directly to them across the dinner table.

The primary advantage of ePublishing is that you, the author, are in control. You decide on the content, writing style, and the format of your eBook. You don’t need professional design software (such as CS InDesign or Pagemaker), although these programs create a professional layout. Many special reports and eBooks are created using Microsoft Word and designed to print on 8 1/2″ x 11″ (or your country’s standard) paper. As you create content, keep in mind how your readers will utilize your finished product. For example, make it easy for readers to print the book.

Writers are rarely good editors or proofreaders of their own work. I recommend that you have your eBooks (and everything you write for publication) professionally edited. It IS worth the expense to hire a professional editor.

The publishing of your eBook is easy. Save the eBook you’ve written as a file and offer that file for sale on a disc, CD, or via online download. Voila! You’re ePublished. There are many acceptable eBook file types. The most common is Portable Document Format (PDF). While DOC and HTML are also acceptable, I recommend PDF because they’re easy to create and universally accepted.

If you’re interested in distributing your eBook through online sales portals like Amazon.com, you’ll need to obtain an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) and register your eBook with the U.S. Copyright office. The Library of Congress will register eBooks, but does not currently maintain an eBook library.

Additional distribution options include e-mailing requested or sold eBooks, utilizing your autoresponder (WOTR, April 2007) or shopping cart software with electronic download options. For beginning ePublishers, consider the economical combination of PayPal and PayLoadz. Together, these online sales tools create affordable, safe and secure distribution.

Gregory A. Kompes (www.Kompes.com) is a writer, speaker, mentor and coach. He is the author of the #1 bestseller 50 Fabulous Gay-Friendly Places to Live, The Endorsement Quest, Turning Your Writing Hobby into a Writing Career, and The Everyday Gay Activist. Gregory is the editor of The Fabulist Flash, an informative newsletter for writers, founder of LAMOO Books, and Coordinator of the Las Vegas Writer’s Conference. The author holds a BA in English Literature from Columbia University, NY, and is currently a MS in Education candidate at California State University, Eastbay.


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