Since gaining contracts to write short stories for two national women’s magazines, I have regularly been asked ‘Is it easy to write for magazines?’ ‘I like writing short stories, but don’t know how to submit a story to a magazine,’ and ‘Can you make a living from it?’
The following are my tips if you have visions of writing for magazines:
- Do your homework!
Consider the type of magazine you would like to write for, then narrow down your list.
- Devour the magazines’ websites.
If they encourage submissions from new contributors, they will produce ‘submissions guidelines’. Each of these is different and it is crucial to follow them to the letter. These will include genre, story length and formatting.
- Buy each of the magazines for at least four editions
Read them cover-to-cover including any fiction. This will enable you to gain a feel and familiarity with the kind of fiction they print.
- Familiarise yourself with the magazines’ targeted readership.
Target your stories to appeal to them.
- Target your storyline
Write your story to suit the criteria in the magazine’s guidelines. The magazines know what their readers want.
- Check formatting
Follow the magazines guidelines regarding formatting. Some will only accept stories devoid of formatting; this allows them to set their own. I find it easiest to write the story with my own normal formatting, then delete it all prior to submission.
- Decide whether you are going to concentrate on one magazine or go for a ‘scatter-gun’ approach.
The latter will only work if you ‘adjust’ your stories to suit that particular readership. Also, if a story is accepted, you will then need to inform the other magazines in case they wish to print that same story.
- Do not publish any of the stories you intend to submit anywhere else
Not on social media, websites etc. In my contracts, the overall copyright remains with the author, however there are strict rules which cover when you can ‘publish’ any of the stories which are accepted by the editor. The magazine retains the right to sell the story to other publications here and overseas, but if they do, the author is paid a percentage. One of my contracts allows me to publish and submit to other publications immediately following their publication; with the other, there is a 6 month time period.
I do not know whether this is standard procedure or only applies to the magazines to which I am contracted, but every time one of my stories is ‘accepted’, I am paid, even if the story is never published in the magazine. They still reject some stories. They only ‘accept’ a story if they feel it will really capture the imagination of the reader and that they will be able to identify with the characters.
- Getting rich
Do not expect to make a living out of writing these short stories! They do not pay very much for each story, although with my contracts, there is a small sliding scale of increments as more of your stories are accepted.
I hope you have found this something of a useful insight into another possible avenue for your creative writing ability. I get a terrific buzz from creating something from my imagination which somebody else enjoys reading and particularly when there is recognition from a professional. I have to admit to a touch of vanity creeping in, when I open magazine and see my story with ‘author, Lynne Carroll’ alongside!
I always say, after years in a career which involved factual writing with no embellishment, it resembles the feeling I used to get from receiving a ‘gold star’ for an essay!