So you want to be a writer?
Having had magazine articles published on a regular basis over the past 20 plus years I find myself regularly answering different peoples queries on the subject of writing. These vary enormously from ‘how can I get my work accepted’ to ‘can I make a living out of it’? I also regularly have different people pass their work onto me to see if I think the piece would be suitable for magazine use. So, let’s run through a few important issues and some of the regular comments I make and break it down into separate categories.
• Is it possible to make a living out of writing for the carp magazines?
• How do the magazines want the work supplying?
• How do I get the magazines to accept my work once completed?
• What about the photographs?
Is it possible to make a living out of writing for the carp magazines?
I guess this comes down very much to what ‘making a living’ means to you. This year I have written for the following magazines.
2. Crafty Carper
4. Advanced Carp Fishing
5. Total Carp
6. The Carp
7. Carp Addict
On top of this I have written a guest chapter in a book, everything you see on this website and lots of separate blog entries at http://www.questbaits.com/blog/ Most of the above magazines I have written more than one article in so I guess I have had a little more work published this year than your average bloke. Now if I didn’t have to pay a mortgage along with all the other normal household bills including food and I could get a lift everywhere I wanted to go for free so I didn’t have to keep buying fuel then I could perhaps just about scrape by and pay for my tickets. In other words you are unlikely to be able to get by living on writing money alone.
It does actually become a bigger problem this one because it takes a lot of years to get a lot of magazines interested in using your work and more importantly keep using your work. So, the last thing you really want to be thinking about in the writing stakes is how much you can earn. I have never personally earned enough to simply cover my permits and fuel to go fishing.
How do the magazines want the work supplying?
This has altered somewhat with the more widespread use of personal computers and the internet. When I first started writing the magazines used to ask for double spaced (an extra line between each line for editing purposes) writing preferably typed. I did submit the odd hand written article but for obvious reasons I wanted my work to be as easy to use as possible and although I had never been taught to type I used to sit there for hours on end banging away at the typewriter keys one at a time until eventually I was able to use more than one finger! It took a lot of effort but consistent rewards only come after effort.
In this day and age where most have access to the internet it is a simple job to type a piece up and email it direct. No need to add the double spacing as the editor can work direct on your piece on his screen. Just make sure you supply your work in a widely used format so anyone can open it and work on it. This piece I am writing at the moment will be live within minutes of me completing it – such are the wonders of the modern world. No more worrying about the post man losing it on the way to the magazine and having to sit back down and type it all out again.
If you have access to a computer but don’t have internet access (I’m presuming you are reading this on someone else’s machine if this is the case) print your articles out with double spacing to allow the work to be edited in the traditional way.
As far as pictures are concerned – never try and include them within the text, always send them separate. The editor will need to know which picture is relevant where so as I am typing I will write (picture 1) as I go along and then (picture 2 etc) and colour it so it really is obvious where the pictures fit.
At the end of the article I supply another sheet with the captions to the pictures.
Picture 1 (opening shot) – ‘Sunrise over the lake’
Picture 2 – The rig
Picture 3 – The Capture….and so on.
How do I get the magazines to accept my work once completed?
Try, try and try again. You need to remember there are a lot of established writers and new aspiring writers out there. The magazines only have so much space available. Unfortunately it doesn’t work as simply as make the magazine larger to take more content. This would be the ideal world but unfortunately we don’t live in it. The magazines have to pay their staff and printing costs as well as the various contributors. A lot of people forget where that money has to come from. Yes the advertisers. Without the advertisers there is no money coming in to pay anyone. This is another issue so I won’t go into it here but before you next moan about the amount of advertising there is in the magazines just take another couple of minutes to think a bit deeper about it.
You may be lucky and catch an exceptionally large fish or a big catch of fish that the editor feels the world should know about. A capture which will help the magazine sell more issues. This is what it all comes down to. The magazine has to attract people to buy it. Catching a big fish is only ever going to be a flash in the pan as far as a writing career is concerned. What most magazine editors want is consistency in work. There are a lot of anglers out there who could write a couple of brilliant articles but would struggle with the third, fourth and fifth etc. Getting yourself ‘known’ to the outside world helps enormously. Start submitting catch reports to the weeklies, the forums and anywhere else you can think about promoting yourself.
Try contributing to the forums and make sure everyone knows who you are rather than hide behind a pseudo name. Offer your help at local events, anything at all which will raise your profile and remember to keep your nose clean along the way, start upsetting other anglers and it may become a greater struggle to get into the magazines than you ever thought.
Try submitting a little bit of work to the various websites and blogs many companies run with these days such as this one. The more you can do, the easier it all becomes and slowly you start to build a portfolio up of your work which becomes a little more impressive when trying to get magazine work accepted than it would be simply sending off one article.
The thing I recommend to people asking these days is to submit a minimum of three completed articles to the magazines. This way it proves you have more than one article to offer and also shows how serious you are about contributing to their magazine. If the editor can guarantee a slot is filled for the next three months then he is more than likely going to use your work than a one off piece then have to worry about what he is going to have to fit into that space the following month.
Try and be as original as possible with subject matter. Everyone has heard about the alarm sounding, an epic battle with a fish and a huge lump slipping into the net. If it has to be a capture type piece then spend most of your time describing the set-ups and why you did them. Add a little humour where you can and basically take plenty of time to say very little if that makes sense. You can give a whole article away in two paragraphs if you are not careful. Most magazines want somewhere between 2,500 and 3,500 words per piece – it is important you find out how much the magazine you are aiming at usually works with.
What about the photographs?
You need to make sure the photographs are interesting. Believe it or not most editors couldn’t care less about catch shots. Yes you will need a couple to illustrate the piece but more importantly take lots of pictures of other things. Different things, if you are photographing the rods simply fishing then try and bring something else into the picture. Perhaps you crouched by the rods, a kettle boiling close by, a bird flying by, anything to give the picture a little more interest.
When you catch a fish take time to do a picture of its mouth, the hook hold, any other close ups which could be used later. Keep as open a mind as possible. You will notice whilst fishing that at certain times of the day the light suddenly looks ‘just right’. This is hard to explain but you may notice what I have written now it’s in your head. Grab the camera then and shoot off a few pictures. You will be amazed at how different the same shot of the same rods looks at other times of the day. If someone hooks a fish, ask if you can take some action shots. If you hook a fish ask someone else to do the same. Basically, start to build up a library of possible future article shots. I have literally hundreds and hundreds of useful magazine pictures which I have not used yet. I see the picture and take it.
As far as supplying the pictures to the magazines go they obviously prefer digital pictures these days but will still accept high quality slides and film. If you are sending slides and film make sure they are each labelled 1,2,3 etc as mentioned in the writing part above.
If sending digital pictures send then in as high a resolution as you can and only send them one at a time. Send several on the same attachment and you are going to jam the systems up. One at a time is the accepted way and again label them and include the description in the writing space.
So, there you have it, a few pointers to get you on the road to seeing your first article appearing on the high street shelves.