Magazine Proposals

For the non-fiction writer or journalist, it can be extremely difficult to start a career with a permanent position at a newspaper or by writing a full-length non-fiction book. Publishers tend to trust people with a reputation, and new writers don't have reputations yet. It doesn't matter if you're the world's foremost expert on shark bites or you can tell an Alfred Sung design from a Versace without looking at the label. Unless you've got credentials, you'll have to start at the same place every other non-fiction writer starts: magazine proposals. If you want to submit a successful magazine proposal, we've prepared this article to help you set off on the right foot.

Writing short non-fiction isn't like writing short fiction, because short non-fiction articles usually have to be pre-approved by a magazine. When you publish a short story, you write the story first and then submit it. Not so with non-fiction. You can't just do an expose on price fixing in Pleasant Valley and send it to a magazine. First you have to draw up a proposal for the piece and have it approved by the magazine's editor, who will then give you his or her input on what they want the piece to cover, as well as a set word length and deadline. Working outside this process is considered unprofessional and will most likely result in rejection.

Your proposal doesn't have to be sent to only one magazine at a time like most short stories have to be. Because it's only a pitch, you're able to submit simultaneously to several magazines to save time. However, that doesn't mean you should send your "Tools to help rebuild schools in Haiti" pitch to every publication you can find an address for. Like submitting short fiction, magazine proposals have to be targeted to magazines that are more likely to accept them.

This task is easier if your article touches on several interest groups. For instance, your Tools piece covers tools and carpentry, charitable work, improving the third world, companies based in Canada, and the country of Haiti. At least one of these topics is of interest to most people. Publications that deal with any of those subjects would be an ideal place to submit the proposal. This type of subject targeting is something you'll have to get good at if you want to make a career in journalism and non-fiction writing. If you don't, say goodbye to your dreams of owning a condominium and hello to crashing in your mother's basement after you've run out of money.

Another thing you need to think about when submitting a magazine proposal is spelling, grammar, and fact-checking. You may think that because the magazine has legal and editorial staff that this is not your problem, but these are everyone's concerns. Poor spelling and grammar mark you as unprofessional. And if, for example, you indict a particular cult for mistreating children and the allegations are proven to be unfounded, you and the newspaper could end up facing one of the biggest lawsuits over the unfair defamation of their character.

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Sunday, March 3, 2024