by Scott Rhoades
When it comes to submitting to magazines, I'm not an expert. However, I've done it once, and my article was accepted. I'm talking about print magazines, not the online kind, which is a completely different world.
I learned a couple things from my experience that I thought would be good to share, and now is the best time to do it. Number one lesson: if you have a proposal for a magazine article, send it in within the next couple weeks.
I'm sure all magazines have different procedures, so my experience with The Writer won't apply to all of the others, but I'm willing to bet that many monthlies plan in similar ways and at similar times.
Magazines that don't rely on current events for their content plan their issues well in advance. Around September or October, they plan the following year's issues. That means that August is a great time to submit your proposals.
I'm not saying you shouldn't send them the rest of the year. The best time is probably when you first come up with the article idea and it's hot in your mind and you're excited about it. What I'm suggesting is that, if you've been a kicking an idea around in your head, now is the best time to send it in.
Confession: I'd probably say the same thing in June or May or March or whenever. But there are practical reasons to do it now, when the editors at some publications are starting to think about the next year, and are planning their themes for each issue.
What makes a good proposal? Anything with an important anniversary. Lists, like "7 reasons why you should..." or "8 great..." or anything along those lines. Look at any magazine cover. Magazines love that stuff. My article in the May 2009 issue of The Writer was "Great Software That Won't Cost You A Dime" but I pitched it as "7 Free Software Programs for Writers."
If you've never pitched to a magazine before, start with one of your favorites. You know the content and the editorial style, and it's a favorite magazine because you're interested in the articles they print, issue after issue. It's hard to beat the thrill of seeing your article in a favorite publication. So start there.
And do it now.