Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Fact Files, Side Bars, Further Information Panels and other snippets

Writing for the magazine market means giving editors more than they need. This does not mean giving them a 2,000 word article when they only print 800 word articles. What it means is giving them a choice.

Flick through any magazine these days and the vast majority have extra snippets of information related to the article, but dotted around the page. These are called Fact Files, Side bars, Side Panels, Further Information Boxes ... in fact there's probably as many different descriptions for them as there are boxes!

If the magazine you are targeting uses these, then you should provide them too. Often they are used to provide the reader with extra information, or add a touch of humour. Bullet points are particularly popular, especially if the fact file offer Five Top Tips For ...

For travel magazines these are ESSENTIAL. With a travel article your aim is to get the reader to want to follow in your footsteps. If you achieve this, then the fact file and further information boxes will give the reader all they need to know in order to do this. Empower your reader with contact addresses, website addresses, currency rates, useful tips, opening times etc, etc, etc.

I have an example posted on my website about the Royal Yacht Britannia. It's in PDF format and is 10MB, so it's quite large, but you can download the full article here, and at the end you'll see the various fact files and side panels that were used. (Note my phrase 'that were used').

I always offer the editor a wide range of information and fact files. It is up to the editor how many or which ones he or she uses. They're not always used. But it gives the editor the choice to decide what to use and where. It helps them spread information around the page.

Some students query about how this affects your word count. It doesn't. When giving a word count, always quote the length of your main article, excluding the extra fact files etc. I sometimes put on my cover sheets:

A 1500-word article
(with additional 500 words of further information)

...just to make it clear to editors that the 1500 words relates to the main body of text.

Will you get paid more for providing more words? Probably not. However, the extra information you provide can make the difference between an acceptance and a rejection.

So next time you finish an article, think about what 'added bonuses' you can give to an editor. Afterall, everyone likes getting something extra for free don't they?

Good luck.

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