I mentioned in a post a couple of weeks ago, that I'd approached a magazine in America asking if I could buy some sample copies to examine. The editor liked my professional approach and kindly offered to send me a copy, free of charge, to look at.
Well this morning, two copies arrived in the post - the July 2009 issue and the September 2009 issue. Here's an editor who knows how to help a prospective writer! Analysing a magazine is an important way for us to identify who our target reader is. However, it's always best to analyse at least two copies of a publication you're considering writing for. Why?
To increase your chances of publication, you need to identify the 'slots' in the magazine that are freelance written. Studying more than one issue enables you to do this much more effectively. Literally, lay both issues of the magazine side by side and turn each page simultaneously. Do that and you'll spot the layout pattern of the magazine. The Letters page, for example, will usually be on the same page number each issue, the expert advice column and the news round up will too.
Turning the pages simultaneously like this will highlight the pages that do differ - i.e - the freelance written article pages. Once you've identified these, then you can go to work on analysing these articles in more detail. How long are they, do they use fact files or side panels, what style do they follow? Copy this format for your own submission and you know that not only are you targeting the right pages within the magazine, but you'll also stand more of a chance of having your work accepted because you're providing the right material in the right style at the right length.
Looking through the pages like this will also throw up the names of the regular contributors. What might look like a freelance written piece in one issue, can be spotted as a 'regular' column in two or more issues. For example, if you look at one issue of Country & Border Life magazine, you will see my feature article, walk and pictures. I'm listed in the front of the magazine under 'This Month's Contributors' which identifies me as a freelance writer, not staff. Look at another issue of the magazine and you'll see that I fill this slot every month, so although I'm a freelance contributor, those particular pages are regularly filled be me, rather than any other freelance writer. So if another freelancer were to try to submit something for these pages, the chances of acceptance are quite low. (I'm not going to say impossible - the editor is God, she can do what she likes and if the 'right' article comes across her desk then she may want to run with it!)
So looking at two different issues of the same magazine helps you to identify who the regular writers are, and then which pages they DON'T write. They're the ones you should be targeting.
For writers, double vision, can be truly enlightening!