Monday, June 13, 2011

Let's Get Physical!

I've noticed a trend amongst some of my students, recently. Their market analysis hasn't been as detailed as it could be. Now, I know that some people are just so keen to get started on writing up their great idea that they think this is an easy bit to skip, but there's more to it than that. They are using the internet as their ONLY source of analysis, and when you are starting out, that isn't sufficient. You can learn much more by looking at a physical copy of the publication.

Whilst many magazines have an online presence, the amount of information they have on their website varies. Some magazines upload a virtual copy of the entire contents, adverts and all. Those are great - just like looking at the physical copy. However, some merely offer an abridged version, with shortened articles, and this is what is causing the problems. One student had read example articles at 500 words, but when I looked at a physical copy of the magazine, I realised that these were abridged versions and the print copy articles were nearer 1,000 words. So, clearly, if you've written a 500-word article and the editor uses soemthing that is twice a long, then your piece simply doesn't fit. It will be rejected.

Seeing a physical copy also has other benefits. I think it is easier to gain a better overview of the publication's style and ethos, simply by the way that other objects, like photos, sidebars, further information panels, boxouts, etc are dealt with on the physical page. This isn't necessarily the same as on a webpage. A computer magazine that I read has a laid-back, humorous approach to articles and information, yet if you were to read the same material online, the friendly, chatty style does not come across as well - not because different words are used (the words are the same) but the website uses a blogging format, which means there isn't the creative freedom to design the webpage in the same humorous way as they do on the physical page.

Also, some magazines only share the information online that they think will bring in the most online advertising. So, an online copy of a magazine may not show the letters page, whereas the print version will.

The Internet is immensley useful, but it doesn't always give you the whole picture. Sometimes, the best way to get to know a publication is to look at a physical copy. That isn't always easy, but it's an important point to note. It hasn't been lost on me, the fact that the foreign publications I've had successes with are the ones where I've been able to obtain a physical copy of the publication, rather than rely on the Internet version.

And just before I go, a small plug ... I've been invited to run a weekend course on behalf of the Relax & Write workshops, in Derbyshire in April 2012, where I'll be offering my Seven Steps to Publication Success. A breakdown of the weekend's course, (and who to contact with regards to booking - not me!) can be found on my website here:

Essentially, we'll look at quick ways to get published, how to analyse magazines, identify the best slots in magazines that are open to freelance writers, the different ways to structure an article and how to deal with boxouts, fact files and photos.

Good luck.