Monday, November 2, 2009

Guest Blogger, Terri Main, "Beyond Writers Guidelines"

Today, we have a guest blogger, Terri Main, author of Creative Calisthenics, a wonderful book filled with tips to "jump start" your muse. I reviewed this book a few months ago and I'm still impressed with Ms. Main's ideas. Below are some of her thoughts on the best way to study a magazine to ensure article acceptance. Read through to find a link to a free guide to help you with this process.

Beyond Writers Guidelines:

One of the old chestnuts of wisdom about magazine writing is to study the publication. However, rarely do you hear anyone tell you how to do this. Too many writers, with good intentions, just read, take random notes and end up more confused than when they started. Like anything else, if you have a plan you will do better. So, here is a simple plan for studying a magazine.

Start with the Cover. Editors design covers to attract readers. What they feature most prominently on the cover tells you what that editor considers to be the most interesting articles in the magazine. Write down the name of each article featured. Put a star by the main article featured. Go through several back issues doing this. Do you see a theme emerging?

Study the Table of Contents. Look down the table of contents. Make a list of each article. Mark off those written by staff writers and ones likely to be written by freelancers. Categorize the topics like: health, home improvement, food, cars, celebrities, etc. Again look for patterns. Also, note the columns. Are they written by the same person each month or do they have different “guest” writers? Those “guests” are probably freelancers.

Study the Articles. What is the average word count per article? What type of leads do they use (story, statistics, quote, etc)? Do they use pictures? What is the article structure or type such as: how-to, problem exposition, persuasive, celebrity profile, Q&A interview, etc. Once again look for common patterns. Editors reveal their preferences through the articles they publish. These preferences are often not even known to them and will never appear in the writer's guidelines.

Study the Photographs. What type of photos do they have with the articles? Were they stock photos or ones likely provided by the author? Were they of people, scenery, activities, processes?

Study the Advertisements. Advertisers know their market. You can find out a lot about the readership by looking at the ads. Are the models glamorous or more like everyday people? What products are being sold? What type of people would use those products? What appeals are being made such as economy, quality, status, utility, safety, altruism, etc.

I can see you saying this is a lot of work. And your point is? Of course, it is a lot of work, but if you do this type of work, you will know that publication as well, if not better than the editor, and dramatically increase your chances of selling to them, To help you do this analysis you can download forms at either or

Terri, thank you for stopping by and sharing this valuable information.


  1. Terri,

    What a great guide to help us analyze magazines so we can best know how and what to write for them. Yes, it's a lot of work, but if we want to be successful writers, then we need to do the research as well as the writing.Personally, I love doing research of any kind.

    Thanks so much for this article. I went to the link and downloaded the forms. :)

  2. Dianne, thanks for stopping by. Terri certainly knows her craft and how to find the right market.

  3. I love the how-to feeling of this post. it's always great to find a post like this that furthers my knowledge base.

  4. Katie, I'm glad you found it useful.

  5. I'm glad you found these tips useful. I enjoyed writing them. Good luck on your writing.

  6. Terri, thank you for sharing this information.