Writing articles for Sailing Magazines

Since starting this blog a few years ago now, the way I write my blog posts has changed significantly. Initially it was a place for me to store my Ocean Yachtmaster study notes, but as the number of people who follow the blog has grown, I find my writing has changed too.

I have even discovered that there are a few ways that you can get paid to write interesting articles.

I was paid to write a couple of articles for an Insurance company. They gave me a topic and just asked for some links back to their website to be included in the posts – My Favourite Sailing Destination and Sailors Superstitions. This is when it is great to have a good readership of your blog and social media channels.

Then I was approached by some boat product suppliers who asked me to write a review about their product, and take a few photos in exchange for some goods.

I started to get comments from my readers encouraging me to submit some of my articles to sailing magazines to see if they might be interested in my work as well.

I had no idea how to go about this, but I had some great suggestions and tips from Jackie Parry – an accomplished writer and sailor who has written two books and numerous articles as well.

So I took the plunge, wrote some articles and sent them away to magazines to see what happened, and they were accepted, published and I even got paid as well! Fantastic! I have had a few things published now and it is absolutely thrilling to see your work in print and reaching a huge audience

So if you are keen to give it a go too, here are some tips for getting started:

  • Make it really easy for the editor – include all the required information when you put in your submission.
  • Research – make sure that the magazine you are submitting to is interested in your topic – no point in sending a cruising launch article to a magazine that focuses on yacht racing for example.
  • Google the magazine’s writer guidelines. They specify exactly how they would like you to present your article, how many words you can use, their article categories and where to send it.
  • Length of articles usually range from 600 for a short newsy item through to 2000 – 3000 words for feature articles.
  • You can email them a query in advance to see if your idea for an article would be of interest. (Some magazines are more responsive than others – don’t be offended – keep trying!)
  • You can only submit an article to one magazine at a time (so don’t send the same article to four magazines at once!). If they all accept it then you might get in trouble. Unfortunately some of them don’t reply to tell you that they aren’t interested, so you sit twiddling your fingers wondering. (I imagine some of the bigger magazines must get lots of submissions)
  • Let them know if the article has already been published somewhere else – like in another magazine or on your blog. If you have already written about the topic on your blog, change the article so that it is sufficiently different to be presented as something new.
  • Do not use other people’s writing or photos. You can be sued for plagiarism.
  • Be careful not to defame anyone – i.e. don’t damage their good reputation. Magazines will indemnify themselves by asking you to warrant that your work does not violate any copyright laws and doesn’t contain anything that someone might want to sue them for – that will all fall back on you so be careful!
  • If you are quoting someone or including a photograph of them in and article then it is best to get their prior permission.
  • Magazines are usually working several months in advance, so it may be some time before you get a reply and up to a year before it is actually published.
  • They usually prefer digital submissions.
  • Write your article in Word format (not as a pdf) with double or 1.5 line spacing, no fancy formatting, and without photos embedded (photos should be separate attachments).
  • Put a header at the top of every page with the article title, your name, address and email.
  • Add page numbers at the bottom.
  • At the conclusion of your article put a list of the photographs and their file names that you are going to attach and a caption/description of each one with the file name. For example: Moorearticle1.jpg – photo of Wildwood sailing in Lyttelton.
  • Check your article very carefully for any spelling or grammar mistakes. Get a trusted friend to read it and suggest any changes. Read it aloud – you will get a better feel for the flow of the sentence this way.
  • Be aware that the magazine will probably edit your article and change it slightly to read better or to fit in to the space available without telling you.
  • Write a separate author biography to attach – also in Word format. (Have a look at other biographies in magazines to get an idea of the format/content) include your blog website address if you have one.
  • Add a recent nice photograph of your face – and have an appropriate file name for that as well.
  • You can send your initial photos in low-resolution, and then if they want to use your article, they can request the photographs that they would like in high resolution. Avoid sending lots of high-resolution photos at once or on one email as they can clog up the email system! Send more photos than you think they will use so they can choose the ones they want.
  • Send an email to the correct address, try and get the editor’s name so you can address it to them specifically. Include your article name in the subject line. In the body of the email write a short summary of the article and the number of words, and attach the word document, your photographs, your biography document and your face photo.
  • Payment can either be on acceptance or publication depending on the magazine
  • They normally ‘buy’ the First World Rights – it is important to understand what this means to avoid getting in to legal hot water!
  • The payment amount seems to vary hugely. I’ve been paid anything from USD$50.00 through to USD$250.00 for small articles or a review, including links on my website etc, and I have just been paid NZD$700.00 for a longer article. But let me know if you have any other experience. Sometimes you might even do work for free in exchange for getting your work out there.
  • You usually get paid around a month after publication.
  • Ask the magazine if it is OK to include the article on your blog after it has been published.
  • If you are in a different country to the magazine, you can produce an invoice in their local currency and receive payment via your PayPal account. This saves paying for expensive international bank transfers. If you are in the same country then you might want to include your tax number, and your bank account details. They may also deduct income tax from their payment to you.

If they turn you down, don’t be put off! They might have already just printed or purchased a similar article. They probably won’t give you any feedback as to why. Have another look at it, and send it away to another magazine to see if they might be interested.

Some ideas for topics are:

  • Special Destinations
  • Feature Boat, or boat review
  • Cover Photo or feature photos they can use inside the magazine
  • Out Cruising – handy tips for other cruisers
  • Mistakes you have made
  • Galley – recipes from destinations you have visited, or handy items for the galley
  • Animals – stories about sailing with pets
  • Life Aboard – share experiences to help others
  • Seamanship – tips on boat handling
  • Passagemaking, Seamanship and Navigating
  • Energy – problems & solutions
  • Product Reviews
  • How To & Technical Articles
  • News
  • Environment
  • Event coverage – a particular regatta, rally or boat show
  • Safety

Other tips

  • Avoid ‘log style’ entries
  • Find a good hook – a fresh point of view that hasn’t been written about before
  • Be a reporter – take notes, ask questions, interview people, get quotes and notice the little details
  • Write vividly – paint a picture with your words – What did it taste like? Look like? Feel like? Smell like? What did the experience remind you of?  Bring a sense of place to your story.
  • Read other writers work and get ideas from them
  • Balance technical details with first person observations
  • Have an opinion and back it up with facts
  • Blend the practical with a nice storyline
  • Write with the reader in mind to inform and entertain
  • Take great photographs to compliment the story
  • Take video footage as well – internet based magazines are keen on this.
  • Use social media to promote yourself
  • Post links to your article on Social Media and in your blog.
  • Triple check your spelling and punctuation.
  • Don’t use exclamation marks!!! (feedback from a magazine editor – will be hard for me as I LOVE exclamation marks!!!)

Magazines to Consider:

Please feel free to add any other comments, extra magazines, tips and suggestions below. I look forward to hearing from you!

Good luck! It is really exciting to have your work published and get paid for it.

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7 thoughts on “Writing articles for Sailing Magazines

  1. Good info, thanks. I’ve been doing a lot of freelance writing for some blogs and websites, but I would love to get into some magazine articles.

    Like

  2. Good summary of the do’s and don’t of freelance writing. Those interested in getting published might also like to do a course. Years ago I did a couple of online courses with the Australian Writers’ Centre http://www.writerscentre.au
    It was incredibly useful and some 50+ published articles later I think it was the best money I spent to get good grounding and techniques on all aspects of the writing and article submission process.

    Liked by 1 person

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