Writing Outdoor Articles For Magazines & Newspapers

Text By Tony Mandile  © All rights reserved.

There are many columns written by syndicated writers on the outdoor pages, just as newspapers often use syndicated columns in the editorial sections. You see syndicated outdoor writers in a lot of the smaller papers, perhaps on a regional or statewide basis where outdoor coverage would be similar. National syndication is rare, though, because of the diverse areas involved.
Syndication in magazines is rare, however, because most magazines are competing against one another for both subscribers and stand sales. Newspapers, on the other hand, have none or little competition in their markets.
Soooo..in GENERAL, most of the columns are written by regulars who do them each month. They can either be from staff based in the main office or freelancers such as myself on contract to produce whatever.
Then there are the feature articles that are basically open to everyone, though some are indeed written by staff folks. These are one-time deals and published in a single magazine for the most part with some exceptions.
The outdoor writing business is a competitive one and doesn't pay near as well as the travel and some other markets. So if anyone plans to try their hand at it, don't plan on becoming a millionaire for a few decades at least -- if ever.
When I first began in this business, most articles were solicited by ME to editors, in either the form of a completed 'script or with a descriptive query letter. Once editors saw my work a few times, they knew what they would get, so the letters could be less descriptive, basically just a brief outline of the article idea.
And yes, some editors call me to assign a given article, which is especially true of those who know where my "expertise" lies. Plus, I also get "want" lists from several editors that are the general topic layouts they will need several months out. For the most part, it's about 4-6 months from submission to publication, too. Photos are the real seller for me with requests from editors. Many have my stock sheets and call me for specific ones.
NEVER, NEVER submit the same article to multiple magazines. The problem is one of rights; MOST magazines buy FIRST-TIME serial rights, and they usually want that first time to be exclusive. So what happens when TWO or more editors say they want the article? I can tell you one thing, though; if it ever happens, those editors will NEVER EVER buy anything from you again.
The key is having many articles and/or queries out a time. That way when one is rejected, you can repackage it and send it elsewhere.
I don't even send similar photos out to different publications. The last thing I need is having a similar photo of same subject grace the cover of two mags in the same month.
Now, all of the above said, I often resell articles to other, usually lower paying publications who don't mind buying second or even third time rights. But again, previous publication of such needs to be revealed to them up front.
Sending a complete article is often a good idea for new writers because it gives an editor a sense for the writer's style, expertise on the subject, etc.
That said, too often when queries are rejected, it's the writer's fault because the query letter didn't do its intended job. Again, I'm talking about newer writers that are unfamiliar to the editors.
I can get away with a query to an editor I've worked with in the past that says nothing more than, "How's about an article on smallmouth bass fishing in Arizona? I have excellent photos to illustrate it." That editor already knows HOW I write. He also knows what my photos look like.
In contrast the new guy on the block will likely need to provide the photos and perhaps a more descriptive query, including a sample lead to bring the editor up to the same level of knowledge he or she has of me.
BUT...sometimes it's not the query's fault either; it's very possible the editor already has a similar piece in-house or the subject matter of the query is merely wrong for that publication. Even known writers, including me, get rejects on them.
Hope this infomation is helpful for you.

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