Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Editorial Calendars - a writer's aid

Do you know how to find out what editors from hundreds of publications will want throughout the year? Think of the forward planning you could do. Just imagine targeting several magazines, knowing the subject matter is exactly what each editor has in mind for a particular month. That information is available in an editorial calendar.

What is an editorial calendar?
It is a schedule of the topics a magazine plans to feature during the year. Its primary function is to alert advertisers of product placement opportunities. For example, if a magazine’s theme in June is swimwear, you can guess how interesting that knowledge would be to swimwear manufacturers. It should also be of interest to freelance writers because of the opportunity to pitch ideas on similar topics, such as:

• Changes in swimwear styles since the war

• The history and use of bathing boxes for reasons of modesty

• Styles for lifestyles – modern swimwear for: pregnancy, post-mastectomy, beauty pageant wear, suits for serious swimmers

The possibilities are endless and, the best of it is, you’ll know the editor will be looking for swimwear-related features for June’s issue.

Other valuable information you can garner from the calendar is which countries will feature and when. If, for example, you find out in January that the August issue of a general interest magazine will focus on Spain as their travel destination, this gives you plenty of thinking time.

You may never have been to Spain, and so cannot supply a travel feature in the conventional sense, but there is nothing to stop you from researching and suggesting a piece on ‘20 little-known facts about Spain’, or ‘Essential Spanish Phrases for the Travelling Family’.

The public library and the Internet will supply the information, all you need to do is study the editorial calendar and come up with something which fits both the magazine’s style and the theme for the month in question.

Where and how can you get the calendar?
Many magazines have their editorial calendar accessible on their websites, often in the media kit available to advertisers. If this isn’t the case, write to (or email) the advertising department and ask for a copy.

If possible, download the full media pack as this contains lots of other information of value to the freelance writer, such as: Circulation, gender split, readership age group, lifestyle trends, economic situation of average reader, the magazine’s ethos and many other facts which will enable you to target your feature to the magazine’s core readership, thus giving you a better chance of success with the editor.

One final, but vital, aspect of the media pack and editorial calendar is that they often give the lead time required. Some give editorial and advertising deadlines, but others only have the advertising dates.

In the case of the latter, work on the assumption that the editorial deadline will be at least two weeks, and possibly a month, ahead of the advertising deadline. This is the date by which the finished article must be with the editor; obviously you will need to allocate sufficient time for the query to be accepted, the commission given, and the piece written, when you plan ahead in this way.

Tomorrow I'll give some ideas on how to use the editorial calendars - and also how to find new markets.

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