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Old 25-07-2006, 15:01   #1
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Freelance journalism

I don't often get to read sailing magazines... the current budgeting regimen doesn't allow for such luxuries but, on the odd occasion when I do pick them up (usually on other peoples' boats or coffee tables), there are always articles that have obviously been written (and photographed) by amateur or freelance writers who are long time cruisers/liveaboarders. Some of these articles are pretty amateurish, and some of them real professional.

It occurred to me that this would be, potentially, a good way to add a few dollars to the cruising kitty...and, given that keeping a journal & album of one's adventures is pretty much part of the plan, the background material is going to be coming in constantly.

Do any of y'all have any experiences (good or bad) with freelance writing for sailing/cruising publications?

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Old 25-07-2006, 16:37   #2
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From what I've read about it, there's far more writers than there are places to write for.

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Old 26-07-2006, 05:01   #3
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While I don't write for a living, several things to help you.

First, send a self addressed stamped envelope to the various rags to get their submission requirements.

Second, don't quite trying...

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Old 26-07-2006, 05:54   #4
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Freelance Writing

Well, I wrote one voyage report and submitted it to a few mags. Whether the report was amateurish or professional, I guess somewhere in the midfield... you may judge for yourself:

The write-up was published by several websites in the US, English speaking countries and Europe; in print by only one mag but without pay, generally I've been told that even if money is offered it will be marginal, a couple of hundred bucks at best, certainly not much to warrant the time and effort spent. Which is my first thought: the article I wrote took several months of preparing. If you do it for the money, it is not worth it.

My second impression was that all mags have very specific rules as to how an article should look like. In my specific case impossible to squeeze it into their desired format. In a nutshell: they all want short, preferably US- North-America or Caribe-based, not much in nautical lingo, they all ask for "entertaining" which in their eyes seems to mean a cruise-ship type report rather than any nautical depth or info.
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Old 26-07-2006, 07:28   #5
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Writer’s Guidelines from some Sailing & Cruising related magazines:

Good Old Boat:

Ocean Navigator:

Cruising World & Sailing World:

Sailing Today:

Seaworthy Publications:

Caribbean Travel & Life:

Northern Breezes:
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Old 26-07-2006, 09:20   #6

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Yes there is a lot of competition, but if you are a good writer and a reasonably good photographer you can reliably sell articles. The fact is most people can not write very well.

You can divide the market up into three classes: The big glossies, Sail, Cruisng World, etc. They pay well, but are very competative. Not an easy place to start.

In the middle are Good Old Boat, Ocean Navigator, etc. As a group these pay well for well written stuff. Good photos are really important to get top dollar. Expect to get $500 for a short feature, $200 for a one page short article. The more you write and show yourself to be a reliable source, the better.

There are a bunch of mags and websites who look like they publish anything, and pay poorly. DIY Boat is one like this. $100 for a 1500 word article just isn't worth my time.

Be sure you have read the mag and understand exactly what they are looking for, and what they don't want to be bothered with. Travelogs are the toughest to sell, good how-to's seems to be the easiest.

I sold the first three articles I wrote to the first place I submitted them, so it is possible to add to the cruising kitty this way, but I haven't quit my day job.
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Old 26-07-2006, 15:26   #7
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Thanks for the info, y'all. Exactly the kind of stuff I was looking for! I kinda guessed that it was not all "beer 'n skittles" (if it was, everyone would be doing it.

Still, not gonna write it off as a hopeless cause just yet...
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Old 26-07-2006, 18:17   #8
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We have been writing for Soundings Magazine for many years and started only by chance. We are currently running a monthly in the Voyages section with occasional Destinations articles. getting a magazine to publish your work is difficult. Mags like Cruising World and Sail and several others receive sometimes thousands of articles a month. If you look at them on a regular basis you will see that most of the articles are written by their staff writers or roving contributors or whatever phrase they use for the guys they generally only accept material from. Occasionally if you have a very very interesting piece they may consider it. For the most part the sailing magazines won't generate much income. The going rate for an article even from the big guys is only a couple of hundred dollars. Some pay a small amount extra for photos. Once an article is submitted it usually takes six months before it goes to print. If they even get back to you to accept or reject it. We do it for fun and our friends keep track of our travels that way. but we certainly don't count on it for income and we are one of the lucky few. Good luck.
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Old 26-07-2006, 22:22   #9
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This is one of those glasses half empty or half full deals. Getting articles published is helpful if you have "higher" designs, novels, non-fiction books, etc. I can't speak with expertise in the boating mag market, but I do know from my other hobbies that not only must the article be good, the photos should be good as well. The common reason many articles are rejected is because of the poor photography submitted. The photo should be in focus (an amazing number aren't), well lit, and sharp through out (the second most common reason for rejection, only part of the subject is sharp).
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Old 29-07-2006, 15:42   #10
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If you plan to submit photos with your article, make sure you are using a 6+ megapixel camera; most magazines will not accept less than 6 megapixel photos

I am a working wildlife photographer and photojournalist working from my sailboat. Good Luck; it is competitive but it is doable.
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Old 29-07-2006, 16:13   #11
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actually... it is a little different than you might think.........
take a look at the following page to start. I'll be back to this site later, I'm covering the Sydney to Mackay race at the moment so tied up for a couple hours.

you will need a BODY of work to get going with most mags and some times being accepted is a negative... more later

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Old 29-07-2006, 20:03   #12
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It is a matter of personality. It confounds me that it is so but I have found it is. I'll get back to that in a second but I must say that the mag that I think has the clearest vision and most reasonable format for $$ is Good Old boat. Karen pays enough that if you were willing to do the work and have the skills for a good technical atricle, you could make a good part of a living. Keep in mind also that your article published in one market may be published in another. A good article could be sold many times. An article soundly rejected by one editor may be embraced by another. (personality) Early on with TCP, I published a number of articles by Jo Djubal, I still believe her best writing ever. Every one of those stories had been rejected from the other Aussie mags! And here is a great example. I just posted to my site an article by Alan Lucas, published in TCP # 11 Losing the Canon Bay! a story about him losing a cargo vessel he skippered in cyclone Althea in 71. Alan is Australias most published and respected marine author. The article was submitted to a cruising mag he often writes for and by accident he recieved an email intended for the mags production department from the editor with a note, "can you make this less boring?" Thus, I got the article! I consider the editor in question an idiot but I have found that common!! The way it works in this country and the way it works with some US mags I have checked out is this, the editor develops a relationship with an author after a body of work has been published. The editor comes up with some idea about a subject they are just sure is brilliant and calls said writer and ask's, 'can you knock up about 1200 words on the best cookie you ever cooked on passage?' or some such stupid ****. Thus the editor taylors the content to their taste with a stable of compliant writers on tap. The editor is looking for (what they consider) a good teaser to plaster on the front page and the actual content is almost an afterthought. Another way a writer gets on the pay roll is to write 'advertorials.' **** that, I would rather go into politics!

I advise to stick to your art. Trust your compass! Be prepared to give some work away for exposure and to develop that body of work. SAVE EVERTHING! photo files etc. Send the work to many and be prepared for rejection because editors are idiots!! And don't believe their stories about being buried in submissions. Often times that is not true but it helps to keep you in your place. And most of all... as soon as it is not fun anymore... go sailing.

Alan Lucas's "boring article" can be seen at

And an article that I think is one of the sweetest pieces of writing ever... from a US cruiser that has never written before and was very shy about handing to me

Hey Norsea27... 6 meg.. or more for a full page shot. yes but I do newsprint so can get away with murder. It is the hardest part though, getting a few good photos to go with the text. You should check out the photos I have on issue # 18, contributed by John Brown III, retired from Rueters in NY now Sydney based. Good stuff!

Hey rsn 48... yes, getting that body of work ou there can be a good intro to books etc... look at the Pardeys!

Hey Chuck... Yup, they like to stick to favourites and staff, editors can be frightened children, afraid of every new idea or source. Ask, if they are so inundated with material why do they hire staff to do most of the writing?

TCP is what happens when the writers rule and the editor just trys to sell enough ads to print it!


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Old 30-07-2006, 00:16   #13
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Ok, as a reporter, writer and editor by profession, I can tell you a bit how this works:

1) Narrow down your potential market. Do some research to figure out which magazines carry the sort of story you're interested in doing. Don't waste your time (and the editors' time) pitching your idea to inappropriate magazines.

2) Assemble a "pitch." This is one page, single spaced, or a one-page email. No more. If you can't sell it in one page, it's probably not going to sell. DON'T send the article fully written, even if you have already written it. Included in the pitch (which naturally should read well, as it is a first impression of how the story will read), suggest where the story will fit in the magazine. For example, if it seems to fit in the magazine's DIY section (where everything is 300-500 words), then pitch it for that section and promise it at 300-500 words. The editor is looking (usually months in advance) to fill potential holes in the magazine, and this will help him/her envision how you can fill a need. It also indicates that you understand the magazine and its market.

3) Negotiate payment, delicately.

4) If the editor wants the story, he/she might give you some guidance to follow on how to write it and/or who to interview (depending on the story). Follow said advice.

5) Get a rough draft, then walk away from it for a few days (assuming you have the luxury and aren't on deadline). Go back to it. You'll probably have ideas on improving it. Hand it off to someone whose opinion you value and who you know will give honest, constructive criticism. Be open to suggestions.

6) Deliver to the editor when promised, ahead of schedule if possible. This is important. Magazines are on tight deadlines and they "lock up" well in advance of publication and distribution. Making changes at the last minute is time consuming, sometimes expensive and occasionally impossible.

7) Before you submit, fact-check your story. Make sure it's right. Then check it again. Nothing will unnerve an editor more than a factual error in print. He/she will lose sleep over it and regardless of whose fault it is, the editor will ultimately bear personal and professional responsibility. If factual errors slip into the story, the editor will be extremely reluctant to work with you again.

8) The editor will most likely suggest changes. Don't compromise the spirit of the story, and certainly don't compromise the facts, but DO be open-minded. Editors are not all idiots, although I have run into my share in this business (and more than a few times the epithet has been directed at me). But, most editors who rise to the top rungs of the publishing business know their art. Listen to them, and be willing to compromise, especially on points of style. Chances are the editor will have ideas that will make your story sing instead of croak. From a writer's standpoint, the best part is that your name (not the editor's) is at the top of the story, so it's you who gets to look like a great writer if the editor helps you improve the final product.

Just a few more points:

When it comes to cruising stories in particular, the natural tendency for newbies is to write chronologically. Resist the urge, as it rarely makes for a good story. What I mean by this is that if you're going to write a story about sailing through the perfect storm, don't begin by how you scraped the topsides backing out of the dock that day. Think of how news stories are written: the key is the "lead" - the first paragraph. That sells the story to readers. If you don't get 'em in the lead, you don't get 'em at all. So, generally speaking, begin with the most exciting or interesting elements and leave out the mundane details. Sounds obvious, I know, but it needs to be said.

Also, if you're writing about a high-seas adventure, get it down, at least in note form, as soon as possible. Don't just record what was happening, record how you were feeling. The visceral nature of your experience will be fresh and help your writing have "edge" if you get it down quickly. And - just as important in my opinion - tell it all: the good, the bad and the ugly. Others will identify if you're honest about the mistakes you made "out there."

SO, good luck.
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Old 30-07-2006, 15:18   #14
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Thaks again for all the great info and advice. Plenty of food for thought. Great stuff.
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Old 31-07-2006, 17:43   #15
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I think this subject has importance beyond the original question and though I agree with some of your comments snueman, I would argue some others. I started a paper that is a total repudiation of the traditional writer/publication relationship and the existence and success of the paper is proof of my point. I too am a writer and editor but also the publisher. That means I put my money where my mouth is. I can't tell you how many fine writers I have seen discouraged by unreasonable and dictative editors with no clue of the real nature of their readers and certainly no respect for them.

My deffintition of a good editor remains one who provides material that is entertaining, honest reflection of the authors message and most important, validating of the market. (I don't want to hear what I should be, I want reporting of who I am.)

My deffintion of a bad editor is one who kills insperation rather than nutures. I see a lot of it and am against it.

I'm off to cover the arrival of the Sydney to Mackay fleet, over 900 mile ocean race and the arrival of the Melbourne to Vanuatu to Mackay "Boomerang" race... when I get back I will start posting "rejected" articles and comments as I think they may be useful observations for many potencial writers.


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