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7 Tips For Mining The Free Issue
by Kathleen Ewing

Breaking into a new market is always gratifying. When my complimentary copy of the national art magazine arrived, I had to resist the temptation to remove the cover, the table of contents and my article to tuck them safely into my clip file. This was a free copy of a new market for me. Before I dissected it, I wanted to see if there was something else the editor might like to see from me and the local art community.

So I grabbed my notebook and my pen to start mining my free issue.

1. The cover: The banner at the top informed the reader about the types of articles the magazine traditionally published. Half a dozen blurbs described what appeared in this particular issue. These are headlines for the topics the editor believes are the most likely to attract readers. Marketing, career planning, showing the artwork.

2. Masthead: Names of editors are listed here, which provides an excellent contact point for queries. Also listed is the publisher, who might also publish other magazines where I could sell my work. In many cases, contributing authors are also listed.

3. The table of contents: Current features and regular departments are headlined here. These are another excellent barometer for the types of articles that are currently selling. By comparing names of the article writers to those authors listed on the magazine's masthead, I can determine that 90 per cent of the magazine is written by freelancers, which is encouraging.

4. Editorial page: Here the editor boasts about which pieces the magazine is proudest of publishing this month and provides a snapshot of what plans the publication has for future issues. In this case, the magazine is rolling out a new department featuring tours of artists' private studios. Not just a casual mention, mind you, but a large section dedicated to this new feature.

5. Articles: Forget those stale and static guidelines in a book or on a website. The best clue to what an editor wants now is what is published in current issues. I read every article, making prolific notes about style, content and illustrations. Illustrations and photographs generally represent more money for the author, so it pays to take notes on those, too. Because many editors are more likely to purchase an article with illustrations, a good digital camera can earn its purchase price in a few weeks.

6. Advertisements: Ads provide valuable clues to the type of readers the magazine targets. Most of the ads in my complimentary copy are directed toward the professional artist rather than the novice, someone who is interested in presenting artwork for sale to the public in shows and galleries. This opens the door to dozens of articles: how to frame your work to best advantage, how to advertise your work, how to organize a one-man showing, etc.

7. The back cover: The company that buys a full color page of advertising space on the back cover is generally making a huge investment in an effort to reach the magazine's readers. Those advertisers believe the magazine is an excellent vehicle for promoting their businesses. With so much money at stake, they study the demographics of the magazine's readers, so you can take a clue from them about the types of people to whom you should slant your article. On this magazine, the back cover is a glossy ad promoting a company which is focusing upon building websites for artists. How about an article about the information an artist should include on a website?

My notebook is now packed with the germs of potential articles for this single market. Marketing. Showing. Galleries. Career plan. Studio tour. Website. Each of these items will get their own page in my project book and some serious brainstorming when I sit down to develop new articles. But the first action on my agenda is to shoot off an article from my inventory while my name is still fresh on the editor's mind. Within six weeks, I have another check and a second complimentary copy. And if there is anything better than a free copy of a paying market to reinforce what an editor wants, it's two free copies.

If I mine those complimentary copies deeply enough and analyze every squiggle of ink, I just might find my name up there on that masthead with the rest of the contributing writers.

© Copyright 2008, Kathleen Ewing

Kathleen Ewing is an award-winning freelance writer headquartered in Central Arizonas high country. Among her credits are feature articles for Art Calendar, American Falconry, Bend of the River, TrailBlazer and Hobby Farms magazines. Visit her blog at www.rodeowriter.blogspot.com

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