For every hobby and interest, there’s a magazine. Passionate about beading? Pick up Bead&Button. Fascinated by sustainable living? Try Permaculture Magazine. There are magazines for sailors, costumers, historians, and hip-hop dancers. A few years ago, I taught at a writers’ conference and lamented the lack of publications to which I could submit an essay about my neighborhood’s wild turkeys. A man in camouflage stood up in the back row. “Here,” he said, and held up a copy of Turkey & Turkey Hunting Magazine.
We caught up with five magazine editors to bring you the scoop on what they love to publish, how to wow them with a professional pitch, and why – despite rumors to the contrary – the magazine industry remains an exciting force in publishing. The takeaway? Identify your niche, find your magazine, study back issues, and pitch your very finest stories and articles.
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Jennifer Niesslein, founder and editor, Full Grown People
At 45, Jennifer Niesslein has heard that the magazine industry is dying or dead over her entire career. “I accepted a long time ago that magazine publishing is constantly evolving,” she says. A writer, editor, and entrepreneur, she’s evolved right along with it.
In 2000, she co-founded the print and online magazine Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers. Thirteen years later, she founded Full Grown People, an online magazine of literary personal essays that examine what it means to be an adult. She looks for compelling and intelligent submissions between 800 and 4,000 words with conclusions that pack a memorable punch.
One of these is Sarah Einstein’s “Going to Ground,” in which the writer reflects on the current political administration and the United States’ most vulnerable individuals, who live in fear of harassment, physical attack, deportation, and worse. “We’re at a point in American history where a lot of us are realizing that we’re living history as it happens, and it feels so normal and so not normal at the same time,” Niesslein explains. “It’s a relief and gift to have someone (gorgeously) articulate her thoughts on how this could all play out.”
Einstein is a well-published author and essayist and a creative writing professor. But Niesslein is more interested in the quality of the writing than a writer’s credentials. She doesn’t look at pitch letters. “I just want to read the best version of the essay that the writer can muster,” she says.
One of these essays is Tracey Lynn Lloyd’s “True Love or Serial Killer?” about the author’s online relationship – and the gradual realization that she’s been duped and has narrowly avoided extortion. “It hits that sweet spot between being vulnerable and being unapologetic about who you are,” Niesslein says.
She also adores regular contributor Jody Mace’s work – particularly “Shrödringer’s Horn.” “It’s a great example of how she takes a widely shared dilemma – how to deal with an aging parent’s limits without destroying his quality of life – and renders an essay unlike any other I’ve read,” Niesslein says.
Full Grown People is a labor of love. While she can’t pay contributors, she hopes a virtual tip jar on the magazine’s website will eventually build enough funds that she can compensate writers for their essays.
“The funding’s gotten trickier for all types of magazines,” she says. “Full Grown People is one of many online magazines because they’re relatively inexpensive to start. The good news for writers is that there’s a bigger universe of publications. The bad news – for writers and editors both – is that it’s tough to make money.”
Still, she believes that print magazines are viable options, as well. She herself subscribes to The Sun, Bitch, and True Story. “You can still run a solid print magazine,” she says, “if you’re offering something that no one else offers.”