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To answer one (not all) of your questions about writing for
the scientific journalism market:
Ideally, I'd like to start writing and reporting short science news
summaries for a magazines like Science News, Discover,
Newspapers or some Online Service. </snip>
Based on your background, I don't think you'll have any
problems breaking into these publications. I have a few tips for
you, though. [These are very nuts and bolts, how to sell a story,
because that's what you're concerned about.]
+ Start by reading the back issues of each publication you
want to write for. Make notes about the common THEMES
among the articles, the LENGTH of the stories, different
SECTIONS in the publication [for news bites, updates, etc],
the STYLE of the writing, and so on. DO YOUR RESEARCH.
The magazine's editors don't have time to educate you.
+ Once you've done your research, you have to think of a
story idea. Do preliminary research into the story. Make
notes, contact one source, and create a draft introduction
to the story (~500 words).
+ When you have the story fleshed out, you have two
options: (1) Write a query letter to the editor. Send the intro
you wrote. Wait several months. (2) Call the editor. Pitch
the story. Fax the intro you wrote, but only if the editor asks
you to. Wait several weeks.
+ If they like the story but you're a new writer, they'll ask you to
write your stories (first two or three anyway) on SPEC. This
means that you have to write the complete story, send it in,
and if they don't like it, you don't get paid for it. If they do like
it, they will pay you a set rate that is usually NON-NEGOTIABLE.
+ Magazines finish writing, editing, and desktopping their
issues 3 to 4 MONTHS before the mags actually hit the news-
stand. If you have a story that you want in the Christmas issue,
you need to contact the editor in the summer.
+ Rates, addressess, and publication dates can be found in
the WRITER'S GUIDE series of books. These are freely avail.
in any public library. There are writer's guides for different
genres of publishing, incl. romance fiction, poetry, magazines,
etc. Each writer's guide is updated yearly.
+ Don't give up. If one publisher doesn't like your article, you
can always PITCH it to another publication. Be sure to get
a letter or verbal response from the FIRST publication that
they DON'T WANT the story before trying to sell it to another
publication. It's very bad form to resell a story from under the
nose of an editor, even if they are taking till the end of time
to get back to you.
+ Also, to raise your confidence, take an introductory journalism
or magazine publishing class at a local college. These will
teach you additional nuts and bolts skills for selling your work,
and the teacher may be able to introduce you to other writers
and editors who work in your community.
I hope I've answered some of your questions. I've never sold
my work to a scientific journal, but I have several friends and
peers working at magazines across Canada. There is a def-
inite PROCESS for selling your work to a magazine, and it
is very different from selling your work to a newspaper.