Tips for Contributors
• Meet or beat deadlines. We like to work with writers we can count on. Also working on deadline gives us time to make any adjustments necessary.
• Include quality photos when you can. Not only do they help sell your package, but we pay for images in addition to payment for manuscripts. See our separate photo guidelines.
• Quote the experts. When possible, interviewing one or more professionals (skippers, mates, tournament experts, industry/manufacturer insiders or the like gives a subject great credibility. Also, wherever appropriate, contact fishery managers/biologists regarding status of species/fisheries. (Often they can provide tables, graphs, charts, etc. to help illustrate a topic.)
• Balance information with readability. Anecdotes can impart information while lending human interest. These are safest in third person but there are times when first-person narrative, if not overdone, is useful. Avoid talking down to our informed readership, but also avoid sounding ponderous or using $10 words when 5-cents' worth says it clearly.
• Include sidebars; we like 2 to 3 topical sidebars, usually with feature or illustration where possible. (see recent issues for examples of these sidebars) With any feature that has to do with a destination, include information on travel, lodging, charters/guides etc. We also like to see a seasonal availability chart for species (a hand sketch is acceptable): See recent issues for examples of required format. If a feature has to do with a genre of product, include a sidebar listing manufacturers.
Reprinted from Boating Writers International Journal, September 2005, by Doug Olander
"First, pick a great topic. This most essential step seems to be a stumbling block for some writers. Based on what I see from many freelance contributors, if a fishing trip was great, a feature on that trip should be great. If only it were that simple. Frankly, features written about great outings are a dime a dozen. They do seem to be the bread-and-butter for the average fishing journalist - and why not? If you can wangle your way down to Costa Rica or wherever by selling a feature, you should do it!
But I'd look outside that destination-feature box for memorable topics. My most prestigious contest awards have been for features that fall not in the where-to category, but for informational features (historical, scientific, conservation and particularly - how-to). Ah, but the second critical step of doing the research, which is usually marvelous great fun for a destination feature, may be a whole lot less fun for informational articles. Many queries come across my desk (these days, actually, my screen) each year. Most concern where-to articles based on fishing trips, and most of those we must reject for various reasons. A paltry few offer the sort of great ideas for informational features that I'm all over when I see them. This isn't to say, by the way, that great features do not come from "fishing trips." But that happens far less often.
Second, gather great information. Doing research is usually interesting, and (more than ever, thanks to the astounding powers of the Internet) uncovering cool stuff can be deeply satisfying. At the same, it is often tedious and may require great patience and effort. Moreover, the rule of thumb that has always served me very well is: Leave no stone unturned, vary your sources (to include interviews with direct quotes as well as published material) and save everything. If, when ready to begin writing, you have far more information than you can ever possibly use, you've done your homework.
For a feature on "high-velocity game fish" that I wrote a few years ago (still one of my favorites), I ended up with reams of literature photocopied and (from downloads) printed out. I spent a few days with highlighter in hand, reading and making marginal notes. Plus I had many pages of notes from personal interviews to wade through. Having all that organized in front of me made the third step, of writing the thing, decidedly untraumatic. But here's a caveat. I'm an editor; I'm paid for my time to do all this (granted, that will be part of the many hours above/beyond some mythical 40-hour workweek). Freelancers don't enjoy that luxury.
Third, write a great article. You've got the topic and have done the research. Now your skills as a writer and ability to understand what an editor wants for his/her audience should permit you to write an award-winning fishing article!"