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AUGUST 2017

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FOR WRITERS

Guidelines

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Stylebook


We welcome new writers and photographers for Early American Life because we want to keep a fresh voice and a fresh eye. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind if you are interested in submitting your work for publication:

General

We work as much as one year in advance. We like to key our issues to the season, so if itís winter, think about writing a story and taking pictures for next winter.

We believe there are gifted writers and photographers and, rarely, someone truly skilled at both. In other words, if you can write a truly excellent story, donít worry about photography. We will find a photographer who can match the tone and content of your story. And if youíre a photographer, we will match your talents with a wordsmith who can turn a photo-essay into a masterpiece (or so we hope).

Content

We cover a diversity of topics, all centered around America from its founding through the mid-1800s:

History. For Life in Early America, we seek an interesting presentation of historic life, an unusual event, or a different look at a well-known topic (usually keyed to the publication date). We are sticklers for accuracy, as our magazine circulates among many museums and historical societies, so you should have some expertise in your subject. (While we do not use footnotes, we welcome a source list for readers interested in pursuing the subject in depth.)

Architecture and Decorating. We are always looking for people who are able to integrate early American homes, furnishings, and style with modern living. Our readers gain structural know-how and creative ideas for their own homes, inside and out, through lavishly illustrated features on both restored period structures and those newly constructed to resemble the past. If you know about a home (and decorator) worthy of coverage, let us know.

Antiques. Stories written for the Eye on Antiques department should include a knowledgeable discussion of the origins and development of the item or class of items covered, how they were made and used, how they have survived through the years, and a hint at current availability and value.

Studio Crafts. We are interested in the people as well as the history of studio crafts. In our annual Directory of Traditional American Craftsģ, we focus on artisans who use period methods and/or materials to re-create the work of our ancestors--the master craftsmen of their time. Side By Sideģ, a department in the magazine as well as a show exhibit, compares objects made by modern craftsmen with their antique counterparts.

Travel. In conjunction with a house feature, we often include a travel piece on the geographic region, focusing on its history and the modern events that celebrate it, other period architecture, places to see, stay, shop, and eat. 

Be aware that Early American Life is one of the most treasured and retained magazines in the world. Many readers collect issues and hold on to them for years. They know what weíve already written about, so please query us before you begin work.

Style

Although we cover academic topics, we donít want academic writing. The best sign of a writerís skill is to be able to present solid information in a readable, entertaining manner. We appreciate a deft touch with a bit of humor or word play to keep things interesting. Our average reader is about 55 years old, knowledgeable, well-educated, often experts in the fields you will be writing about. But they see as a Early American Life as a friend, so the tone can be conversational.

>The best way to familiarize yourself with our style and content is by reading the magazine. Then write something livelier and better. Our aim is to continually improve the quality of Early American Life.

Accuracy is the most important thing you deliver to us. We can guarantee that your work will be scrutinized by experts in the topic about which your write, so please be sure every date is accurate, every name spelled correctly, every address and telephone number verified.

Be specific. Donít say, ďThe current value is about ten bucks,Ē but ďA similar nutmeg grater sold at Christieís in January 2002 for $2,300.Ē

Do not send us recipes that you have not tried yourself. (Weíll try them, too, but we need at least some hope of succeeding.)

Length

Stories for Early American Life should be just long enough to get from the beginning to the end--that is, content should dictate length. Donít add words to make a story seem more meaningful. On the other hand, donít give short shrift to a story that demands in-depth coverage.

A one-page story in Early American Life, such as Worth Seeing, runs about 750 words. A typical feature may run 2,500 words. Note that itís always easier for an editor to make a story shorter, so if anything, err on the long side. Never, however, go more than 10 percent beyond the length an editor assigns.

Photography

We have high photographic standards because one of the greatest strengths of Early American Life is its visual appeal. Most of our photography is assigned to professionals, but we are always on the lookout for excellent work. We do not use snapshots and we rarely use ďartĒ photography, that is, photos where style dominates content. We expect the photo to be part of the story and to tell part of the story. Every photo should have a center of interest that illustrates why it is included.

From the technical side, it goes without saying that images should be sharp, well-lit (which, for interiors, usually means evenly lit), properly exposed, and properly framed (although we often crop them). We use a lot of medium format transparencies (our cover in particular), although 35mm slides are often acceptable. These days weíve come to prefer digital photographs. The minimum resolution we can use is 3.3 megapixels. We would prefer 5 megapixels or more of true image resolution (donít resize your image larger) to allow us some room to crop. In any case, we want to see the raw photos and let our artists crop and correct them as necessary.

In the past, Early American Life has not used photos featuring people. We plan to change that, but we donít want simple portraits or headshots. For example, we would like to see a skilled craftsperson at work. Most importantly, we would like to see a variety of shots--photos featuring people, interiors, exteriors, close-ups, and distant shots. In people pictures, weíd like to see faces, but also we like to see photos that intentionally donít show faces, say a the back of a fieldworker to put a landscape in perspective.

We need releases for any photos that include identifiable people or protected sites. We will supply the release forms to you as necessary.

Payment

Our experience is that writers and photographers want to be paid for their work, and if you work for us you will be paid. We pay when we accept your article for publication and you have invoiced us for your work. If we assign you a story but we do not accept the piece you submit to us, we will pay you a kill fee.

Our rates depend on your skill and our relationship. To be honest, this is not the New Yorker. Our rates are not the highest in the industry, but we will try to reward you fairly for your work. Payment for unsolicited manuscripts will be negotiated upon acceptance. We would estimate $500 for a first feature from a new writer, more if you are an experienced, skillful writer. If we assign a story to you, we will negotiate the rate before you begin work.

Rights

We buy all rights exclusively for the six-month period in which an issue of Early American Life remains on sale. We donít want your story appearing someplace else while weíre still trying to sell our magazine. After six months, our rights become non-exclusive, so you can re-sell your work to another publication (magazine, book, or whatever you choose).

Submissions

If you have an idea for a story or would like to suggest a home to be featured in Early American Life, please contact the editors at queries@firelandsmedia.com. You may also write to us at Early American Life, Post Office Box 221228, Shaker Heights, Ohio 44122-0996, but please plainly mark "Editorial Query" on your envelope. 

We do read unsolicited manuscripts but prefer that you query us first. If you wish us to return an unsolicited manuscript, please enclose a self-addressed envelope bearing sufficient postage for its return. 

Letters to the editor should be sent to us directly at letters@firelandsmedia.com

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