I had a few minutes to spare one summer day, so I dashed into a bookstore and made my way to the magazine racks. There I saw shiny colorful cover after shiny colorful cover. Each one beckoning “choose me”, “pick me”, “take me home”, “how about me?”.
Unexpectedly, my hand wandered to a publication I had never seen before. This one had a colorful glossy cover like most of the others in the rack. However, through some quirk of fate, my hand grabbed this one. As I paged through, I noticed a bold print advertisement. The publisher was actively seeking travel articles. Hey, I said to myself, take a chance. You never know.
As a part time photographer, I knew about query letters, who to contact, SASE’s and so on. So, off went a query letter to the editor suggesting an article about the ten best kept travel secrets of St. Louis.
Time passed and passed. Being a novice, I wasn’t concerned with the lack of response. Then late one afternoon, I received a call from the magazine editor. He thanked me for my story suggestion and went on to say, “I am not interested in a story on the ten best kept secrets of St. Louis but I would be interested in an article on St. Louis. Would you consider doing a 700 word article on spec? Focus on people having fun, smiling faces, clear blue skies, the major tourist attractions, and some of the lesser known tourist spots.”
Of course, in my blissful ignorance I said, “Yes.”
In researching markets for my photography, I knew my chances of being published were improved by submitting photos along with the article. So off I went, camera in one hand, notebook in the other. Since St. Louis was home, I didn’t do any planning. I just visited the places the tourists go and took pictures, took notes and grabbed brochures. I did minimal research to uncover several off the beaten track places to mention in the article. Wow, I thought, this is easy.
Later, back at the computer, I realized it was not as easy as I thought. Nevertheless, I was committed. I told the editor I would give him approximately 700 words plus pictures of smiling faces, sunny blue skies, and people having fun at the tourist spots in St. Louis. In spite of the blank computer screen and the blinking cursor, I managed to create a draft article.
I read that draft, reread it, reviewed the punctuation, spelling, and read it repeatedly. Finally, I decided enough was enough and I bundled the article along with some slides and made my way to the post office. Several weeks passed, but being a novice, the passage of time didn’t worry me. Then it happened. I received an email advising me my article was scheduled to be published in the next issue. What a great feeling!
Looking back on it, I realize I was fortunate and lucky. My submission to hit ratio was 100%. My luck stayed with me because several months later the same article was published in a commemorative issue of the magazine. Imagine, here I was, a rookie writer, and paid twice for the same article.
Since then, I have been published in a number of magazines and newspapers. The magazine that gave me my start has published three additional articles and will be publishing a fourth in the next several months.
Following the suggestions of many, I always attempt to bundle words and photos. I also look close to home for stories, continually do my market research, have my notebook and camera handy, and promote myself.
John Gasawski is a freelance writer photographer with a number of magazine and newspaper credits. He specializes in stories close to home. In addition to writing and photography, John teaches Photoshop and Digital Photography classes for Blue Springs School District, North Kansas City School District, and Longview Community College. His photography assignment work has included the Convention and Visitors Bureaus for Columbia, MO and Pulaski County, MO. John was recently selected by Canyon Communications to shoot pictures at the recent Extreme Makeover Home Edition in Kansas City. John can be contacted at gasawski-(AT)-yahoo.com.