“How do I break into Yankee?” I hear that question over and over from hopeful writers. Through the years, I’ve spoken to hundreds of freelancers at writers’ conferences, as well as on the phone and through letters and e-mails. The earnestness and hope in that question are not to be taken lightly.
The desire to be published runs wide and deep among us, and Yankee, for many people, has seemed like part of the family. Even a colleague, when she finally saw her byline in the July/August issue, confessed to me the other day, “It was one of my dreams, to be published in Yankee.”
The other day I gave a speech to the Sanford-Springvale, Maine, Chamber of Commerce. I enjoy this part of my job: getting out, meeting the people of New England, the very heart of why Yankee Magazine matters. We’re not an abstract part of their lives; many of the people I meet grew up with Yankee in their homes, and now their own children are doing the same.
I met a wonderful, gregarious man who grew up in Sanford, left for a while after high school, and then came back to stay. He told me about his two teenaged children, and his pride in them fairly made his sport coat pop off. He told me about his son, who loves to write. As I was leaving, he pressed a few pages of his son’s writing into my hands and entreated me to read it. “He’d love to write for Yankee,” he said.
I understand, and that’s why I’ve compiled here the “5 Best, Surefire Ways to Get into Yankee.” They’ll seem simple. They’re deceptively difficult to pull off. But it happens. It happens. Stories do come to us “over the transom.” That means we haven’t assigned them. They come like a knock on the door, and we open the envelope and here’s this rare treasure of a story we must accept and publish.
We also receive dozens of queries each month. A query is basically a job interview. If a query is fascinating to read, if the writer shows that he/she has a passion and knowledge of the subject, we’ll often want to know more. This list will serve you well, whether you send a query or a completed manuscript.
1. Know the magazine. A magazine isn’t static. A magazine lives and shows what it is every issue. If you’re going to get in, know what we’re doing now.
2. Write about New England. That seems obvious, since Yankee is “New England’s Magazine,” but a surprising number of submissions arrive that have little to do with the region.
3. Tell us what we don’t know. This is key. Yes, we know New England, but we want to be surprised. If we can be surprised by what you write, we know the readers will be. Take a look at the March/April 2008 issue. The story Hidden Trails of Cape Cod delivers the surprise. It came in with that unexpected knock on the door.
4. Write with authority. This applies to both queries and finished stories. Make sure you show us that you know what you’re writing about. Any one of us can find information now on the Internet. What we want is a real sense that you have a depth of knowledge about whatever it is you write about.
5. Write so that we pay attention to the first words. Again, this is imperative for queries as well as finished stories. Many query writers send us lengthy resumes. The best resume is that page that shows us how you use words, how you want to write the story. We want to discover new writers. It’s why we come into the office every day: to put out a magazine that excites us. The competition is stiff; the bar for what we publish is high. But I have so many stories over the years about unpublished writers breaking in that I know it can happen for you.
See our Submission Guidelines for Writers and Photographers.
Yankee editor Mel Allen is the author of A Coach’s Letter to His Son.