Submission Guidelines for Silent Sports Magazine
Wish to submit an idea for a story?
Please review the following to improve your chances of publication.
In General: We seek out stories written about others, the people, places to go, races/events, trail/waterway development, silent sports club projects, gear, programs, and training. The story also has to pertain primarily to the Upper Midwest: Wisconsin, Michigan, Northern Indiana, Northern Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, and, yes, southern Ontario. With the exception of the Back Page, discussed below, stories that are presented in the form of — this is what happened to me and what I did — are not favored. There can be moments of personal references, such as briefly in the introduction, or otherwise related and informative to the story, but should be limited in word count and otherwise should not dominate the story.
PLEASE – no reprints. This includes stories posted on blogs.
Exception to Midwest ties: In Silent Sports Magazine, you will see a few stories, such as the July 2020 profile story on Greg LeMond, that do not seem so Midwest-tied (although he did live in Minnesota for 30 years). However, such a person transcends geography and is of interest to silent-sporters regardless of where they live. In other words, a person who is “universal” to silent sports will be considered a very legitimate submission topic. The person does not have to be famous within a silent sport, but must at least represent a concept or idea or accomplishment we all appreciate as silent-sporters no matter where we may live. Still, it does not hurt to have Midwest ties.
The Back Page: Any personal essay story limited to humor (and, for good or for bad, I have to be the judge of that), opinion, or the truly unique, always related to silent sports in some way, will be considered for The Back Page section. This section is limited to 800 words plus one photograph, if a photograph is part of the submission, so the submission can, in fact, fit on the one page called The Back Page.
Stories should NOT be written before your pitch: Please do not submit fully written stories for the reasons that follow. Because of magazine layout and marketing realities, and the stories accepted, it is necessary to slate stories far in advance, and in an appropriate season issue for the story. Magazine issues three to six months out often are filled as you are considering a submission, and some slots are filled as far out as one year. Therefore, plan in advance, contact me now, even if your story isn’t currently in season, such as discussing a skiing story with me in June or a summer race event in December. That’s perfectly okay.
Although stories do not, and should not, be written out first, I want to hear the idea/concept, and in relation to other stories already inked into the schedule to avoid repetition, and to help make sure a broad scope of silent sports is covered in each issue. Therefore, while stories should not be written first, they do have to be pitched, meaning, email a paragraph or two on your story idea to:
PLEASE don’t waste your time writing a story out in full before sending the pitch. If I like the pitch all on its own, I may accept the pitch as is or discuss with you some options on approaches. Then I will ink it in the schedule. Again, publication may be 3 to 8 months down the road from the pitch acceptance. But remember, it is good to give me the idea well-ahead of the seasonal months, so they can get in the magazine and you have time to write it and work with me on drafts. This method also limits uncertainty and increases the odds that your story will get published as opposed to endlessly backlogged.
Submission due dates: A story with any photographs should be completed and submitted on the 10th of the month that is two months before the publication issue. Therefore, if a story is targeted for the November issue, it needs to be completed and submitted with photos no later than on the 10th of September. There is very little wiggle room on submission due dates as the managing editor has a publication process due date to meet soon after.
Fact-Checking: With all submissions involving quotations, particularly with profile stories, please send your stories, before sending them to the magazine, to the subject(s) of the profile and to those whom you have quoted in your stories. This is about accuracy, honoring the people of Silent Sports, and giving folks the chance to correct something they realize they may have said in error.
Word Count Limits: After the pitch is accepted, the stories themselves should be 900 to 1,400 words long, although it is okay to send drafts up to 1,600 with the understanding that the total word count likely will be reduced through the editing review process. Please do not think that word count limits are for everyone else but you. Word count limits are inherent in any magazine. Artistically, word count limits force us as writers to produce the best, most concise, and forward-moving stories; they make us better writers. Also, we want the magazine to contain many stories in each issue, and going over the word count limit means some other story may get bumped, which isn’t fair to anyone. Also, marketing relies on advance notice of which stories will likely appear in issues many months out to increase their effectiveness for the magazine. Therefore, a story coming in hundreds of words over the limit, threatening to bump another story, has several consequences. Better that you get the word count down rather than the managing editor doing so.
Formatting: Word documents, double-spaced, are preferred, but no story will be rejected based on format. That is because I can change any format into the preferred format in about 30 seconds. That is for the editing process. The layout process gets it in magazine shape no matter the format submitted. Also, it’s great if you are a professional writer, and know the AP or Chicago manuals on writing. However, what is more important to me are stories from excellent story-tellers, who get their facts right and give readers something of real interest presented in a gripping way. I’d rather read a good yarn any day rather than an encyclopedic dissertation. Yes, please use spellcheck, and read through for typos or grammar errors, and even read the story out loud slowly, which is one of the best ways to catch errors — but I’m not looking for grammatical or spelling perfection. Putting that final polish on is my task.
Acceptance of the story: Last, acceptance of the pitch does not necessarily mean acceptance of the submitted story. Of course, I need to see how well it’s written, whether it meets word length guidelines, and follows the general rules stated at the start, and is in fact the quality of story for the magazine. However, please keep in mind that this is a full-time managing editor position, and I will give you my time to discuss ideas, receive rough drafts or portions of a rough draft for review. Bottom line: I am willing to look at drafts to provide guidance to help a story get accepted.
Here are some helpful hints to take to heart while writing:
1) Know Your Audience: Writing for Silent Sports Magazine‘s readership is different from writing for a general newspaper. The basics, such as being outdoors is good, cross-country skiing is fun and beneficial, skijoring involves dogs, and the like, are examples of preaching to the choir here. Unless something is truly unique, avoid the basics that readership has long understood.
2) Show Don’t Tell: This is an oft-quoted rule that is as overstated as it is true – and too often ignored. As examples:
The Tell: This trail is like no other, beautiful and challenging and fun and exciting.
The Show: A winding single track, the __________ trail takes you on a 15K journey around gentle turns through 80-foot, heavily scented pines, a mystery awaiting around every frequent curve, leading you to campsites, scenic overlooks, and, to the sound of water flowing around boulders, the __________ river, where deer or beaver may join you along the shoreline.
In other words – don’t tell the readers something is beautiful; instead – show the readers the experiences unique to the place described, using the 5 senses and the physical characteristics of note. This way, your subject stands out and the readers can feel for themselves as they read why the place is beautiful or the event is outstanding.
Telling isn’t always bad because you don’t want your story to exceed word count, especially on fact points such as location and length and history. But when it comes to a sentence that starts out: This event is … and you are about to write “the best” or the “most beautiful” or “the most exciting” and the like, then this is likely the exact place to show your readers the details of why without telling why something is so. After all, experiencing the features of what makes a particular sunset over a particular lake so beautiful is not only more effective but also more convincing to show what your saying is true. You will also discover in short order that showing in your writing helps immerse you in your story’s environment as you write, experiencing the details for yourself that you then put into words. (Which is a showing way of telling you that it makes our writing much more enjoyable!)
For the more curious, here is a very good link to a video on the subject of show don’t tell, which I know is a telling sentence; but the video will show you! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lqk_a5LfR5Y
3) Avoid Superlative Language: Similar to show don’t tell, please don’t write that this place or event is absolutely the best. Such a conclusion is subjective in the first place no matter how great an event or trail may be. Plus, this magazine serves to honor all of its coverage, and recognizes that every event, place to visit, accommodation, and the like, has something special and grand to offer. Writing that something is the best not only doesn’t show why something is so good, but it also works as a slap in the face to other events or places, and so on.
4) Don’t Cross Into Medical Expertise: Unless you truly have the accepted education and training, do not cross into the realm of medical advice. Stories on weight loss, for example, are fraught with opinion and personal experience and once-favored plans that are now considered dangerous and sometimes body-shaming. Please leave such advice and other similar advice to the individuals and their personal health care providers.
4) Make People Think as they Read: I didn’t know that! While having writing experience is great, this magazine is NOT looking for the polished essayist. Rather, we look for the storyteller who can spin the good yard, show the wonderful tale, as though in a conversation with best friends who have asked, So what is this place, thing, or event all about? You, and we, don’t want a story that people can easily find on the Internet. Show the story that you know, using your knowledge and passion, presented in a way so that it can be experienced by the readership. If a story is submitted with some typos and grammar errors, but shows a unique story, you have crossed the finish line to acceptance!
Photos: Pictures need to be submitted in jpeg and relevant to the story. Scenery alone, no matter how beautiful, is not preferred. We prefer photos that have a person or people in them – the people of silent sports. Make sure each photo comes with a brief caption, with permission of the photographer, whether that’s you or someone else, and a photo-by credit, all of which can be set out in an email that the photo is attached to.