The Incredible Disappearing Magazine

When a magazine that you freelance for folds, it could put a squeeze on your wallet. But if you play it smart, it may also open up opportunities.
Author:
Publish date:

When a magazine folds, the "what next?" stories you hear tend to focus on the publisher and the editor—maybe even the sales director. Rarely do you hear from the columnists and steady freelancers who''ve come to count on that publication as part of their livelihood.

Yet they''re the ones most likely to be blindsided by the closure. They''re less likely to have been privy to the end-game plans and see the wall at the end of the tunnel. As such, they''re suddenly and, without warning, missing a market for their work.

Recently, I was on the other side of it. When Indy Men''s Magazine—the nearly five-year-old regional that I edited—folded, I knew I was leaving some terrific freelancers in the lurch. Freelancer Nick Hall, for instance, was my go-to guy for automotive coverage. With clips from European Car, Winding Road and AutoWeek, his column in IMM was by no means his bread and butter (with jam, of course; he''s British). It was, however, steady work.

"We all have a tendency to be a little lazy and not look for other outlets if we have a few sweet deals," Hall says. "It''s when one of those deals falls apart that we hit real trouble."

His advice: "Spread your eggs into many baskets as early as possible. Look to similar titles to the one you''ve just lost—even competitors. They''re bound to have seen your work if they''re a competing title, which is half the battle. And they might be delighted to have you on board."

Another IMM contributor, Hank Nuwer, has been there, too. For a while, the author of How to Write Like an Expert About Anything and writing professor at Franklin College, earned steady work at the online pub Streetmail. "When that folded, well, first you cry. Then you haul out the Rolodex to put the word out with former editors—and even former students who might now have jobs—that you''re available." Everyone understands the volatility of the magazine market. Don''t assume that the failure of a publication will be seen as your failure.

Nuwer encourages writers to watch for signs of trouble with their existing markets. Slow pay, staff reductions and delayed response can indicate problems. Don''t wait for your e-mail to be bounced back as undeliverable to start looking around for other work.

And remember, the closure of a market can actually be a boon. Writer John Marchese was one of the core writers for 7 Days, a New York rival to The Village Voice, that died in 1990 after a two-year run. A number of its editors migrated to The New York Times, where Marchese picked up his first assignment for The New York Times Magazine from a former 7 Days junior editor who then became editor of the The New York Times'' Sunday Style section. Marchese wrote for her there for two years.

And that wasn''t all. Marchese stayed in the Rolodex of Lucy Danziger (now editor of Self), writing for her through a number of publications. And Will Dana, another 7 Days editor who''s now managing editor of Rolling Stone, signed Marchese to a contract when he was at Worth and also used him during his stint at Details.

"I look at editing as a legal pyramid scheme," Nuwer says. "The editors all go somewhere else."

He''s right. In my editing career, I''ve tried to take the best writers to wherever my next editing job might be. When IMM folded, I had a clear idea of which writers I''d want to work with at future publications, which ones I''d recommend to fellow editors and which ones I''d just as soon forget.

The trick is to cultivate a reputation not just for the quality of your work but also for your timeliness, your flexibility and for being someone who''s easy to work with.

Lou Harry says that when a magazine folds, you can land on your feet if you''ve built a good relationship with editors—after all, they have to move on somewhere, too. Have you ever landed a writing gig because of your relationship with an editor who''s switched publications? Tell us about it. E-mail your response to writersdig@fwpubs.com with "Disappearing Magazine" in the subject line, or post it at the Writer''s Digest Forum.

Too Seen: The Intimacy of Copy Editing

Too Seen: The Intimacy of Copy Editing

Novelist A.E. Osworth discusses their experience working with a copyeditor for their novel We Are Watching Eliza Bright and how the experience made them feel Witnessed.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: From Our Readers Announcement, Upcoming Webinars, and more!

This week, we’re excited to announce a call for From Our Readers submissions, a webinar on crafting expert query letters, and more!

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 11

Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write a prime number poem.

Stephanie Dray: On Writing Women's Legacies

Stephanie Dray: On Writing Women's Legacies

Bestselling and award-winning author Stephanie Dray shares how she selects the historical figures that she features in her novels and how she came to see the whole of her character's legacies.

From Script

Taking Note of the Structure of WandaVision and Breaking in Outside of Hollywood (From Script)

In this week’s round-up from ScriptMag.com, learn about the storytelling techniques used in the nine-part Disney+ series "WandaVision," outlining tips for writing a horror script, and breaking in outside of Hollywood as a writer and filmmaker.

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 10

Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write a get blank poem.

take two 3 mistakes writers make in act i

Take Two: 3 Mistakes Writers Make in Act I

Without a solid foundation, our stories flounder. Jeanne Veillette Bowerman shares insights into the three mistakes writers make when creating the first act.

David Jackson Ambrose: On Balancing Magic and Practicality

David Jackson Ambrose: On Balancing Magic and Practicality

Novelist David Jackson Ambrose discusses the initial themes he wanted to explore in his latest novel, A Blind Eye, what the editing process was like, and how his books always surprise him in the end.

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Knowing When to Shelve a Project

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Knowing When to Shelve a Project

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is not knowing when to shelve a project.