BECOMING A HUNTING WRITER
Sporting Shooter – Contributor’s Guidelines
A PICTURE IS WORTH 1000 WORDS
Often the editor will excuse a few spelling errors or occasional poor grammar if the accompanying pictures are sharp, well composed, properly exposed and add meaning to the article. Nowadays, relatively inexpensive digital cameras which take quality photos are readily available. They are compact, have adequate built in flash units and allow in camera editing unthinkable ten years ago. That said, there is a temptation with digital cameras not to be as exacting in the execution of exposures because of their nature.
Technically speaking, photos need the following:
Digital photos should be jpg format of 300PPI resolution / 1 meg in size
Flash should be used as often as possible, even in daylight
Photos should be sharp, focussed and correctly exposed. Also ensure you have stopped puffing before you start clicking.
Include some variety as well as the trophy shots, eg background/scenery, the rifle and ammo used etc.
From an ethical standpoint, any photos of killed game should not be excessively gory eg entrails hanging out, huge exit wounds to camera, bulging eyes from head-shots etc. Similarly, hunters in the photos should not be standing or sitting on game animals, thereby indicating disrespect for their quarry. Take time to wipe up any obvious blood, put the tongue inside the mouth and use prop sticks, if possible, to pose the animal so it would be fine to display that photograph framed in your own lounge room.
TEXT WITHOUT TRAUMA
The Title. You can save the Editor a bit of a headache if you think up a snappy title for your article which reflects the contents. Alliteration is a little language trick that journalists use to generate interest. You just use a title where the first letter of each word is the same eg ‘Busting Black Bunnies’ or ‘Great Goat Gun’. Sometimes, no matter how much you try, the clever words just don’t come and it is just easier to be direct and say what it is eg ‘The Dingo’.
Introduction. You can help the editor here by suggesting a one-sentence lead-in like, “We’re off after hogs on quad-bikes in this exciting tale by new contributor Jimmy Smits.”
Article Length. The format of magazines is such that readers pick them up for 10-15 minutes, have a quick read and come back to them later. They do not lend themselves to lengthy, involved articles. Therefore, we recommend that you submit 1200-1500 words as a standard contribution with an absolute upper limit of 2000 words.
Writing Style. A direct and concise style that could be read and understood by a literate 10 year-old is a wise guide for contributors to special interest magazines like Sporting Shooter. Try to get a well-read friend to go through your draft so that you eliminate unnecessary padding and break down lengthy sentences into shorter, more easily understandable ones. This is particularly appropriate when dealing with a pursuit where potential danger is there and young people have an abiding interest. By pitching your articles at this level, all potential readers see the magazine as accessible and interesting
- Unnecessary Detail. Two paragraphs at the beginning of each day diarising the before-hunt breakfast and planning session will take up the space that could be devoted to a photo of actual relevance to hunting. Repetition is not a virtue, nor is irrelevance to the reader.
- A Positive Sport. At all times when writing about the shooting sports, it is necessary to portray them in a positive light, so that even non-shooters who read them for whatever reason, have no ammunition to use against us. An emphasis on pest control, safe, healthy adventure, fair chase, humane single shot (or quick follow-up) dispatch of game, family involvement and assisting landholders and the environment are all good themes to introduce in articles.
Use of Slang and Political Opinion. Slang should be kept to a minimum as should the voicing of political views in an article about healthy adventure. There are other places for political opinions to be aired.
Photo captions. (VERY IMPORTANT) Ensure that, at the end of your article, you include a list of numbered captions which correlate to numbers on your photos – renumber them 1.jpg, 2.jpg, 3.jpg etc. If you wish to be absolutely sure, you could tape captions on the back of prints – anything to help the Editor get it right!
Presentation. In this day of almost universal computer usage, we will only accept articles submitted as a MS Word 97(or Mac equivalent) document on CD (preferable) or by email – DropBox or similar programs consume a lot of time at the editor’s end and should be used as a last resort. Do not include digital photos within the text of the MS Word document – it won’t get published. In this way, your article is more likely to be used first when time is tight because the Editor does not have to use too much brain power to get your article into a useable form.
WAITING FOR PUBLICATION
Do not be worried if you send in an article that the Editor accepts and it does not turn up in the next issue. He will be thinking of line-ups of articles for up to four issues in advance and will be looking to place your article where it will provide some balance and variety. One of Sporting Shooter’s strengths is that it tries to cater to the broad tastes of its readership with a variety of articles from overseas ‘once in a lifetime’ trophy hunts to shooting bunnies or pigeons in your own backyard in most issues; we don’t just run five deer articles in one issue and none for the next three. Also, the issue the editor is working on currently is three months from the news-stands, such are the lead times in publishing. It may be six to nine months or more before your article sees light of day.
After your article hits the news-stands, the Editor will organise payment for the contributors to that issue. Payment to contributors varies on a per page basis depending on the quality of the raw article and photos, the amount of work the editor may have to do to get it into publish-able order and the budget constraints and advertising balance for that particular issue. It is suffice to say that you will not get rich being a gun writer, but you will be in print and able to allay some of the costs of your hobby with the proceeds.
WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
Hopefully, this has given any potential writers out there some tools to get started. When you do, feel free to contact me by phone on 02 9213 8258 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am eagerly awaiting your contribution.