Magazine Publishing Terminology
Masthead – The masthead is the lineup of editors that is usually published in a narrow column
near the front of the magazine. They are arranged in a hierarchy with the publisher usually listed
first, then senior-level editors (deputy editor, executive editor, editor-in-chief, etc.), followed by
assistant editors and interns.
Freelance Writers – These are writers who are not on staff and are free to write for any
publication. They are hired and assigned to write an article to be delivered on a specific date.
In-House Writers - contracted to write only for the magazine they appear in.
Editor – part of the staff of the magazine. They generate ideas and assign stories to writers, and
work on stories once they come in to get them ready for publication. There are different levels of
editors with a myriad of titles. Larger magazines will obviously have larger staffs and more
levels. Some of the common ones are:
Acquisition and article editors – acquire articles and seek out writers (these will be the editors
you contact to sell your story)
Senior or department editors – often acquiring editors that have a special beat or department.
Managing editor – works coordinating materials between departments and keeps everyone on
schedule. Magazine staff work on multiple issues at once, and the managing editor needs to
focus staff on upcoming issues.
Editor-in-chief – makes design, final editing, and business decisions.
Executive editor – deals mostly with business matters.
Contributing editors – are really not editors but regular contributing writers who are on staff.
Assignment – a contract between an editor and a writer for a story to be produced for a specific
number of words, for a specified amount of money, and to be delivered on a predetermined date
“on speculation” or “spec” – a story a writer is working on in hope that the magazine will
publish it. The magazine may have expressed interest in the idea, but the writer does not have a
contract or promise of publication.
Byline – author’s name printed at the beginning of a full feature story.
Tagline – author’s name printed at the end of a short article.
Transom – over-the-transom is material sent to the magazine that was unsolicited.
Slush – completed unsolicited articles.
Kill Fee – a fee paid to the writer for an assigned story that the magazine decides not to run after
all. The writer is usually paid 20 to 25 percent of the sum originally agreed upon.
Query – a story idea and shortened version of what the story may look like. It is usually one
page and its purpose is to sell the story idea to an editor in hopes of getting an assignment or a
chance to write the piece on speculation. A SASE (self addressed stamped envelope) should be
included if a reply is expected.
Clips – copies of published pieces that writers send in with their query as examples of the quality
of their work.
Multiple submissions – the same query sent to a number of different magazines. This practice
is looked down on by some editors.
Slanting a story – writing a story with the magazine’s audience in mind.
Lead Time – the time needed between gathering information for an issue of magazine and that
issue being put into production.
Line edit – reading the story for content and narrative flow. The editor does this to every
manuscript sent to the magazine. It is then sent to the writer for revisions.
Copyediting – editing for punctuation and content after the writer has done revisions.
Cover lines – one-line descriptions of articles found on the cover of the magazine. Their purpose
is to entice the reader into picking up the magazine.
Writer’s Guidelines – describes the magazine’s purpose and audience, and outlines
specifications for submitting articles including word counts, categories/topics needed, and
sometimes rate of pay.
Editorial Calendar – Magazines plan issues months in advance. Some magazines and websites
make these plans available to the public. This calendar will include the cover feature for
upcoming issues along with planned article topics, advertising, and departments. They can be
useful in planning articles to market to publications.
Types of Magazine
Consumer magazines – general interest magazines found commonly on newsstands (People,
Rolling Stone, Redbook, Sports Illustrated, Newsweek etc.).
Trade magazines – usually not sold on newsstands, these are targeted to specific occupations or
professions such as English Journal for English teachers.
Types of Feature Articles
Service stories – cover the latest trend and can be both entertaining and informative. The latest
diet or exercise craze are examples of this type of story.
Profile – a story about a person. This involve two basic types: a general profile focuses on what
makes the person unique or unusual, while a microcosm profile describes a person as an example
of a wider group of people.
Real-Life Dramas – True stories about people accomplishing something challenging or dramatic.
Although similar to a profile these stories focus more on the event than the person.
How-to Articles- a type of service article, they are what the title says, an article that informs the
reader on how to accomplish something. These stories often are organized around steps.
Personal Essay – First person essay on a personal subject or experience.
Sidebar – a short feature that accompanies a news or magazine article. It might focus on the
human interest elements of the story or provide info on an important aspect of the story.