Thursday, September 2, 2010

Writing for Bead Publications

There are many bloggers that are very good about writing almost daily...

Well this "blogger" is a real life working artist who has many shows and projects to prepare for.

Not that I don't enjoy writing here.

I do...

Sometimes words don't come out as easy as you may think.

You may think....

Hey, Lisa wrote a book.

Why can't she write more on this blog so I'll know what she is up to?


So today I was thinking a little about writing on the blog, my long list of "to do's" and coming up with a topic for an upcoming Softflex Company bead article I am to write.


I came across my article from 2009 and thought I'll buy some time (I mean ...I thought I would share it here with you all) my thoughts on getting published in bead magazines...

So it's not too quiet on this blog.

Here goes...

Enjoy the read and I promise I will write more on this blog later.

I have two shows coming up back to back (more details on this later) so guess what?

Yes, I'm going to the studio after I post this...because "I am buying some time..." :o)

(previously written for and published by Softflex Company December 2009)

Writing for Bead Publications
Written by: Lisa Kan 
Do you have ideas to share with the bead community and want to see your designs in print? Perhaps it is the fear of the "R" word that keeps you from taking the first step or jumping that last hurdle. The "R" word, you ask is what we all fear and it is quite normal to have these feelings. It's "REJECTION" in capital letters. Capital letters because it strikes our egos and beats down our spirits. As it is said "when the going gets tough, the tough gets going". And to tell you the truth, rejection happens to all writers and designers, we just don't talk about it much. 

Rejection is GOOD for us because it makes us persevere and become better artists. There is always room for improvement. Challenges allow us to grow internally and externally. And there is always more to learn, to write, to design, to create, etc... as the journey is never ending, so never give up. Positive or negative critique, we should all aim to please the most important person, ourselves. So, I am here to cheer you on and give you some tips on how to submit your first article to a prospective bead magazine.

I submitted my first article in Fall 2005. Reflecting now as I write this article, I can't think of a better way to share with the beading community and creating a "voice" for my work than through writing. Since I don't have time to teach in a classroom setting, I have focused my efforts in the last four years to sharing my work and techniques through publication.

You must be willing to “let go” of your design when you submit and get accepted for publication. If you thought the hardest part was taking that first step? Letting go may be the second hardest in the submission journey. I encourage you forward as it’s amazing what can happen with just one article and how one can grow as a designer by letting go. I do warn you in advance that once your design is published it is now “out there”. Even with the advent of copyright laws there is little one can do to stop someone else from copying you. If you have problems seeing others recreate your designs or making it their own, then stop reading here, writing for publication may not be for you.

As I've written in a past Soft Flex® article and to quote the painter James McNeil Whistler again:

"An artist is not paid for his labor but for his vision". 

Your rewards are not always tangible. You are the visionary, be original in your design approach and in the utmost, be true to yourself to create unique works... so let us now begin this journey:

The focus of this article is on writing how-tos for bead publications but you can modify any of the suggestions to your respective subject. First, gather the magazines that you subscribe to and read on a regular basis. Sort them so that you have the most recent magazines for reference. In the bead magazines, look at the types and complexity of the projects. Go over the layout and familiarize yourself with what will be expected should you pitch a project and be accepted for an assignment. Be cognizant of the page limitations you'll have as magazine articles want to be concise and most projects are between 2-4 pages with diagrams.

Most magazines now have their submission guidelines available on the Internet. Visit the respective magazine's website and search for their submission guidelines. As a last resort contact them for the submission information if all avenues have failed. You don't want to appear as though you have not done your research if all this information is readily available online. Go over the submission guidelines to see what is expected of you once your project idea is accepted. Many times, the editors like to be queried with a photo of the finish project first to determine how the project may fit in future issues. The editorial team also would like to see if the project is something they have published in the past or have already accepted.

Taking the Photos
Taking good photos are by far one of the biggest challenges in project submission. If you are writing a step by step with photos, make sure you are taking photos in a neutral background. I like to use gray gradient screens and daylight specified lighting (6500K) like Ottlites. A camera with a macro setting is a must if you are taking close-ups. A tripod can keep the camera steady and images sharp. As the photos will most likely be the same photos used for the article, they need to be crisp. I like to take at least 3-4 photos of the same step and then select the best when I write the instructions. Most of the time, you only need to snap photos of the finished design when submitting a prospective project for consideration.

The sample photos give the editors a sense of your design style as well as the complexity of the design. For magazine how-tos less is generally more. You'll need to consider the wear ability of your design and how easily assessable the materials can be found.

Duplicating your Submissions
It is generally not good practice to send an identical design query to multiple magazines at the same time. Magazine editors generally frown upon a duplicated design and if more than one magazine editor likes your submission, then what will you do? Wait until you get a response before submitting the identical design to another magazine.

If you do this, you may end up on the black list of designers. Each publication has a list of authors that they will not work with. You don't want to be on that list. Also each publication has a list of designers they use regularly and call with ideas. Your goal is to get on this particular list of regular contributors if you want to write for publication regularly.

Introductory Cover Letter or Email
Dependent on the publication, you may be sending your query via email or snail mail. Make sure you introduce the project in your cover letter to describe its inspiration or maybe how you came to select the components used for the project. A good story behind your design will make it more inspiring for the readers to recreate. If your design employs a unique technique this may also increase your chances of acceptance.

In this cover letter, you'll also want to note how soon you can write up the instructions or if they are already completed. Sometimes after getting an assignment, you may have as little as two weeks for the final package to reach the publisher. Can you do it in such a tight time constraint?

It also takes some time for editors to review submission requests so if you don't hear anything immediately, it is not necessarily a rejection. Wait a month and follow-up with an email to inquire on the status. After a certain time lapse, I say about two months, if you haven't heard anything it's time to move forward to the next magazine.

The Acceptance and Contract
Once your project is accepted, the publication will let you know the deadline to have the finished piece and instructions delivered to their offices. Read the contract carefully as signing any legal document becomes binding. Generally, the fees for the project are documented for use and for non-use. Sometimes, the contract also specifies details for reprinting the project in electronic media, etc. Once you sign the contract you have made a commitment to meet all the terms outlined. Impress the editors and get your package in before their deadline.

Writing the Instructions
Familiarize yourself with the industry terminology and the respective magazine(s) you hope to write for. Write instructions in more detail then necessary assuming your reader is a beginner. Every step it takes to get from point A to B then C, etc should be documented. The technical editor will trim your instructions to suit the page layout and their audience. While designing your piece, take copious notes, which will help also during the editing stage.

Re-read and go over your instructions before finalizing them. There are many ways to get from point A to point B, so try to use the most concise for the industry. I tend to go over my instructions 3-4 times before I consider them done. Some designers may also have their friends test bead their project. If time permits, exhaust all avenues. But, remember you are ultimately responsible for the content of your article so take suggestions openly. There are many ways to achieve the same results in beading and your way may just be the unique aspect the editors liked. For me, most of my designs are created especially for magazine publications and I generally bead multiple samples to avoid time delays in test beading. You'd be surprise how a second sample can improve your instructions.

Most publications will email you their edited version of your instructions to ensure that the integrity of the article is maintained. If this is a step that is important to you, ask before accepting the assignment. You don't want to lose your creative license by allowing any publication to change your article drastically. It is possible that instructions can change after editing that it becomes no longer "YOUR" design.

Once your project has been accepted, if you are writing a how to for a seed beaded project, most likely you will need to document the steps with diagrams. I am very old school when it comes to diagrams, I hand draw every step on graph paper. I usually draw out more steps than I think will appear in the magazine leaving it to the graphic editor to decide what is necessary or not necessary. In this case, more is better than less. Not everyone understands beadwork the same and there is a big possibility that the editor is not familiar with your technique.

After drawing out the diagrams, I also scan the drawings for my personal portfolio. This also helps in the editing stages when the graphic editor has translated your drawings into computer graphics and you want to refer to the original for consistency. It is always a good idea to have a hardcopy and an electronic copy for your final package to the publication as well as for yourself.

Putting it Together
The submission package is an extension of you so make it as professional as possible. I see any submission as a presentation of me. First I get some folders with sleeves from the office supply store. The ones I usually get have slots for a business card and two pockets for papers.

I compose a cover letter to the editor covering the details of the package and a short paragraph on the inspiration behind the design. In another sheet, I compose "about the author" and provide contact information. I place the cover letter and the "about the author" sheet on the left pocket of the binder. Then I tape down (so that it doesn't accidentally slide out in transport) my business card in its slot. The detailed instructions composed in Word, a sample photo of the finished project on top and the diagrams behind, are stapled together. A CD with all the same information is protected in a CD sleeve and placed in the right pocket of the binder.

The finished project also needs to be sent with the instructions and I place the sample(s) carefully in jewelry boxes and secure with tissue/bubble wrap. When mailing, I insure the package and document the tracking number. When the publication receives your package, you will know that it arrived safely.
Then it's just a matter of waiting for the specified issue to be published to see yourself in print.


The above are just high level notes and suggestions for getting published. As you write more, you will develop your own ways of presenting your work. Writing will become much easier with subsequent submissions. In writing, it is inevitable along the journey that there is rejection. Just remember, rejection allows us to improve and persistence allows us to grow. By sharing ourselves with the bead community, through writing or teaching, we give back to the art of craft and the craft of art will continue to reward us.

Bead Creatively,
Lisa Kan
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