While there are other ways to locate the submission guidelines for magazine articles and short stories, the most tried-and-true method of discovering where to send magazine submissions is the magazine masthead.
A magazine masthead is the section at the beginning of a magazine that lists the most important employees, including the editors and owners of the publication, the advertising managers and the art directors. The editors are the ones who matter to a writer.
But which editor on the magazine masthead is the one who will be most likely to approve your article or short story?
The first editor on the magazine masthead will likely be the Editor-in-Chief. This is the head honcho of the magazine, and likely presides over several different publications under the same publishing house. It’s almost always futile to submit articles and short stories to the editor-in-chief because he or she isn’t involves in the acceptance and rejection of articles submitted “on spec”.
If you do send your magazine submission to the editor-in-chief, it will likely be remanded to the “slush pile” where an editorial assistant may or may not get to it. All writers want to avoid the slush pile, which is why it is much better to address your submission to another person on the magazine masthead.
The next name that you will probably see on the magazine masthead is the Managing Editor. This is the person who is responsible for reviewing and making decisions on the various article and short story submissions. Your best bet is to contact the managing editor directly with a query letter because he or she will wind up with the submission anyway.
The managing editor of the magazine will usually have one or two editorial assistants, who are aspiring editors who essentially do all of the “grunt work”. While they may screen submissions before the managing editor actually looks at them, you won’t gain any headway by addressing an editorial assistant.
If you are looking at a large magazine with national distribution, you might find that under the managing editor on the masthead, there are department editors for various columns and sections of the magazine. In fact, there might not be a managing editor at all, but just department editors underneath the editor-in-chief. In this instance, you should submit your article or short story to the department editor under which your submission falls.
Once you have located the editor on the masthead to whom you want to send your article or short story, prepare a query or cover letter for that individual person. Never address your query letter or submission to “Editor” or another general title. Instead, address it to the attention of a specific editor.
Deciphering the magazine masthead is not as difficult as it sounds, but it is crucial if you hope to be a successful freelance writer. Remember to always look for the most specific editor you can find so that your article or short story gets the attention it deserves.