How do I publish something in a humor magazine?
November 24, 2010 8:29 PM   Subscribe

How do I start a (freelance) career as a humor writer?

I have two blogs - one on travel and one on unemployment. I don't spend a ton of time promoting either since my intended career is completely unrelated. However, I have a host of friends who keep telling me to submit some of my stories to humor magazines to get published. I've looked at a few well known places, both in print and online, but they all have very strict rules and times for submissions. What are some ways I can get my work out there without dedicating copious amounts of time?
posted by msk1985 to Work & Money (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
they all have very strict rules and times for submissions
1) Edit your work to comply with the rules
2) Submit according to their timeline
3) I'm not sure what you're asking here. It sounds like you're asking for a magical shortcut. I don't think it's there.
4) Profit!
posted by sanko at 10:59 PM on November 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

I agree with sanko. I don't understand your question. Please explain further.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 1:12 AM on November 25, 2010

You can sell writing online via Constant Content or Demand Studios. It doesn't pay as well as magazines, but it will give you somewhere to start accumulating experience and bylines.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:22 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I also agree with sanko. The thing is, there are people whose intended career is writing. A lot of people. There are probably a lot of people whose intended career is writing humor for magazines. And those people do put in the copious amounts of time, and they do follow the guidelines, and some of them (quite possibly most of them, sadly) don't get published in those magazines. So it's not like you're going to somehow circumvent that entire process which so many are willing to comply with already.

That said, there are people who get lucky with their blogs. I have heard of bloggers who ostensibly only blogged for their own amusement, the blog got noticed, and then editors started asking them for contributions. So if you don't want to work hard at it or follow rules, I'd say just put more effort into getting your blogs read by more people. I can't tell you how to do that part, as the counter on my blog will attest:-)
posted by DestinationUnknown at 8:15 AM on November 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

What are some ways I can get my work out there without dedicating copious amounts of time?

Be rich, or extremely good looking, or incredibly well-connected. Two or more of these actually would be best, because the people who manage to thrive without investing lots of time or hard work into something often have more than one of these qualities. And everyone talks behind their back about how their stuff isn't actually very good.
posted by hermitosis at 11:15 AM on November 25, 2010

Markets that accept unsolicited submissions will have strict rules. It's to help their staff cut down the slush to just the stuff generated by people who can follow some basic instructions. This is because absolutely everyone thinks they can write*.

Some questions: What well-known places did you look at? Why did you choose them? Do you read them regularly?

Who is your favourite funny writer? Why? Who was your favourite three years ago? Do you read a lot? Are you funny? Is your writing funny? Is your writing good? If you were asked to compare one of your pieces to something you admire, what differences would you be able to point out? Are you a satirist or an absurdist? An essayist or a storyteller? Do you build your sentences carefully, or do you use prefab sections of brain Lego that are already stuck together in the box? What's the difference between a kind of funny e-mail about your trip to the airport (copied to six of your friends) and a polished magazine piece about the same thing?

Why do you want to do this? Because your friends said to? Do they read a lot? Are they funny? Who are their favourite funny writers?

Try this: Write online. Update at least once a week. Brand yourself. Be funny. Be good at it.

*I think everyone should write (and make music and art) whether they think they're good at it or not. But 99% of them can't thoughtfully answer any of these sort of questions, can't see the difference between excellent writing and their own writing, can't translate a submission guideline into useful instructions, and shouldn't send their stuff to a professional market.

posted by Sallyfur at 3:35 PM on November 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

For the record, this is like asking, "I know how to say bonjour and comment ca va. How can I get a job as a French translator without learning any more French than that?"

If you have any particular blog post you want to try pitching to a magazine, and the few you've read haven't really fit that post -- get a copy of WRITER'S MARKET (they release a new issue every year) and browse. This is a list of pretty much every magazine out there, what they're looking for, and their submission requirements.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:05 PM on November 25, 2010

No need for the hostility or a patronizing tone in replies. I'm simply saying I don't have time to change my entire career to be a writer, but I would like to get my blog/short pieces circulated somehow. How do bloggers get their sites noticed, are there forums that regularly seek new talent, and does anyone know of someone in a similar situation as me who was met with success? If so, how did they find this success? I am not at all familiar with the process, if there even is one.

To answer the actual questions:

- I would compare myself in style to David Sedaris.
- I looked at the Onion, HuffingtonPost, a few online sites prompted by Google.
- Of course I consider myself a good writer. Why else would I post this question?

Thanks to Jacqueline for the tips.
posted by msk1985 at 11:29 PM on November 25, 2010

Ah, I think I see the problem -- I think, unawares, you were asking a different question. Initially, it sounded like you were asking how to get published in PRINT without "any real time and effort" -- and it just plain doesn't work that way, and a lot of people were warning you about that (apologies if it sounded patronizing, but I promise you at least I was going more for "cautionary").

But if you're asking more about "how do I get my blog more noticed," then...that's actually a very different question. And unfortunately, there's no real answer for that, because blogging is so...well, new. And that means, also unfortunately, that there aren't really any real "blog talent scouts" that I know about.

But some people have still gotten their work noticed -- and the one thing that I've noticed among them all (everything from the Julie/Julia project to "Hyperbole and a Half" to I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGER) is: they did something a little different than everyone else, and they kept doing it. Posting one good thing can get a lot of people to your blog -- but continuing to come up with good posts, once a day or once a week or whatever, is what keeps people paying attention to you, and what gets the notice of editors.

There's a good book -- "No One Cares What You Had For Lunch" -- that's a good idea-generator for coming up with stuff to write about. It's the CONSISTENCY that's going to get you noticed -- because a lot of people can come up with a couple of funny things and that's it, but it's the people who can do it a lot that get noticed.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:04 AM on November 26, 2010

Initially, it sounded like you were asking how to get published in PRINT without "any real time and effort"

This is how I read the question too. If you were asking about how to get more blog readers, like I said above I don't really know. But one thing did occur to me just now. It seems like the blogs that really take off have one simple, specific, easily identifiable gimmick. So people won't care much about "I like cooking," but they'll love "I cook a different pie every week and post a picture of it." No one will read "My travels in France," but "My conversations with weird old men wearing hats in France" will get people's attention. Not a universal rule - I agree with EmpressCallipygos that there aren't any - but it fits the examples I know of.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 6:18 AM on November 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

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