Tips For Writers

Current Situation
As most of the writers will be aware, Suse Coon is now semi retired and in the process of handing over to a new editor, Anne Hamilton. Whilst we are both delighted to add fresh material to the site, we are sorry but we are not currently in a position to offer a fee for contributions.  We will, of course, fully credit all authors and provide a link to your own websites, blogs etc as appropriate.

The following tips are still good general information!

Appropriate Topics
It sounds obvious but you must study the magazine to which you are offering work. You wouldn’t offer an article about empty nest syndrome to a woodworking magazine. But you’d be horrified if you knew how many press releases of interest only to Londoners I receive. (Delete, delete, delete).

Lothian Life is a county magazine for Edinburgh and the Lothians and that simple statement tells you a lot of what you need to know. Articles should contribute to the feel-good factor of living here. They can be about people or places, past, present or future. Our lifestyle section covers Homes and gardens, Health and fitness, the Outdoors, Tastebuds and Arts but again they must relate to this area. Like all editors, I’m more inclined to give you the go ahead if you demonstrate that you know and like the magazine and are therefore interested in contributing regularly.

Ideally, you will send a query email first, so we can agree the suitability of the article.  Acceptance of unsolicited material is not guaranteed, though of course, we will make every effort to publish appropriate work.

If a magazine has been around for a while, it’s possible your great idea may already have been covered. Online publications like Lothian Life are great as you can easily do a search on the site. If you can’t do that, rather than whizz off an entire article, your approach should be more of an enquiry.

You may offer previously published work, providing you are the author and have retained copyright and can explain the circumstances.

Study the publication. Articles for internet based magazines need to be shorter as people are unlikely to scroll down more than twice. 300-1000 words is usually enough. For print, it depends on the readers. If they are reading a specialist topic they may be happy to consume 3000 words but in a different sort of publication they may just want a little nibble.

If you’re writing for a print magazine, deadlines are vital. If you don’t deliver, the editor will be left with a blank page and will remember your name for all the wrong reasons.

If you run into difficulties with deadlines, please tell the editor as soon as possible. He or she may be able to help or will at least have time to prepare an alternative. Remember, you both want to see this article in print.

As far as online publications are concerned, a lot of what appears is immediate and a long lead time is unlikely. However, an editor may like some thinking time for various reasons and so don’t worry if your article isn’t published as soon as you’d like.

Sell Your Work, not a Product

Even if you think yours is a good story, if someone benefits financially from the exposure, it can be seen as advertising. Advertising rarely comes in quarter page boxes these days. It comes as press releases, is known as advertorial and the editor has to flag that it is not objective. It’s common nowadays to be asked to pay for promotional press releases of this nature to be included. Please be clear about this and make sure that the editor is clear too!


For various reasons, an editor may need to edit your copy. This will be in the interests of improving it (in her opinion), either to include additional information, or to tighten up any lacklustre parts. In an ideal world she would send you a copy for proofing but for various reasons this doesn’t always happen.


By Word attachment to an email please!  Use a simple font, don’t indent paragraphs, don’t double space between sentences and don’t double space or leave lines between paragraphs. I know this isn’t what you are normally told but it’s because when imported into the magazine, the html code appears. I then have to spend ages taking them all out again as formatting for the magazine is done automatically in house style.

If you don’t have access to email or word processing equipment, don’t worry, simply telephone in the first instance with your suggestions. The important thing is that you have the idea and the information which you have convinced me I need. I will get fed up trying to decipher bad writing or making sense of bad grammar but I have only once given up completely and hit the martinis.


If you are supplying digital photographs by email, please send the jpegs as they come straight from the camera because as soon as you open them, they lose both quality and compression. If scanning, please scan at 72 dpi RGB. Low resolution images are preferred. Please indicate who, if someone other than yourself, should be credited, and confirm you have permission to use them.


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