Lead Times

Lead Times

Lead times come under the business side of writing, and are an aspect that can not be overlooked if you’re eager to get published - no matter what style of writing you do.

Can you imagine few things more frustrating in the life of a writer than writing a perfectly targeted Christmas article for the ideal magazine, only to find it didn’t get accepted because you submitted it too late? This is what could happen if you ignore or don’t research lead times.

Simply put, lead time is the time allotted by a publisher for putting together a publication. In the case of a magazine it would be the months between an issue being planned and the time it went to be printed. Usually around three months. This means, for example, that Easter articles need to be sent out in January, which in turn means you writing them in December.

Christmas magazine articles on the other hand need to be sent out around July. Yes July, allowing six months before possible publication. This is because Christmas, being such a big event, often means publishers make their December issue as topical as possible and to do this they need to plan its content early. Thankfully, with most magazines publishers, Christmas is the only time of year requiring such a long lead time.
Newspapers on the other hand, work on a very quick turn around all year. In most cases a week is sufficient. In fact, I once emailed my local paper with a query on a highly topical article and got a return phone call from the editor two hours later. At the other end of the scale I once submitted the idea of an article writing about housing in Australia to a leading newspaper in England and it was seven months before the information was printed. The difference? The housing article was an ‘evergreen’ topic, one that would remain current for months as opposed to days, so the publishers timed its release for maximum coverage.

Most lead times can be found in the publication’s writers guidelines or failing that a quick phone call or email should provide you with the necessary information.

Planning Ahead
So how do you allow for the lead time and remember to start working on Christmas stories in May? My tip, and in fact my chosen solution, is to write comments on my calendar. Every New Year, when I sit at my desk and patiently write birthdays and anniversaries onto my new calendar, I also put in reminders of what to start writing and when. FEB: Plan articles for end of financial year, MAR: Send off financial year manuscripts, and so on.

Another idea, if you have room for storage, is to write the manuscripts the year before and make a note to submit them in the appropriate month. This gives you the added advantage of writing a seasonal topic when it is happening around you. Nothing really compares with writing about Christmas when the house is adorned with tinsel and angels. It adds a reality to your writing that requires a strong creativity to equal when writing in June.

So remember to plan early; don’t limit your chances.
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