I appreciate your interest in contributing editorially to Nebraska Life Magazine. This is a big state that’s diverse in both interests and geography. We cover the state as a staff and value the working relationships, talents, points of view and expertise from our many freelance contributors. To help you get started working with us, we’ve developed the following contributor guidelines, but before following these procedures, we first urge all potential contributors to subscribe to the magazine and read it religiously. Please study the instructions below on how to become a contributor to Nebraska Life Magazine.
I look forward to working with you to explore the state of Nebraska.
Nebraska Life Magazine is the magazine that explores Nebraska. We are Nebraska’s only statewide general-interest magazine. We take our readers on unforgettable trips through the Cornhusker State. We are 100 percent paid circulation and sell the magazine by subscription for $25 per year ($44 for two years) and on newsstands statewide for $8.95 per issue. We strongly encourage anyone wanting to contribute text and photography for Nebraska Life to first become a subscriber and read at least one year of back issues.
Stories We Publish
In each issue, we publish stories that span every region of the state with special attention to its wonderfully diverse environments, cultures and communities. We are not a travel magazine, a history magazine, a nature magazine or a food magazine, but we do all of that and more – sometimes within the same story. Story topics run the gamut: colorful characters, communities, history, food, travel, nature, wildlife, photography, adventure, poetry, art literature and photo essays. Our stories are timeless, beautiful and entertaining. We do not publish stories on breaking news events, political opinions/issues, trends or investigative reporting. We use very little fiction but will consider Nebraska stories that seek to interpret our culture. Our audience of subscribers and newsstand readers are Nebraskans and fans of Nebraska who want to know and understand their state.
We publish six bimonthly issues each year: January/February, March/April, May/June, July/August, September/October and November/December. We plan issues one year in advance. Deadline for accepted freelance text and photos is three months before publication date. For example, January/February material is due October 1.
Above all, our stories are entertaining. We value vivid storytelling, lively anecdotes and factual accuracy. We work with writers who are able to infuse fun, adventure, human emotion, drama and an attitude of wonderment in their words. Introduce us to fascinating people, places, events or issues. You care about your subject-make us care about it, too. We use anecdote-based storytelling: We tell stories with stories. Please read our magazine to see the technique of anecdote-based storytelling.
Articles must also be Nebraska stories. We are not, for example, very interested in stories about former Nebraskans who made good elsewhere. We especially look for stories about the institutions that have had a profound effect on our state. An institution could be a person, place, object, issue or event. We welcome stories that show a crisis and how a person or community met the challenge. Other possibilities are stories on nature, history, the arts, sports, business and agriculture. We welcome articles of a controversial nature as long as they are balanced and fair.
Nebraska Life is the definitive authority on Nebraska; however, we strive to share knowledge about our state without resorting to stuffy encyclopedic statements of information. Third-person is the standard point of view in our writing, though we do occasionally publish first-person stories. We appreciate brevity and concise use of words. When planning word count, we advise contributors to write “as many words as needed to tell the story and not a word more.” Our text length ranges are: departments, 100-400 words; features, 400-3,000 words.
If you are a writer planning to query, think through the photography or art with suggestions on how the visual story could be told and who could tell it. We do have staff photographers and many talented freelancers who can help, including graphic artists.
This, of course, is the bulk of what we do. We’re not a travel magazine, a historical journal or a newspaper-yet we do a little of all those things, and more. We’re a general interest Nebraska magazine, writing primarily for Nebraskans (or former Nebraskans). Our goal is to explore our state and paint an accurate picture of our culture and lifestyle with words and photography.
One of the best ways to contribute to the magazine is by submitting work for a specific department. The departments for which we are always reviewing submissions are as follows:
- Traveler: This is our calendar of events. If your town or organization has an event you’d like to promote, let us know so that we can consider it for inclusion.
- Kitchens: We are always looking for favorite family recipes to publish. Main courses, desserts, salads, food for special occasions and everyday favorites. We’re especially interested in recipes that have been passed down from one generation to the next. Please send us your favorites…and the stories that go with them!
- Storyteller: We’re looking for short, first-person accounts of something in your life or in the lives of your family and friends – past or present, funny or serious.
- Poetry: When submitting your work by mail, please only send copies. We receive a large volume of written work and photography and would hate to misplace an only copy or something of personal value to you. A self-addressed stamped envelope will enable us to update you on your submission(s), even those being held for future issues of the magazine. Any submissions that we don’t plan to use will be appropriately and discreetly discarded after we’ve communicated that to you.
Beautiful. That word sums it up. Whether we’re showing landscapes, wildlife, people, communities, history or food, our photos are visually compelling. We accept stock photography and also make full feature-story assignments. Photographers should strive to communicate a sense of place in photos submitted to the magazine. If you are working on a major feature story for us, we appreciate seeing all of your images, rather than a small selection. We sometimes see diamonds you might have overlooked. We especially want to see photos of people at work and play, people as part of a larger scene and people up close and candid enough that we feel we’re getting to know them — young and old, beautiful and ugly, city and country, rich and poor and everything in between.
If you are preparing a feature query for us, think through the text and suggest how and who might accomplish that component of the story. Options include photographer written, staff written or freelance written. In some cases, we can interview you as the photographer and re-cast your words into a text story. We try to have one photo essay in every issue. For us, a good photo essay is collection of 6-10 outstanding photos on a single subject, accompanied by a brief essay of 1000 words or less. Usually, these feature color photos, but we’re open to black-and-white as well. Feel free to suggest topics.
Pictures that are exposed in exemplary lighting conditions, are designed with compositions that are pleasing to the eye and that depict impactful moments in time have an increased chance of being published in Nebraska Life Magazine. To achieve images that stand out, we recommend photographers utilize these techniques:
- Photograph during the magic hours (one hour after sunrise, one hour before sunset) when the sun is at a low angle creating a warm color balance, long shadows and stunning effects.
- Take advantage of inclement weather that creates unique atmospheric conditions – dramatic clouds, rainbows, fog or dappled shadows on landscapes.
- Avoid photographing outside in cloudless, midday sun when light is harsh, heavy in contrast and washes out color.
- Use natural light whenever possible. Other than fill flash, avoid flash, which can flatten images.
- Minimize clutter and distracting elements in the backgrounds and at the edges of photos by re-positioning subjects, adjusting composition or using a wide aperture.
- Give us options in depth of field.
- Be mindful of the rule of thirds, while also keeping an eye out for layers of strong foreground, middle-ground and background subjects.
- Look for leading lines that take viewers’ eyes through images. Include interesting textures, symmetry or complementary color combinations.
- Be bold. Know your subject and get close, filling as much of the frame with your subject before clicking the shutter.
- Persist. Sometimes the winning photo is the one that comes after you think the photo shoot is done. Stay a little longer. It almost never fails.
- Include people or structures in landscapes to give sense of scale and to help the reader imagine himself there.
- Anticipate and capture decisive moments of peak action.
- Seek out and capture human emotion.
- Seek out and capture people interacting with each other or with nature.
- Look 360 for the unexpected story: shoot landscapes, wildlife, street scenes, interiors, restaurants, portraits of compelling characters and cultural sites.
- Stop action with fast shutter speeds and continuous frame rates. On the flip side, communicate motion with slow shutter speeds and blur.
- Mix a wide range of angles and perspectives (upward – looking from the ground; downward – looking from overlooks; and eye level) while using several different lens types (wide angle, normal, and telephoto) during a photo shoot.
- Finally, have fun. Enjoy where you are, what you are doing and who you are with. It will show in your photos.
The most common problems with digital files we receive are small size and poor scans. Remember, we may want to blow up your photo to a full page or more — give us the resolution we need to really show off your work. We require an original capture at a resolution of 300 dpi at 8×10 inches in size (or larger) when opened in Adobe Photoshop. Generally, digital images of at least 6 megapixels are sufficient. We accept images in JPG (taken at the highest, finest quality setting) or TIFF format; however RAW images (such as Nikon NEF, Canon CR2 or DNG files) are most preferred. Photographers need NOT modify the color balance. Do not crop, clone, sharpen or otherwise manipulate submitted images from their original, captured state. Images will be corrected by magazine staff based on the specifications required by our printer. We prefer to see an entire photo shoot, rather than a small hand-selected number of photos. Low-resolution JPG images are acceptable for review purposes. If images are selected for publication, we will request high-resolution files at that time. We can provide you log-in information for FTP upload. If you send images by disk, please label disks with your name and contact information. Please do not send original transparencies, negatives or irreplaceable prints for review purposes. Send a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) if you wish to have your materials returned.
In image metadata, make sure the name of the photographer or organization that owns the rights to the image is entered into the “author” or “copyright” field to ensure proper credit and payment. Also, provide as many details of the subjects photographed as possible in the “description” field in metadata, and/or as a text file included with your submission. Answer the questions of who, what, when and where in your captions. Proper names and spellings of people and places are essential to include in the description. We also appreciate having contact information for subjects in the metadata.
Model releases, property rights and permits
Model releases are generally not required for us due to the editorial nature of our magazine. We will contact you if we wish to use your photos for advertisements, which often do require model releases. Please respect property rights when photographing for us. We expect from you that images taken in locations that require special access, permissions or permits are done so in accordance with the regulations of the owners/operators of those locations.
HOW TO QUERY
Writers and photographers are invited to submit proposal query letters by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Send an SASE if you wish to have your materials returned. Query letters should be well-developed and focused, one-page or less in length, with exemplary hooks that engage our readers rather than broad concepts or lists of locations. Please detail the story, the angle(s) you will pursue, the season and possible sources. Give us some anecdotes or sample photography from the story you are proposing.
If you are introducing yourself to us, include your background information, credentials and clips of previously published work with your query so that our staff can gauge your writing or photography style and abilities. Writers may suggest word counts for stories, and photographers may suggest number of photos for story, though final space allocation is subject to approval by the publisher upon acceptance.
Our editorial calendar is scheduled 12 months in advance. We make every effort to respond to freelance queries promptly; however, due to the large number of queries we receive, it may take 60 days or longer before we can review and reply to your query. Please direct follow-up messages to email@example.com. Since we receive a large volume of material, we regrettably sometimes must even refuse good submissions.
We prefer to receive original content that has not been previously published in the same market as our magazine. We recommend reviewing back issues of the magazine to ensure we have not run a piece on the topic you are proposing. We prefer to give freelance assignments to those who also are subscribers and know our magazine beyond perusal of our website. Subscriptions and back issues may be purchased by going online or by calling our subscriptions department at 800-777-6159.
If you are given an assignment and go to work for us, please be mindful that you are representing the magazine through your interviews and photography. Be respectful, kind and helpful to others. When given the opportunity to tell others about the magazine, please do so with pride and knowledge. We can provide you complimentary copies to hand out. Please encourage everyone to subscribe.
Stock photo needs
We keep a contact list of photographers and periodically send stock image requests by email to these photographers. If you are interested in being on our contact list, please email Alan Bartels at firstname.lastname@example.org with your email and a link to your website containing image portfolios to review. Send an SASE if you wish to have your materials returned.
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