705 Central Ave., Suite 175
Cincinnati, OH 45202
Email cmletters - at - cintimag.emmis.com
Linda Vaccariello, Executive Editor (all freelance queries EXCEPT those for Escape - travel within-easy – 3 to 5 hours – driving distance of Cincinnati), which go to Amanda Boyd, Deputy Editor.
What Freelance Writers Should Know about Cincinnati Magazine
We follow the standard city magazine formula: a backbone of service stories, serious journalism examining the region’s issues, nonfiction that illuminates the human experience—all with a clear focus on the local. We’ve made excellent writing and photography a hallmark, and have published photo essays, memoirs and personal essays that capture a sense of this place.
It’s easy to map out our readers’ demographic, the same one shared by most city magazines: age ranging from 35-65, educated, affluent, homeowners, great targets for the sellers of high-end cars and cosmetic surgery, etc. But our readers are also hungry for information on their city (at the same time, they’re quite knowledgeable, and don’t brook the obvious) and eager to take pride in the city (though they’re not adverse to criticizing it). They’re well-traveled, sophisticated readers. They know what’s going on in the world and are engaged in the world, as civic leaders, volunteers, professionals.
What parts of the magazine are most open to freelancers?
A writer who can pitch an only-for-Cincinnati feature, whose clips show stylish writing, good reporting skills and strong grasp of story, has the best shot at scoring.
We’ve learned that most freelancers can either write with style or do the hard work required for skeptical reporting—but hardly anyone can do both. So for our big stories, for the backbone of the magazine, we rely on staff writers and regular contributors. To be honest, freelancers bring us the “extras.”
Like most city magazines, food/restaurant coverage is important to us, and we have contributing editors for food and restaurants. But feature stories that drill deep into a local foodie phenomenon—we’ll listen to those pitches any day.
The Truth about Rejection
The most common reasons story proposals are rejected? Because we’ve done them. Or they’re not focused on Cincinnati. Or they’re really just souped-up press releases—for instance, we hate being pitched a story profile on a person who sounds in the query to be a saint. We reject proposals that sound like medicine—stories we should do because they’d be good for our readers. Generally, those stories are only good for the subject and the writer.
Finally, we will reject a story proposal if we feel the writer doesn’t have the chops to handle that particular topic professionally. This should go without saying, of course. But too often editors don’t say it, and so beginning writers are baffled as to why their proposal for a hard-core investigative report or a complex personality profile doesn’t fly.
The Stories We Love
Great narratives with subjects, regardless of whether they’re high-profile or not, who have lived through an ordeal, changed their lives or those of others, who’ve started at point A and ended up at point Z. Told without sappiness. Plus, we’re always grappling with the problem of writing stories that take place in our suburbs.
How do you find writers?
There’s no typical path. Sometimes a new freelancer pitches a story, writes it and it’s perfectly marvelous—but that happens, oh, maybe once a year. Other times a writer pitches, the pitch is wrong, but the attitude, the clips and the eagerness say, “there’s something here.” And sometimes we approach established writers—ex-newspaper reporters, fiction writers, poets—to find out if they have an instinct for narrative nonfiction.
The Final Word
Read the magazine! Find out what we’ve already covered—and then you can find the holes. Look for what we’re missing in the big story that is Cincinnati. Find some fascinating sub-culture, with a central character, and spend lots and lots of time learning everything about that person. Then write the heck out of the story, filled with dialogue and keen observations.
Send query letters to:
One Centennial Plaza
705 Central Ave., Suite 175
Cincinnati OH 45202