The Thought (Out Loud) Process
So, you’ve finally decided to submit some content for Thought Out Loud! And who can blame you? Everyone wants to be a part of what’s been described as “the perverted love-child of Chatelaine, The Reader’s Digest, some of the better issues of Archie and Joyce’s Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake.”* Unsolicited material is accepted but not preferred on Thought Out Loud. But quality writing is a must.
Before you attach your article to an email and click send the TOL editors your best and brightest diatribe, read this document carefully. You’re pitching to an online magazine and not your mom’s blog, and we have a well-established and thorough process. The site is all about discussion, sharing ideas, and working through thoughts, out loud. The editing process reflects that.
Don’t just submit your article and blindside us, like in that movie with Sandra Bullock (Speed 2?). We want to have a conversation before you start writing. Shoot an editor a short email with your basic concept and the name of the section you think the piece fits in. We’ll get back to you quickly with a “sounds great,” a “totally not interested,” or a “you’re going to have to explain that and sell me.” Queries should be short and to the point.
Direct your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org, and give us a few days to respond. But we’ll always respond.
When you’ve heard back from us and know we are interested: write. Well, hold on. Read the Style Guide (which is being updated, as of 27 February, 2012, but the link to which is usually right here) so you know how TOL writes dates and currencies and so you see the basic format for each section. Then write: write your best and most beautiful prose, make yourself clear, don’t be sexist, racist or homophobic, and most importantly: think.
Save your file according to the following format:
SECTION NAME_Your last name_ Article title_draft number.doc or docx.
Files should look like this:
ARTS AND CULTURE_Mullin_Ace of Base discography_Draft one.doc.
As we edit and revise stores, file names get longer with the initials of your editor and you. This helps us keep track of drafts and compare versions of the stories. Files will not be read until they comply with this naming system.
Seriously, people. Those typos and sentences that end abruptly don’t inspire a lot of confidence in your editors. Articles that are evidently un-proofread will come straight back to you or may be rejected outright, so make sure you’ve read through your piece a few times.
Email your article to the appropriate editor. Easy.
The editor will take a couple of days to read the piece and make preliminary edits. If the piece is in near-perfect shape, expect a reply to that end. We don’t ask you to sign off on pieces, and if there are no problems the piece goes into our “ready to publish” file and you are done.
As is more often the case, your editor will have some questions for you and ask for clarifications, especially with longer pieces. Or, your editor will have made substantial changes and ask you to re-read the piece and work on it a bit more. We use the “Track Changes” feature in Word to make comments and show you what we’ve changed. If you don’t have Word, let us know and we’ll make comments in a separate file (or different way) so you can see the process.
The piece comes back to you renamed slightly, as in: ARTS AND CULTURE_Mullin_Ace of Base Discography_Draft One_DG.doc, where “DG” stands for the initials of the editor.
Address the concerns. That’s all we ask. We want the content to be sharp, accurate, and smoothly written. Writers with a bit of experience will be familiar with this process: write, edit, rewrite, resubmit. That’s part of the game. Get the piece up to snuff and send it back to your editor, renaming the file accordingly: ARTS AND CULTURE_Mullin_Ace of Base Discography_Draft Two.doc”.
If further rewrites are necessary, this process repeats.
Wait some more
Your story then goes to a second editor for a second set of eyes. In most cases, this is for a final grammar and flow check, and major issues won’t come up. But if a major issue does come up, expect further rewrite requests, otherwise…
You’re published! When we update the site with your piece, we’ll send you an email or Facebook message telling you, and then you can tell your grandmother.
A quick note on deadlines
Thought Out Loud publishes a couple of times a week. Articles must be through the above process by the day before publication to be considered. You can’t send something in on Saturday morning and expect it to be online Monday. Your editor will give you specific deadlines after the pitch.
Intellectual property and all that
Listen, now. We don’t want to have to bring this up, but while we’re on the topic of all-things-that-make-you-a-contributor, let’s talk legal mumbo jumbo. Thought Out Loud retains your story as its intellectual property. Unless we don’t use it of course, and then it’s yours. Once you write for us and see our Contributors’ Agreement, you’ll understand more about that. Hell, we’ll even talk about, maybe even over the phone, like real people.