Mr. Speir posted a coda to my quest to be published in 2010. Here is how it ultimately went down.
It has been a good long bit since I’ve paid your site a visit. I’m the fellow asking your advice about breaking into the gunzine biz as a freelancer.After noticing your 2010 Coda I thought I should fill you in.
Your advice was sound and I didn’t intend to stop trying, except I was ordered away on active duty late 2002. As reported, I was in a unit called the Small Arms Readiness Group and I was tasked with working mobilization platforms and other instructor business until the end of 2009. During that time I wound up serving at Camp Bullis, TX under MSG Robert Kolesar, a retired LAPD cop, former paratrooper and 2600 Bullseye competitor with gunfight experience in military and law enforcement capacities.
At an AUSA (Association of the United States Army) conference in 2007 MSG Kolesar swapped business cards and lies with several gunzine editors and publishers in attendance, who thought it would be just grand if he would submit some articles to them. He did.
Officially assigned “Course Writer” in Kolesar’s cadre, I took some pics for his articles and he included my byline/photo credit. After a few articles with my name attached he hectored one of his editors into giving me a call. Actually, Bob had been assigned an article on machine guns he didn’t care to bother with it so he tossed it my way.
So I had an actual assignment, which I quickly turned into a completed, mailed-in article and photo package. I followed that up with a few queries and ideas which turned into more articles and moonlighted as a freelancer until completing active duty. As fate would have it, AG Media, publisher of Gun Tests and Gun Reports, was seeking a new editor for their much smaller American Gunsmith title. I sent in a resume and was awarded the contract November 2009. I’ve been editing that magazine ever since and continuing freelance writing, which is now my primary civilian occupation.
I can’t say I’ve “arrived” in that I am still a no-name outsider but I do get plenty of writing assignments. In fact, I’m now at the point where editors will assign me articles without my having to query first. I’m also being recommend to other editors and may soon end up with my first book deal. Thankfully, my editing gig is dependable, steady work and the AG Media folks are great so I can do all this without worrying about how I’ll pay bills next month.
My long term goal is to re-start the shooting programs I created (see blog URL below) that motivated me to write in the first place. I realize my quixotic quest of convincing the firearms industry to push marksmanship programs to all gun owners instead of trinkets makes the old man of La Mancha look like a stark raving realist but at least I can try. Worst case, I’m now making a decent living doing something I love.
In short, I learned that you were spot on! The gunzine biz is a closed shop. I was given a chance only after someone already there personally recommended me. Funny thing, I’ve since sold a number of the manuscripts I had previously written that nobody cared to look at before. I guess they are OK now…
Having taken the other side of the writing equation I have a better understanding of why editors might be wary of new freelancers. With American Gunsmith, I’ve personally contacted a number of ‘smiths that I wanted to contribute and have yet to receive a single manuscript from them. Being vitally interested in competition shooting, and already on the ground at Fort Benning for the All Army 2010 matches, I toured the AMU Custom Shop and took enough photos and notes for two published articles. While there I gave everyone at the Shop an open invitation, along with an explanation of our pay rates, to write me articles and was assured by the NCOIC that they have no trade secrets and could contribute at will. That was a year ago and I have yet to receive a single article. No hard feelings here as my offer to them still stands, but instead of putting in articles of top competition ‘smiths I instead lean on my reliable bread-and-butter contributors because I know they submit good material regularly.
I think this makes a more satisfying coda!