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How To Pitch: Book Magazine
Your tip sheet, straight from the editors.
---------------
BY NICOLE BELAND

Circulation: 675,000
Frequency: Bimonthly
Special issues: None currently scheduled.

Background: Editor-in-chief Jerome Kramer describes the magazine he cofounded in October of 1998 as "the Rolling Stone — not the Billboard — of the book industry." Though you'll find a copy of Book on the desk of every literary agent, editor, and book store owner in the country, industry insiders aren't this publication's target audience. "We're a mainstream lifestyle magazine," says Kramer. "Most of our readers are well-educated, affluent people over the age of 30 who consider books to be an important part of their lives." All those bibliophiles who loiter in the aisles of bookstores on Saturday afternoons, crowd into tiny cafes to hear readings by local writers, and pay more than $20 for a bulky hardcover because they can't wait for it to come out in paperback — they're Book's target audience.

To those of you who have only glanced at it on the newsstand before flashier titles caught your eye, what may surprise you most about Book magazine is that it's not boring. Flip though an issue and you'll quickly notice that Book is as much about celebrities, movies, music, current events, history, and human drama as it is about the publishing business.

"We're fun to read because we focus on the point where pop culture and the book world intersect," says Kramer. Which explains why personalities like Ethan Hawke and Peter Jennings have been recent cover models.

"We don't print features about writers simply because they write," says senior editor Adam Langer. "They have to be interesting, dynamic people who are as engaging as their work."

You could say that Book is also the Us Weekly of the industry, offering up juicy tidbits of what passes for gossip in this relatively respectable trade — like what authors really think about the film adaptations of their novels, which fictitious characters and events are based on a writer's real-life experiences, and celebrity confessions about the tomes currently on their bedside table.

And, of course, there are a good 15-plus pages of concise book reviews that mercifully focus more on whether the title is an enjoyable read than where it fits in the grand scheme of literary achievement. Book is for enthusiastic leisure readers, not disciples of Derrida.

What to pitch: Articles that are about a lot more than just a book or a writer. "Don't bother pitching an interview with John Irving because he's about to publish a new novel and you've always been a huge fan," says Kramer. "Instead, pitch a story about how Stevie Nicks has the world's largest collection of cult horror novels and you went to her house, got high with her, and read blood-chilling excerpts to each other all night long." Just make sure you get the go-ahead from Stevie first.

"You have to already have the access to the author or celebrity you want to write about when you pitch the story," says Langer.

Assume that the staffers have a handle on all the new releases and up-and-coming authors. What they need from freelancers are features that are unexpected but still relevant to the magazine.

Departments of Book most open to freelance contributions are "Backstory," which sheds light on a little known aspect of an already famous book; "Shopwatch," which highlights an interesting or unusual bookstore anywhere in the country; "Locations," a story that revolves around a place made famous by a book; and "Epilogue," a one-page personal essay on the last page that can be about anything — as long as it's intelligent and entertaining and somehow gets neatly back around to books and reading.

What not to pitch: Q&As with writers (unless you have special access to a famous author), book reviews, and ideas that require travel expenses that you aren't willing to pay yourself.

Recent freelance stories pitched and published: A September/October 2002 "Epilogue" entitled "Judging a Man by His Covers" by Ellie Forgotson; a November/December 2002 "Backstory" essay by David Bowman about In Cold Blood; a November/December 2002 "Epilogue" by David Masello about a woman who made an unexpected discovery about her family at a book sale. Kramer and Langer also recall a freelancer who pitched a story for the November/December 2002 "Locations" department that involved taking a child to Dylan Thomas's house for Christmas. Both editors loved the idea, but it turned out that the writer didn't have a child and couldn't get there for the holidays, so it never came to be.

Etiquette: With so many review copies of books cluttering their offices, email is the only way to save your pitches from being lost in a biblio-landslide. "Be as brief and succinct as possible, and don't send electronic clips — I never read them," says Kramer. And, he adds, don't call. "If a caller with an unsolicited pitch has somehow made it to my line, I'm very disappointed."

Lead time: Minimum of four months, and up to a full year for some stories — although if you're so organized that you can manage to plan a story that far ahead, they'll be suspicious.
Responds to queries within: Two weeks. "But if you haven't heard from us, you should be persistent via email follow-ups," says Langer.
Pay: $1 per word in most cases, but fees can vary depending on the circumstances.
Kill fee: Negotiable; typically 25 percent.
Rights purchased: Book considers pieces written out-of-house as work-for-hires. You write it. They own it.

Address: 252 W. 37th Street, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10018
Telephone: (212) 659-7070
Fax: (212) 736-4455
Website: http://www.bookmagazine.com
Contact: Senior editor Adam Langer, alanger@bookmagazine.com

Nicole Beland is a freelance writer and columnist for Men's Health and Cosmopolitan magazines.


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