Wednesday, June 01, 2016

How To Get Your Name on a Magazine [Guest Post]

By GW Thomas

Magazines have been around for over 350 years. The first general interest magazine in English was The Gentleman's Magazine, beginning in 1731. Magazines with people's names have been around since at least 1817 when Blackwood's Magazine was a standard publication in most middle-class English homes. So how do you get that prestigious name on a magazine? There are several ways. Let's look at each one:

One: Be the publisher of the magazine.

If you want them to remember your name you'd better get it out there. The first magazines were used as promotional flyers for book publishers. Excerpts from current volumes could be plugged there. Later the titles promoted a whole line of publications, such as Munsey's Weekly (February 1889-October 1929) the flagship of the Munsey empire, that produced the first pulp magazines.

In England, the magazine business exploded with the first appearance of The Strand (named after its location, not a person) and the short stories of Sherlock Holmes. There were many imitators but the most famous was Pearson's Magazine (1896-1939) named after the publisher, C Arthur Pearson. Pearson's published many of the classic HG Wells stories and novels. Other named magazines of the era included Ainslee's, Hutchinson's, and Flynn's WeeklyThe Pall Mall Gazette changed its name to Nash's Magazine to finish its run.

Two: Become really famous.

The pulp era was furiously competitive. Any angle magazines could find to edge out the competition was worth a try. Celebrity became such a ploy when the short-lived Jack Dempsey's Fight Magazine (May - Aug 1938) tacked on the name of the former heavy weight champ. Though the magazine failed, the idea caught on.

The first mags to use celebrity names were the mysteries. With writers becoming synonymous with the genre, their name implied that all that would follow would meet similar heights of excitement and puzzle-solving. Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (Fall 1941-present) is the premiere mystery magazine to this day, originally edited by Fredric Dannay, half of the Ellery Queen team. Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine (December 1956-present) was unusual in that the celebrity was not a writer but from the film industry. The magazine only used the director's name and image, and Hitchcock had no connection with the editing. This was largely done by Robert Arthur, who would also write many books as Hitchcock as well. The magazines tried to make lightning strike thrice with Mary Higgins Clark Mystery Magazine (1996 - Summer 2000), but it was no more successful than any of these other magazines using names such as John Creasey, Rex Stout, Don Pendleton, Edgar Wallace, or Ed McBain. (The oddity here was Mackill's Mystery Magazine (Sep 1952-June 1954) which had a name but not of a famous writer.)

The Westerns weren't far behind the mysteries. The first was Zane Grey's Western Magazine (November 1946-January 1954). Zane was so famous that a revival of the title was tried over a decade later from October 1969 - September 1974. Top hands like Max Brand, Walt Coburn, and Luke Short blazoned titles with their names. Louis L'Amour became famous after the pulps ended, but even he got a magazine: Louis L'Amour Western Magazine (March 1994-Jan 1996).

Science fiction and fantasy magazines were not to be left out. The publishers of Famous Fantastic Mysteries tried the idea with the only writer well-known enough in the relatively small arena of the fantastic, with A. Merritt's Fantasy Magazine (December 1949-October 1950). Nobody tried it again for thirty years but the Good Doctor, Isaac Asimov, got two magazines: Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine (Spring 1977-present) and its short-lived companion, Isaac Asimov's SF Adventure Magazine (Fall 1978-Fall 1979). Rod Serling's Twilight Zone (April 1981-June 1989), like Alfred Hitchcock brought a celebrity from outside publishing to serve up weird horror, just as Marion Zimmer Bradley Fantasy Magazine (Summer 1988-Summer 2000) did with heroic fantasy. The Cthulhu Mythos-style horror gave us HP Lovecraft's Magazine of Horror (Spring 2004-Spring 2009). Jim Baen's Universe and Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show looked back to the old days and named themselves after the publishers and editors.

Three: Create a famous character.

A strange mutant of the celebrity mystery writers was the famous characters who got magazines. Unlike a magazine named for the character, such as Doc Savage or The Lone Ranger, these magazines did have stories of these famous characters, but they also did more. The other stories that appeared with them had a similar feel or approach. In this way, the famous character almost acted like an editor, telling the buyer what to expect. The first of these was The Saint Mystery Magazine (Spring 1953-October 1967), what might have been called the Leslie Charteris Mystery Magazine, but Charteris was not the household name that Simon Templar was. The same idea worked for Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine (Sept 1956-Aug 1985), which could have been Brett Halliday's Mystery Magazine, but since he didn't exist, the character would do fine. Richard Prather had Shell Scott Mystery Magazine (Feb-Nov 1966), and coming full circle, we have Sherlock Holmes' Mystery Magazine (Winter 2008-present), which nobody thought to call the A. Conan Doyle Mystery Magazine. This magazine, like the others, features some new Sherlock fiction, but is actually aimed at readers who enjoy the Gaslight era, not just Holmes and Watson.

So there you go. Pretty easy really. Just get rich and famous and they'll be naming magazines after you. (Just ask Oprah!) But you better hurry. The paper magazines are fading, becoming as scarce as the buffalo. Who wants to buy Michael May's Digital Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Magazine in .epub format only? How will we get the excitement of having subscription cards falling out as you peruse them in the drugstore?

GW Thomas has appeared in over 400 different books, magazines and ezines including The Writer, Writer's Digest, Black October Magazine and Contact. His website is gwthomas.org. He is editor of Dark Worlds magazine.
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