…continuedWriting for Sky & Telescope
Proposing and Writing Your Article
Because of the finite number of editorial pages in Sky & Telescope and the large number of people who want to contribute to the magazine, we can only publish a small percentage of unsolicited material. Before starting work on an article, we strongly recommend that you should send a 1- or 2-page query letter to Sky & Telescope's editor in chief, Robert Naeye, providing a summary or outline. The query should describe what the article will be about, why it would be of interest to Sky & Telescope readers, what kind of images or illustrations could run with the article, and why you are qualified to write the article. We encourage you to read articles on similar topics that have appeared in recent issues of Sky & Telescope to make sure that we have not covered your topic in the past few years.
If you've already drafted a manuscript, go ahead and send it. If you intend for it to appear in a specific issue, say which one; but it’s crucial to note that we work about four months in advance, e.g., material for the September issue is prepared in May, and should be submitted by March or April. Our editors will review your letter or manuscript to determine its suitability for the magazine and to check that there are no prior commitments for a similar article.
In your letter, please provide as much contact information as you can: mailing address, e-mail address, and more than one telephone number. Within a few weeks of receiving your proposal, we'll let you know whether we want to publish your article. If you've sent us a manuscript already, we'll indicate whether we want you to make any revisions to it. Once we've agreed on any deadline, payment, and other terms, we'll send you our standard Publishing Agreement, which you must sign and return before we can publish your article.
Since articles are bylined, please indicate precisely how you wish your name to be presented; also, give your professional affiliation, if any. Since we are now publishing author photos with many of our feature articles, please send a high-quality recent photo of yourself that you would feel comfortable being published in the magazine. Finally, for yourself and any coauthors, include a 2- or 3-sentence biography indicating areas of research, interest, expertise, or published books.
Please supply an electronic copy of your manuscript, preferably a Microsoft Word file or a plain text file.
In Sky & Telescope, images and illustrations are as important as text and usually occupy about half the space devoted to each article. Thus it is crucial that you supply high-quality pictures and diagrams with your manuscript or, at the very least, detailed suggestions as to how you think we should illustrate your article and where we can obtain the appropriate materials. If you do plan to supply us with images yourself, please consult our guidelines for photographers. Note that graphic materials will be returned to you only if you specifically request it.
Be sure to keep a copy of your manuscript and any other materials you send us to guard against loss or other mishap.
Editing and Publishing Your Article
Sky & Telescope's editors take great pains to ensure that all the text we publish is clear, concise, engaging, and both grammatically and factually correct. If you want your manuscript to survive the editing process relatively unscathed, you'll take great pains to write it that way. Among other things, you should
- Never submit a rough draft, only a polished one
- Capture the interest of readers and draw them into the article in the first 3 to 5 paragraphs, which should be written in conversational language
- Favor the active voice (astronomers discovered planet) over the passive voice (a planet was discovered by astronomers)
- Favor active verbs, and avoid the overuse of "is," "are," and all other incarnations of “to be” (the most boring verb in the English language)
- Write short sentences and paragraphs, try to keep the tone as conversational as possible
- Avoid jargon, technobabble, and undefined terms, but don’t be afraid to use numbers when appropriate.
- Don’t bog down the narrative with the excessive use of peoples’ names and institutions (readers won’t remember them)
- Use analogies from everyday life to explain complex ideas
- Feel free to inject your personality and humor; try to have fun writing the article
- Double-check your spelling and grammar
- Verify all your facts, both big and small.
Every article is assigned to a lead editor; once the assignment has been made, this editor will be your primary contact throughout the remainder of the editorial process. Edited text is usually sent to authors for approval. Any corrections or other changes must be returned promptly, along with the signed Publishing Agreement if you haven't yet sent it back.
We try to publish articles as promptly as possible, but there is always a backlog of deserving material, so sometimes there can be a significant lag between acceptance and publication. If you have any questions or concerns, contact your assigned editor for a status report.
Some Final Points
Upon an article's publication, the author is sent two copies of the issue in which it appears; this applies even for small items such as letters to the editor. For reprints in quantities of 100 or more, contact Dominic Taormina (+1 617-864-7360 x2164). We also offer the alternative of a special rate to authors for extra copies of Sky & Telescope. If you anticipate ordering more than about 50 copies of the magazine, please inform us when you approve the edited text.
We pay for most articles upon publication; your editor will discuss rates with you when preparing the Publishing Agreement. We generally do not pay extra for long-distance telephone charges and other incidental expenses incurred while preparing an article; if you anticipate unusually high article-related costs you must get our approval in advance to be reimbursed for them.
We also pay for the use of certain paintings, cartoons, photographs, and other illustrations. For these you may be referred to our art director to discuss rates.
An article proposal and/or manuscript submitted to Sky & Telescope should not be submitted to another publication until we expressly say that we are unable to use it. Magazines prefer their contents to be unique and original.
If you have any questions not answered by this guide, please contact us. Thanks for your interest in Sky & Telescope!
Editor in Chief
+1 617-864-7360, ext. 2144
90 Sherman St.
Cambridge, MA 02140, USA
Fax: +1 617-864-6117