Thanks for your interest in Alaska magazine. We do our best to bring our readers the finest writing on Alaska. Whether you’re an established writer or just getting started, read some of the magazines from the past couple of years closely to familiarize yourself with our approach to life on the Last Frontier.
Before writing your story, send us a story query to see if we’re interested in your idea. Give your query plenty of specifics. Picking a topic is only the beginning, so give us a lot of detail and tell us why you’re the person to write it. And please: Don’t pitch those stories you think we want to see; pitch the stories you think Alaskans and fans of Alaska want to read. To paraphrase an overused saying: Think outside what you think is the Alaska magazine box.
E-mail is the best method for queries and pitches. Please refrain from telephoning or e-mailing to check up on your proposal. We’ll get back to you as promptly as possible, usually in four to six weeks. And if that reply is negative, don’t get discouraged—we see upward of 100 pitches each month. Develop other ideas and pitch those.
General Writer Guidelines: First and foremost, Alaska magazine is a publication about Alaska for Alaskans by Alaskans. A story must have two attributes before it will be considered for publication. First, its focus must be on Alaska. Equally important, the story must be an example of superlative writing, preferably with a well-developed narrative at its core.
Whether it’s a history piece on Aleut baskets or an adventure tale about hiking in the Brooks Range, it should always have an "only in Alaska" aspect. A story on a mall in Alaska, for example, won’t work for us; every state has malls. If you’ve got a story about a Juneau mall run by someone who’s also a Bush pilot and part-time trapper, maybe we’d be interested. If you’ve got a story about a village store in Chevak where everyone from the surrounding Bush meets to swap gear and tall tales—let’s talk. The point is Alaska stories have to be vivid, focused and fresh. Alaska is like nowhere else—we need our stories to be the same way.
In addition to compelling, focused and fresh subject matter, the writing itself should be compelling and focused. Use the creative techniques that make for renowned writing in any locale—it just so happens your tale is set in Alaska. Yes, the "who, what, where, when, why and how" is a required part of any story, but a "just the facts, ma’am" approach to storytelling does not serve Alaska magazine’s readers. We want our writing to engage the reader every bit as much as the setting does.
Please keep the bigger picture in mind when planning your stories. Have ideas about photos, sidebars, reference maps and diagrams—any appropriate supporting information that will make your story a whole offering for our readers. And if you’re shooting photos, shots that stress mood and action are always preferable to the cliché big, broad scenics.
Feature Stories: Our main feature stories average about 1,500 words long, but often we run shorter pieces 700-1,000 words. We get far too many queries about the obvious (a vacation in Alaska, the Iditarod, homesteading, bears) and far too few about more unusual topics. Our favorite story subjects are natural and human history, travel, adventure and profiles, and pieces covering those issues that are unique to Alaska.
Travel: "Been There, Done That." Like that T-shirt says, our readers have been around. To pique their interest, you have to give them new sights and places, or new insights into old places.
Natural History: Alaska offers boundless opportunities for the writer engaged by natural wonders. But remember, if it’s a well-known critter (bears, whales, salmon), then the story must take a novel approach. Our readers know Alaska, so the writing must be as fresh and bright as a sea-run silver salmon.
Human History: This has long been an Alaska hallmark. Too often, however, writers suggest stories that have already run: homesteading, the Gold Rush, the Aleutian campaign of World War II. There are plenty of untapped veins out there. Find them.
Adventure: Sourdoughs and visitors alike want their wilderness big and their adventures unforgettable. Similarly, our adventure stories must offer hold-onto-your-hat experiences. Telling readers how they can have similar adventures is a good example of sidebar information that should be considered when planning a story.
Profiles: We are eager to run profiles of people who have played important roles in Alaska, but we also want to hear about the ordinary folk who are quietly doing extraordinary things. These should be in Q&A format. Review our “Alaska I Love” feature in the Ketchikan to Barrow section for examples.
The Alaska Sportsman is section that’s 90 percent freelance-written. Each month, the lead article draws from a broad variety of Alaska outdoors subjects, including where to hunt and fish, instruction on techniques, mood and adventure pieces, and profiles of prominent Alaska sportsmen. Quality color photography is an essential part of the feature. The writing style should be active and anecdotal. The piece should capture the interest of nonhunters and fishermen as well as sportsmen. Alaska has the biggest bears and salmon, the most caribou and moose and the wildest country left in the nation. Stories should reflect these and other features distinctive to Alaska.
This is Alaska is home to those authentic essays about a way of life you just can’t find anywhere else. This is Alaska is a monthly guest author feature, written by an Alaskan who reflects on what this incredible state means to them. The nonfiction essays range up to around 600 words and should chronicle a way of life that can take place only in Alaska.
My Alaska Adventure is a feature, beginning in December/January 2012/2013, that tells the stories of visitors and Alaskans adventures. This is a guest author column, with a word max of 650 and we also need a photo of the author. Keep in mind, we work about four to six months in advance, so submit that seasonal story well ahead.
The main columns at Alaska magazine that are reader-submitted include two two-page photo spreads for Alaska Exposed; flora and fauna articles with a personal spin for Natural Alaska; three travel features; three outdoor features; an event of the month (with photo) and End of the Trail (submissions aren’t compensated). Within Ketchikan to Barrow we have five regular columns: How I Cook Alaska, Alaska I Love, Gear (photo essay), Fun Alaska Style and Places to See. Most of those are staff written, but we will take the occasional freelancer.
Other Important Notes. We pay on publication and reserve the rights to use editorial on our website and for other purposes without additional compensation. (More details are outlined in our contracts). Plan on revising and rewriting sections of the story before final acceptance. Our pay rate is between $200 and $700, based on the word count of the published version, with additional pay for use of any photos by the author. A total maximum payment of up to $1,500 goes to writers/photographers who submit both for publication and are accepted.
We only want to use original, previously unpublished articles and photos, so please let us know if you have submitted the idea or article for consideration to any other publication, or if you plan to do so.
Queries should be submitted via e-mail (in .doc format as an attachment or in the body of an email) to editor Debbie Cutler at: email@example.com.
Again, thanks for your interest. We look forward to seeing your submission.
Attn: Story Queries
301 Arctic Slope Avenue, Suite 300
Anchorage, AK 99518