Answers to your most asked questions…

If I’m having subscription or customer care problems, what do I do? 

Simply call our customer service line on 021 464 6240 or e-mail subscribe@assocmedia.co.za and we will assist with any query you may have.

How do I become a features writer?

1. Read books to experience different writing styles. Read newspapers to stay up to date on current affairs. Read different magazines. Learn who their target readers are and what kind of stories they carry. Decide what kind of writing you think you’d be good at.
2. Read some more. Find a copy of Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style – it’s short but it contains most of what you need to know about grammar. Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots and Leaves is a brilliant and funny book about punctuation.
3. Write – in a journal, on your blog, wherever. Get a friend to crit it as a reader.
4. Edit yourself. Read what you’ve written and think of ways you could make it better. Rework it until it’s the best it can possibly be.
5. Run this checklist on your text:
Is the overall structure logical?
Are the spelling and grammar perfect?
Have I eliminated all clichés?
Have I written a snappy, useful headline and intro?
Have I answered any questions that the text raises?
6. Remember, writing is not just about putting pretty words in a row. You also need hard facts to back up what you’re saying. Your facts need to be 100% correct and up to date. Your sources need to be credited.
7. Try to get something you’ve written published in the newsletter of a club you belong to, or your company’s internal newsletter if it has one. It’s always better to approach a publication with a complete story or at least an idea – don’t ask them what stories they’d like. Next, approach a community newspaper with an idea or a story. Ask whether you can do an unpaid internship. Learn from the people you work with. Build up a portfolio.
8. When you’re ready to pitch an idea or a story to a magazine, make sure you study the mag closely first. If you send a poem to COSMO or a story about wild sex to Your Family, the features editor will hit ‘delete’. Look for a slot or section in the magazine and tailor your piece – and your pitch – accordingly. (eg, for COSMO, you might want to write a useful one-page story for Need To Know, or a funny column for Upfront Woman.)
9. If you get rejected, keep trying. If you’re lucky enough to have received some feedback, think about ways to use the feedback to improve.

How do I become a magazine designer?

1. Study every magazine you can get your hands on, from Wallpaper to Farmer’s Weekly. Look at how the design works with the text. Examine fonts, colours, pictures.
2. Learn your software. Adobe PhotoShop and InDesign, Quark, CorelDraw. Find friends who have them and score yourself a few free lessons and some practice time.
3. Dabble. Try your hand at photography. Do some retouching on a picture of your cat. Make up an ad for a product you like. Try writing a few headlines, then setting them in interesting ways on a page. Be open-minded and creative.
4. Copy. Take a magazine you like, find some suitable pics on Google Images and some dummy text, and lay some pages out in the style of the magazine. Be disciplined and self-critical.
5. Run this checklist on your layouts:
Is the page beautiful?
Does it make me want to read the story?
Does it make sense, and is it easy to follow?
Do the pics and colours work well with the story concept?
Does it suit the publication I had in mind?
6. Practise making layout documents that are tidy and easy for a copy person to work with. Make sure there are no blank boxes getting in the way, and that the text boxes are accessible.
7. Volunteer to help design the newsletter of a club you belong to, or your company’s internal newsletter if it has one, or a friend’s business card or birthday invitation. Do these to build your portfolio. Try to take on tasks that give you creative freedom and tasks that will make you work to a very exact brief. Put equal passion into both.
8. Approach newspapers and magazines, offering your services as an unpaid intern. Learn from the people you work with. Build up a portfolio.

How do I submit stories?

To submit a story to COSMO, your copy should be light and original, and funny where appropriate. We look for stories that are relevant to a COSMO reader. This can include anything from celebrities to sex, psyche to relationships. But the stories need to have a fresh take and be applicable to South African women. COSMO’s target readers are single city women in their mid-20s. Send your story to our features editor, Laura, at cosmofeatures@assocmedia.co.za. She’s flooded with pitches every day, and can’t reply to everyone. If your story is strong she will get back to you.

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