Lee Rider of Birmingham, Alabama, Vice President, and Editor in Chief
of Vulcan Outdoors.
Question: What magazines are you in charge of publishing?
Answer: Vulcan Outdoors publishes 11 titles and
will do 48 issues in 2001. We publish "Cabela's Outfitters' Journal,"
"TNN Outdoors," "Mossy Oak's Hunting the Country," "Knight and Hale's
Ultimate Team Hunting," "CVA's Blackpowder Guns and Hunting," "Whitetail
Journal," "Varmint Masters," "Bow Masters," "Southern Sporting Journal,"
"Hunt Club Journal" and "Bass Club Digest."
Question: How did you get started in the editing business?
Answer: Right out of college, I started answering some ads in the paper
for copy editors. One of the resumes I sent out happened to be with Game
and Fish Publications, a great organization out of Marietta, Georgia.
They called me in for an interview. Once I found out that they were an
outdoor publication, I told them they had to hire me. No ifs, ands, or
buts, I was the man for the job. For $18,000 a year, I was on top of the
Question: Then where did you go?
Answer: I was at Game and Fish for about nine months. One of the editors
I worked under there had some contacts in New York City. They were interviewing
for a senior editor. I thought that I bombed the interview, but three
months later, Harris Publications hired me. I was in charge of about 12
titles and 38 issues a year. I worked a lot of custom publishing with
"Realtree Outdoors," Nikon, Mossy Oak, CVA and a number of annuals.
Question: After you left Harris, where did you go?
Answer: I was with Harris for three years and then started my own company
and moved back to Atlanta. I started freelance writing and shooting photography
for two years for my business, Rider Communications Inc. One of my freelance
clients, Magnolia Media in Ft. Worth, Texas, had a contract to produce
a magazine for Bass Pro Shops. Magnolia hired me with the understanding
that after a year, I would move to Ft. Worth. In Texas, I ran the "Bass
Pro Shop Magazine" and also helped launch a city publication called "Ft.
Worth." I worked with a food magazine, called "Chile Pepper". Magnolia
Media also bought a magazine while I was there called "Cowboys and Country."
I stayed in Texas for about two years before Doug Moore at Vulcan Outdoors
called me the Sunday after Christmas. We talked about my coming to Vulcan.
Doug explained that he needed an editor to run his company and that after
talking to John Phillips, Mossy Oak and Remington, my name kept popping
up for better or worse. I've been at Vulcan for 2 1/2-years.
Question: How many magazines did Vulcan publish when
Answer: When I came, they had four to eight titles and now they have 11.
Question: So, you've almost doubled the business.
Answer: Yeah, pretty much. We've definitely doubled it in the number of
magazines we output. And the quality of the publications, we've tripled.
Question: You've won an award.
Answer: Yes, a national magazine design award for the re-design of "Whitetail
Journal." We were up in NYC for two days accepting an award for best consumer
magazine re-design under 100,000 circulation. We were mentioned along
with "Time Magazine," "Men's Health" and "TV Guide."
Question: You've dealt with writers throughout your whole
career. What are the five mistakes that most freelance writers make?
Answer: First, some writers don't challenge me. They query me or give
me information that has been done a million times. If they don't challenge
me, they're not challenging themselves. By challenging me, I mean that
I want them to send me the queries they won't send any other publication.
I want strange angles on articles that may make my readers mad or glad.
But I want our articles to be different from any other stories every other
magazine is printing. I want people to write about stuff for Vulcan that
they won't send any other magazine. I want them to know my market and
then challenge our publication with story angles that you can't read anywhere
else. Second, writers who aren't persistent are making a mistake. If I
get a query or an email about sending someone writers' guidelines, I may
never hear from these folks again. If that's all your doing, you're wasting
your time and my time. Number three, write passionately. I like nothing
better than for writers to call me up directly and say, "I just learned
something new about a quail hunt, and I want to write this story for you!"
When you have that attitude, that's golden. Probably these aren't mistakes
that writers make but rather something I look for in writers. It says,
"I've got a passion, I've learned something new, I know your market, and
this is good for your magazine." That's the key to selling to Vulcan Publications.
Fourth, sloppy work is a mistake. Missing deadlines, bad photo selection,
bad grammar, etc. all tell me you're not professional in your work and
want to hunt 29 days a month and only spend one day on your writing. I
love the outdoors and enjoy hunting and fishing. But I'm a magazine man.
If you can't respect the fact that I put-together magazines, I'm not going
to respect you. Respect deadlines, and respect the quality of the work
I expect. Five, have fun with this stuff! If you're not having fun and
you're mad at me or other editors, magazines, rate of pay, etc., be a
professional, and talk it out. Have fun with it. The outdoor industry
is the greatest industry in the world. Hundreds of outdoor writers and
photographers are trying to make it in this industry, and very few have
fun with it. By the end of the day, you're not answering to bosses. You're
answering to clients and friends.
Question: How many stories do you buy a year?
Answer: I think that you can safely say that of the prime media, there's
no publisher on this planet who buys more editorial or more photography
than Vulcan Outdoors does. We easily buy 1000 to 2000 stories and columns
a year. I probably spend $3000-$5000 in photography each issue and put
out 48 issues. You do the math.
Question: What's your pay rate?
Answer: Recently, we just went up on what we pay for photography. For
covers, we pay $600, and for a page of photography we pay $150. We don't
do black-and-white conversions. We have $100 minimum usage for photos.
For editorial, we buy generally 1200-1500 word stories paying $450 to
$500. Many publishing companies still are asking for 2000-word stories
and paying $500. So, we're paying a little better than average. I'm proudest
that when you're part of Vulcan, you're going to get a share of the work
and get more of our money than you will if you are from the outside.
Question: What advice would you give a young writer?
Answer: Don't be naive about the industry. If you want to be an outdoor
writer, stick in there, and stay with it. You'll have to take the lumps
and pay your dues. Go flip burgers, or do dry cleaning if you're not into
this. Do what you think is fun. Be honest with yourself and to the people
who write you checks. Do the best job you can, and have fun with it.
Question: What salary range can a freelance outdoor writer
make a year?
Answer: From $12,000 up to $200,000.
Question: What other advice would you give a young writer?
Answer: Be yourself; have fun with your writing. Editors are not gods.
The only difference between freelancers and editors is that editors pick
up steady paychecks, and a freelance writer gets his check whenever he
sells an article or a photograph.
Question: How important are writer/editor relationships?
Answer: Oh, it's 2,000 percent of the game.
Question: How does a writer build a relationship with
Answer: You can help an editor by not trying to strong-arm him and understanding
job pressures and financial concerns for his company. Realize an editor
wants to work with you. Be persistent, but don't be pushy. Realize that
an editor is a guy like you. He watches Monday night football. Get to
know him as a person rather than an editor. The first thing I try to do
when I meet a new writer is to humanize myself. I want him to know that
there's nothing perfect about me and that there's nothing that I do that's
better than what he does. But, I have a job to do. If a writer can help
me do my job, the writer and I will get along just fine. The best thing
I did as an editor was be a freelancer for two years. I had no steady
paycheck, and I worked hard by editing, writing, shooting pictures, delivering
pizzas -- anything I needed to do to live. Once I got back on the editorial
desk, I could feel the pain that the freelancers feel. Every editor in
the outdoor industry needs to spend a year to two years as a freelancer
depending on himself for paycheck, insurance, rent and groceries. Successful
fulltime freelancing means getting paid by clients.