GUIDELINES FOR CONTRIBUTORS
American Angler is devoted exclusively to the sport of fly fishing.
The magazine’s mission is to supply readers with well-written, accurate articles on every aspect of the sport—angling techniques and methods, reading water, finding fish, selecting flies, tying flies, fish behavior, places to fish, casting, managing line, rigging, tackle, accessories, entomology, and any other relevant topics. The magazine’s main focus is coldwater fly fishing for trout, steelhead, and salmon, but we also run feature pieces about warmwater and saltwater fly fishing and fly tying, though our sister publication, Fly Tyer, is solely devoted to the latter.
Each submission should present specific, useful information that will increase our readers’ enjoyment of the sport and help them catch more fish. If you’re not familiar with the publication, please review the most recent issues before submitting a query or manuscript.
Most articles fall into a specific category, though there are exceptions:
- Feature stories—2,000 to 2,300 words. We rarely print articles longer than 2,300 words, so if we happen to accept a 3,000-word piece, we will cut it before publication. As a courtesy, the editor tries to review edits and cuts with the author before flowing it into a layout.
- Short features—800 to 1,200 words that are generally tightly focused on a single task. Examples would be “How to Build an Unbreakable Leader” or “Tips on Threading Hook Eyes,” and so forth.
- One-page shorts—short 350 to 750 word short pieces that often act as “problem solvers” and address things like tackle-maintenance, casting, or fly-tying tips, for example. This is a great way to break into the magazine if you haven’t contributed before and including appropriate photography can help sway our decision to accept a package.
Photographs are important. In some cases, they can make-or-break a submission. If we receive a package with good photos, we’re more apt to work with the contributor to shape the text to something useful, versus submissions that include poor writing and poor, or no, photographs. Appropriate photography or rough sketches for our illustrator must accompany how-to pieces that deal with tactics, rigging, fly tying, and the like. Naturally, where-to stories must be illustrated with shots of scenery, people fishing, anglers holding fish, and other pictures that help flesh out the story, paint the local color, and help readers visualize the experience. Do not send poor photographs, as this only irritates the editor. We only accept photos that are well lit, tack sharp, and framed correctly. That said, if you submit a query or a completed manuscript but have no good photo support, we’ll find photos elsewhere if the story has merit. For more information on image submissions, review these Guidelines for Photographers.
American Angler seldom publishes:
- “Me-’n’-Joe” stories—unless you can write as well as Ernest Hemingway, don’t send a query for a first-person narrative adventure story. Instead, study the “Expeditions” portion of the magazine, and whether your idea can work into that portion of the magazine.
- Essays—few are written well or offer a genuinely fresh, pertinent take on their subjects. Plus, we already include one creative piece in each issue in the “Waterlines” department. If you’ve been reading AA and think you have something that might fit the bill, see the Waterlines portion below.
- Humor—It’s tough to pull off, so we generally stay away from it. However, the editor reads everything that comes across his desk, so if you think your piece knocked the ball out of the park, send it over. If you’re offended by rejection, don’t.
- Fiction or poetry—our sister magazine, Gray’s Sporting Journal, accepts both. You will find their writer’s guidelines at www.grayssportingjournal.com.
American Angler prefers e-mailed queries whenever possible instead of completed manuscripts. A query can save you the frustration and disappointment of making a futile submission, and it allows us to fine-tune an idea to suit our editorial needs. Correspondence should include a detailed outline of your article, why you think readers will find it interesting, and any sources you plan to contact for more information. Remember, given American Angler is a where-to, how-to publication, we’re more interested in someone that’s approaching a topic with a journalistic, not a creative, mindset. We read and respond to all queries, but expect at least a six-week wait for that response. Be patient, but feel free to touch base with the editor if you don’t hear from anyone.
Send all queries, correspondence, and submissions to:
A complete, unsolicited submission must include an overview letter (or email), manuscript (electronic version), a selection of digital images, complete caption information, rough illustrations (if necessary), and fly recipes. If American Angler purchases the piece, the editor will contact you with information on where to mail fly samples for photography (if necessary). We work in Microsoft Word, but we’re able to convert a number of other programs. If all else fails, we’ll ask to receive the text file in Rich Text and reformat it as needed.
Make sure your name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address are on all materials submitted (queries, cover letters, and first manuscript pages). Please include a one- or two-sentence author biography at the end of every piece. We process contracts and payments after each issue goes to press. Contributors receive a contract via email from our production manager, and we cannot process payments until we have a signed contract and your Social Security number.
If accepted, we reserve the right to edit all manuscripts. Photos provided with an article will be used at the editor’s discretion. Please include the photographer’s name for each image so we can credit accordingly.
American Angler is not responsible for unsolicited submissions or the safety of submissions not in the editor’s possession. Safe care of submissions in transit to and from American Angler is the responsibility of email provider.
We buy modified North American serial print, electronic, and in-house marketing rights to articles and photos, and payment is made at publication. We don’t pay by the word. Manuscript length and the inclusion of photos are the only variables considered when determining payment rates. Keep in mind the quality and completeness of a submission may be more important than length, and articles that include good photography are usually worth more. As a guideline, feature articles pay between $450 and $600. Short features pay $200 to $400. Essays that fit into our “Waterlines” or “Expeditions” department pay $600.
If American Angler purchases your work, you’ll receive a contract via email from a Morris production coordinator after the issue is sent to the printer. Once Morris receives a signed copy of the contract, the accounting department will issue payment.
Guidelines for Submitting Queries
While American Angler typically doesn’t issue assignments, before you write an article, please submit complete queries via e-mail (if possible). It doesn’t need to be long, but should tell the editor what he needs to decide if the project would be interesting to readers. Besides briefly outlining the subject, explain how you will treat the material and try to answer a few elemental questions like:
- Is the piece a straightforward how-to or a third-person piece of journalistic reporting?
- Does the subject have seasonal or other timeliness? Keep in mind that we work many months ahead of the issue date on the cover.
- How many words will you need to encapsulate the story?
- What are the sidebar opportunities? (FYI—we include sidebars in nearly every destination article that includes any peripheral information a reader needs to know, like license costs, best time to visit, local accommodations or outfitters, etc).
- What sorts of photos, and how many of them, do you plan to submit?
- What other sorts of illustrations may be necessary? Maps? Historical photos or art? Your rough sketches for our artist to finish?
- Do you plan to submit patterns or dressings for flies? If so, the editor will need sample(s) to photograph.
- Avoid passive voice in emails, queries, and manuscripts.
Plan and write your query as carefully as you plan to write the article you are pitching. We can only judge your ability by the organization and writing within the query. Don’t assume that we will believe you can write better than you’ve done in your query.
This is the leading portion of the magazine that includes short, to-the-point, one or two page articles. Generally, we look for a conservation or “grassroots” story to lead off the section. It can be anywhere fro 1,000 to 1,500 words (2 to 4 pages) and has an environmental or conservation angle.
At the end of the section is another brief piece that has to do with what’s going on with the sport, off the water; things with a historical, controversial, or current events angle. In the past, we’ve published examinations of landmark fly-fishing books, controversy in the fishing industry, and snapshots of historical, keynote stuffs, as it relates to the sport of fly fishing—like the creation and sustained use of the Adirondack Guide Boat or the significance of Rangeley Lakes streamers.
In between those two sections, we publish blurbs on the latest and greatest news, books, products, flies, interviews (5 questions column), and other timely fly fishing topics.
Here’s the basic philosophy behind every how-to article we publish: The reader wants to be told EXACTLY what to do and how to do it. Therefore, we want to cover a specific subject so completely that the reader can finish an article, put the magazine down, pick up his fly rod, and immediately use the techniques described. To accomplish this, you cannot leave any questions unanswered or offer the reader too many options.
Many writers want to focus on the “Big Picture”: stillwater, nymphing, terrestrials, etc. We’d rather you focus on a very specific topic and cover it completely. Here’s an example: instead of writing an article on “How to Fish A Streamer,” which is a broad, amorphous topic, think much more specifically—“How to Fish a Streamer Under a Log,” “How to Fish a Streamer Through Weeds,” or “How to Fish a Streamer Around a Midstream Boulder.” This allows you to really explore the minute, nitty-gritty processes of the sport. This is more difficult to do than rehashing the same old clichés of casting down-and-across and taking fish on the swing, but the results are more useful.
Too many writers of how-to articles try to dress them up by backing into their material with an anecdotal yarn. Writers are better off learning how to write how-to and other “technical” articles without resorting to this tired parlor trick. Plunge right into your subject and plow straight ahead if you choose your words carefully. Write each sentence as if it’s a little drama in which the subject actually does something to the subject (instead of relying on the verb “to be” or the pronoun “that”). Paint pictures with active verbs and vivid, concrete nouns (instead of weaving threadbare tapestries of passive verbs, concept nouns, adverbs, and adjectives). “Show” and don’t “tell,” and always keep in mind what your reader needs to know. Don’t tell him what he might do; describe what he should do.
We run more how-to articles than where-to (or destination) pieces. An article on casting or reading water might serve a lot of our readers. A where-to article, contrary to what many writers think and wish to produce, will probably be used by some single-digit percentage of readers.
For the most part, our where-to coverage sticks to domestic places, especially if the adventure is DIY or within the reach of the “common” angler. Again, it’s a question of numbers. An article about a pack-in trip to a remote stream in Tibet might prove briefly interesting to a fair number of readers, but it would prove useful to very few. A piece about several good trout streams in Wisconsin, on the other hand, would serve thousands of American Angler’s readers. That doesn’t mean we’ll never consider a piece about fishing in a place outside North America. But such an article would have to be exceptional in every way. We do not provide assignment letters to help writers secure gratis trips.
A where-to article should focus on the fishing. We want information. The best where-to stories do the job economically. Tell about the fishing and what one needs to bring or do to enjoy it: What are we fishing for? What can we expect to catch? What’s the water like? Which time of year is best, and is it worth going at other times? Can we expect heavy and varied hatches, or should we look forward to fishing only midges or caddis? Is the place easy to get to, or does reaching it entail a strenuous or expensive trip? Any special regulations? Which flies should we bring? Are there fly shops in the area? Guides? Outfitters? What about accommodations? Is there anything for non-fishing members of the family to do in the area? And so on. Try to make it possible for a reader to head for the North Fork of the West Branch of the Little Hogwallow River with everything he needs (including knowledge) to catch heaps of fish and have loads of fun.
A few things must accompany every destination article:
- A good selection of photography that shows the water, the scenery, anglers, and some fish. The more professional-quality images included, the happier the editor. Typically we’d like to get 24 or more images with each submission, but will print between 6 and 9.
- An “If You Go” sidebar that includes local lodging, airports, the nearest fly shops and guides, and other sources of information (such as phone numbers of the local DNR, books, and websites).
- A detailed and accurate map (the magazine’s cartographer will recreate the map for the magazine).
- A local fly pattern, including a recipe.
We like place-oriented stories because we want to expose our readers to as many of fly fishing’s possibilities and as much of its variety as we can. But we want to give them more value than straight where-to information. Set your story in a place; give readers something they can use in their own fishing, no matter where they fish. It can be a tackle tip, a fly-fishing technique, or presentation advice.
Every feature article should be accompanied by at least one sidebar. Sidebars can be informative or entertaining, long or short, utilitarian or witty, dry or colorful. Articles accompanied by sidebars have an edge over those that don’t.
Here are just a few of the things you might want to put in sidebars:
- Information sources and contacts. These are especially useful in place-oriented stories.
- Tackle tips and fly patterns. What to carry. Variations on standard themes.
- Fly-fishing techniques. Technical tips can sometimes bog down a story, if laid out in considerable detail. Skim over it too lightly, and you confuse the reader. Sidebars are perfect for tips on presentation, retrieves, etc.
- Calendar and other added-info comments. If the anecdotal material in your story is set in a certain season, and the fishing is worthwhile, but different, in another season, you may need a sidebar. If your article deals with only one of several species, hatches, or fly-fishing methods, use a sidebar to briefly outline the other possibilities. To make hazard warnings or other cautionary advice stand out, put it in a sidebar.
- Good anecdotes. If you are a natural storyteller and the anecdote is a good one, try it in a sidebar. Please note the emphasis on good.
- Interesting “filler” material. Geology, history, pronunciation, taxonomy, origins of names, chronology, notable record catches, legends, local lore—anything that will help fix your article in a reader’s mind.
- What if we don’t use your sidebars in the magazine? If a good sidebar simply gets crowded out, we will include it on our digital, iPad version of the magazine, or put it on our website.
This is a recurring column in each issue that describes an angler’s “bucket list” type adventure. Generally, these articles differ from other destination features in the magazine because the information is contained in a narrative.
For these pieces, we’re looking for a good story AND good photos. Because the words will describe a specific journey, it’s important the images reflect the events in that story—the sights, the fish, the people, the water, the landscape, the weather; anything that compliments the piece in a way that makes readers say “here’s a place I’d live to visit.”
Again, reading recent Expeditions pieces to get a feel for potential angles, structure, tone, and information that’s worked in the past goes a long way before you actually submit a query or put words on paper. FYI—the column is one of the most popular in the magazine, and the story lineup can stretch for 12 months or longer, so if you have a time-sensitive topic, know the final version might not reach readers hands for another year.
The final piece in each issue is a break from the rest of the magazine’s where-to, how-to format and a chance for contributors to showcase their creative side. Each issue contains a 1,500-word essay that underscore someone’s connection to the sport.
While there’s an infinite range of topics a writer can cover in a Waterlines piece, and an equally infinite ways to approach a topic, it’s likely one of the most difficult sections of the magazine to write for. There’s no need to submit photos (we typically pair a story with art), but the writing has to be high caliber. We’re looking for pieces that “show” rather than “tell,” and invoke reader’s imagination.
Again, there’s no better way to understand what’s been published in the past or what we’re looking for in future issue than picking up the most recent issues and studying before submitting. We’re interested in working with first-time writers as much as we’re interested in working with veteran authors. But know it’s is a tough area of the magazine to fill because while most submissions come from the heart, the text misses the mark for one reason or another. If you’re a prose proud writer that doesn’t take rejection with a grain of salt, then this is not the column for you.
- Sadly, it’s unbelievably apparent which potential contributors read the magazine, and which do not. If you’re unwilling to take the time to study recent issues and gain a better background on what AA purchases before you submit, don’t be offended by rejection.
- Don’t shotgun submissions. Nothing is more irritating (or unprofessional) than receiving a piece that’s been created with no particular publication in mind. Don’t write for yourself; write for a specific title and don’t aim for a bidding war. Editorially, it’s a turn off, and a good way to ensure AA doesn’t review future queries.
- “Is this good enough?” is not a good question in a submission or query cover letter. Be confident and put your best foot forward. If you’re swinging for the fences, it shows.
- Don’t miss deadlines—this goes beyond drop-dead dates for text. If you can’t submit outstanding photos or respond to emails in a timely manner, wait to submit a query until you can.
- Don’t use your work (writing or photography), or the assurances from another magazine or title, as “leverage” against another. This is a small industry, and editors and publishers talk with one another. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth to hear when a contributor purposely shares details of one arrangement to gain ground on another.
- American Angler does not publish book excerpts.