Fine Woodworking has always published readers’ work. Every issue of the magazine includes guidelines for proposals, which are also available on their website.
Occasionally someone will ask how I first had my work published in the magazine. Many are under the impression that editors choose whose work they want to feature and invite those woodworkers to write for them. For the record, that is not typically how an author gets a foot in the door. Editors, especially in the wake of massive changes to the economics of publishing due to the internet and the Great Recession, are spread exceedingly thin. The editors I know at Fine Woodworking and other publications have their work cut out for them – and how. Many today are juggling responsibilities that used to be handled by several colleagues, while striving not just to maintain standards – in the caliber of the work published, along with the writing, photography, editing, and production values – but to elevate them.
Fine Woodworking has received some criticism over the past few years for the dearth of images of women and people of color on their pages. To some extent, this criticism is warranted; too many issues give the impression that woodworking is still the province of white men, while in reality, woodworkers are all over the map. The real-world diversity of woodworkers should be represented. Woodworking is no longer a white men’s club.
On the other hand, some of this criticism is unfair. While I’m not on the staff of the magazine, I am occasionally privy to conversations concerning this issue, based on which I can say that *the primary reason for the relative absence of women and members of other demographic groups on the magazine’s pages is that we submit fewer proposals.*
So here’s a word or two about proposing an article. Proposals take some investment. If you’re serious about getting your work published in a magazine, you first need to familiarize yourself with the publication. Does your work (and here I’m talking about the work, not the maker of it) seem like a good fit? Also, variety is important to readers; I’ve lost track of how many people have said they cancelled their subscription because they “didn’t need another article about sharpening chisels,” a jab that always annoys me because the magazine and its online branches contain so much beyond basic techniques. So if recent issues have featured project articles on floating table tops, glazed finishes, or chairs, you should probably come up with a fresher subject.
Keep your proposal succinct, and make sure the scope of what you’re proposing is clear. Always respond promptly and courteously, as you would in any business correspondence. And cultivate patience, as well as perseverance. I wrote my first proposal to Fine Woodworking around 2001. It was rejected, as were the next few I sent in. One day I heard from then-editor Karen Wales that the magazine wanted to publish a two-page spread on my Edwardian hallstand; it appeared in 2003. Since then, I’ve had plenty of proposals rejected by Fine Woodworking and other publications. But some find their way into print. Want to see more women and their work on the pages? It’s up to us all to put in the effort to make that happen.
We’re *all* busy. Sometimes we just don’t have the time or bandwidth to sit down and do the work that even a simple article proposal requires. We can still encourage others to propose their own, as well as talk to tool manufacturers, reps at finishing products companies, and other advertisers about the importance of including women and other under-represented groups in their ads.
The Instagram posts are below, in case you’d like to read the comments and add to them.
It took years for me to be published in my area of Landscape and Design here in Phoenix. My first rejections were hard to swallow and over time I realized I was not presenting what was needed. I contacted a professional photographer who worked for the publications to look at my work, my poor photos and hired them to shoot my projects. Those images cracked the door open, and I was able to find one project worth publishing out of the five I submitted (not all at once). 15 years later and I have been published dozens of times, rejected as many times, and have images worthy for marketing and websites. Bottom line… your work still has to be interesting, show solid workmanship, and fit the needs of publication.
Yes. Thanks for sharing your experience.