Fine Homebuilding is a bimonthly magazine for builders, architects, contractors, owner/builders, and others who are involved in building new houses or reviving old ones.
What makes Fine Homebuilding unique is that most of our articles are written by people who actually do the work they write about. Our chief contributors are home builders, architects, and other professionals.
What kinds of articles are we looking for?
We’re interested in almost all aspects of home building, from laying out foundations to capping cupolas. Whether the subject is a fundamental method for framing a second-story addition or a complex technique for veneering cabinet doors, we look for high-quality workmanship, thoughtful designs, and proper procedures.
The types of articles we look for generally break down into a few different categories.
Technique articles usually cover a method or skill but require a narrow focus. For example, a technique article should be focused on step flashing instead of flashing, framing headers instead of framing a house, or tiling a backsplash instead of tiling walls and floors.
Design articles generally cover completed houses, additions, or renovations. Good-quality photos are important when proposing this type of article, because the focus is on the finished product (see “Photographs” below).
Project articles, sometimes referred to as process articles, typically focus on specific building, remodeling, or home-improvement projects, such as a kitchen or bathroom renovation, the restoration of a Victorian-style front porch, or the construction of a newel post. Project articles often double as technique articles because they include useful techniques.
In addition to our articles, Fine Homebuilding features a number of regular departments: Tips & Techniques, Tools & Materials, Project Gallery, Ask the Experts, Building Skills, Drawing Board, and Finishing Touch. We invite you to contribute to these as well. A careful reading of at least two issues of the magazine will give you a good idea of the kind of information we put into each of these departments.
What should I include in an article proposal?
The fundamental questions here are: What’s in it for the other readers of Fine Homebuilding? and What are they going to learn from my article?
That said, the best way to find out if your project can be published is to assemble a package of information that will give us a clear view of your subject and how you plan to treat it. The first thing to do is to prepare an outline of the text. Then write a paragraph or two describing the project. In addition, we’ll need to see a representative selection of photographs of the project.
If you know from the outset that you might want to write an article about your project, take lots of work-in-progress photos. We prefer digital images. For proposal purposes, low-resolution images (emailed or printed) are fine; however, for images that we publish, we’ll need photos with the highest resolution you can create. (The minimum acceptable resolution is 300 dpi @ 6 in. by 7 in.) If you have any sketches or working drawings that would help us understand the project, send those along, too.
Our preferred method to receive these materials is via email. Should you mail us hard copies, however, we will return everything at the appropriate time.
What happens after I submit my proposal?
Once we receive your proposal, we’ll send you a letter to let you know that it arrived. You’ll hear from us again within a month, this time with a decision about whether or not we want to go ahead with the article.
My article is accepted—now what?
If we accept your article proposal, a staff editor will be assigned to help you develop the article further. This editor will be your primary contact with the magazine until your article is printed. Please note that final acceptance and printing of your article depends on how well you do with the manuscript.
Writing the main text
We’re more interested in your point of view and your technical expertise than in your prose style, but even so, there are a few things to keep in mind when writing for us.
First, stick to the outline that you and your editor settled upon. If you want to reorganize it or add new information, let your editor know what you’re up to.
Adopt an easy, conversational style, as if you were describing something to a friend in a letter. Be sure to define any terms you think might be obscure. Even though most of your readers will be building professionals, not everyone has a specialized knowledge of every subject.
Writing about technical information and processes
Try to explain technical procedures in clear, simple sentences, and organize the text logically. Drawings or sketches come in handy here, but don’t labor over the artwork; we’ll redraw anything that needs it. Just make sure that the visual information is correct and complete. Note the particular tools and materials that played a part in your work. Sometimes it’s as important to know which products worked (or didn’t) as it is to know how they were used. It’s very important to provide us with the product name, along with the manufacturer’s name and current mailing address or web address (if you know it). Supplying these specifics in your manuscript will save everyone a lot of running around after loose ends later on. Feel free to assess these products candidly, but be sure that your opinion has the weight of firsthand knowledge behind it.
In most cases, one of our staff editors will visit you in order to take photographs, but in some cases we will use your photos or the photos of a professional photographer. Unless stated otherwise in writing, we will assume that any photographs and drawings you supply with your article belong to you and are covered by our copyright agreement. If someone else (a professional photographer, perhaps) has the copyright to photos of your project, we’ll need to sign a copyright agreement with him or her.
Our editors are trained photographers who are capable of getting photos that accurately support the processes and projects described in the text. A visit also gives an author a chance to meet the editor and work out any details involved in preparing the article. The timetable for your project may have some bearing on when an editor will come for a visit, but we try to come before editing begins. Visits may be one day or more, depending on the work to be done and your schedule.
Payments and copyrights
We pay authors at a starting rate of $150 per published magazine page. We sometimes pay a bonus on publication for an unusually good manuscript, but only if the entire process, from outline to author’s corrections, goes smoothly. We’ll also reimburse you for preapproved expenses for materials and incidentals. You will need to send us a photocopy of your receipts (the IRS says you should keep the originals) when you want to be reimbursed.
Once your editor has a manuscript that’s ready for editing, we’ll send you a copyright agreement to sign. The agreement constitutes our acceptance of the article for publication. It’s not a difficult document to understand and simply asks you to sell us four things:
- The right to be the first magazine to publish the article;
- The right to reprint your article in any media or form;
- The right to use portions of the article, including photographs and drawings, in materials promoting the magazine or The Taunton Press.
- The right to edit, revise, and adapt the material as we see fit.
As author, you retain all other rights, including the right to publish your original manuscript elsewhere after it has appeared in Fine Homebuilding. If photographs of the project were taken by a professional photographer, we’ll ask the photographer to sign a similar copyright agreement.
Once you sign the copyright agreement, return both copies to us. We’ll send you an advance payment on the article, equal to one-half the estimated total payment on publication. We’ll pay the balance upon publication.
Please note that by signing a copyright agreement with you, we do not guarantee publication of your article. Even if we schedule the article for a specific issue, we reserve the right to decide later not to publish it. This doesn’t happen often, but it is a possibility. If it does happen, you are entitled to keep the advance payment as a kill fee and will be released from the copyright agreement.
Publication and scheduling
We don’t usually schedule an article for publication until we have an acceptable manuscript in hand. And because we have to schedule our issues almost a year in advance of publication, it may seem as though we are asking you to hurry up and deliver your material only to have you wait. We wish things were otherwise, but we need a long lead time to produce our kind of magazine. Your understanding and patience during this period will be appreciated. Of course, you’re always welcome to call your editor to find out how things are going.
After your manuscript has been edited, you’ll have a chance to review the edited version before it goes to press. We’ll email you a galley (a printout of the text), which you should read carefully. This is the time to check for technical inaccuracies, errors in fact, and editorial misinterpretations. This isn’t the time for rewriting. After you’ve read through the text, call or email your editor, and your corrections will be incorporated into the text.
Sometimes we have to make additional changes in the manuscript after you’ve submitted your corrections. These changes are typically minor and come as we actually fit the manuscript into a layout. If we need to make major changes, or if we have any doubts about changes we’re considering, your editor will check with you first.
Purchasing additional issues
As an author, you will automatically receive two copies of the magazine when your article comes out. You also are entitled to a 50% discount on additional copies. In order to receive the discount, you must place your orders through the editorial department’s administrative assistant.
If you have questions about any of this, if you need help, or if you just want to talk things over, give me a call (800-926-8776). I’ll be happy to hear from you.
Rob Yagid, editor