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Writer Guidelines (Jan. 2014 version)

Introduction

Faith Today uses freelance writers for most articles and news reports. The following information outlines Faith Today’s goals and the type of material we publish.

Non-writers can find answers about Faith Today on our frequently asked questions (FAQ) page.


Purpose

Founded in 1983 by The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC), Faith Today is a bi-monthly national magazine that connects, equips and informs evangelical Christians across Canada. Faith Today is one facet of the EFC’s communications ministry, which seeks to build community and effectiveness in ministry among Evangelicals in Canada.

The EFC is the association of Evangelicals in Canada. Its affiliates include denominations, ministry organizations, higher education institutions and congregations that collaborate in shared ministry through partnerships and who speak into public forums to influence Canadians on the values and vision of the evangelical perspective.


What’s New

Faith Today is a general interest magazine of feature articles and news aimed at Canadian Evangelicals, including "how to" features, analysis features, news and profiles of Canadian individuals and ministries. Complete contents for all issues published since 2008 are available free online at www.faithtoday.ca/digital.

Links to other new developments, such as Apps for various mobile devices and Facebook and Twitter feeds, are available at our homepage www.faithtoday.ca.

Faith Today is mainly interested in freelance proposals for short (350-word) articles in our Kingdom Matters and Books & Culture sections (see below for details).

We also welcome proposals for feature articles (800 to 1,800 words) that provide analysis and interpretation, rather than straight newsmagazine-style reports.

Unsolicited manuscripts are not accepted. Instead, start by sending query letters to editor@faithtoday.ca (see below for details).

The magazine industry in Canada recently produced (in 2011) a document of best practices outlining the professional obligations of writers, editors and publishers. It's brief but worth reading.


Readership Profile

Our readers include a wide spectrum of evangelical Christian men and women, many of them in their 40s and 50s, most often from Protestant churches traditionally known as “evangelical” (see below). About half of the evangelical Church in Canada is formally affiliated with the EFC but there are also many evangelical individuals and institutions not formally affiliated with the EFC, including a large number in “mainline” denominations.

Our readers want to:

  • understand current trends and issues of interest to Evangelicals in Canadian society and in Christian communities
  • learn how God is working among other Canadians, especially among believers and ministries they don’t regularly communicate with
  • understand the diversity of thought and practice among Christians in Canada, especially Evangelicals 
  • connect with others to gain spiritual insights and other perspectives
  • gain analysis and resources to equip them in their personal and professional ministries

Some informal reader surveys suggest that:

  • About half the readers of Faith Today are male, half female. Age range: 30-85 (average 50). Average household income: $145,000 (individual income is around $67,000). Average education: Bachelors or college degree. Most give more than 10 per cent of their income to charities and churches.
  • About one third live in cities/suburbs of 500,000 or more residents. Another third live in smaller urban/suburban municipalities. The final third live in rural areas or municipalities of less than 25,000 residents.
  • About half live in the province of Ontario. A third live in British Columbia and Alberta (combined). About one eighth live in Saskatchewan and Manitoba (combined). The rest are distributed pretty evenly throughout Canada’s other provinces and territories.
  • Most attend church services more than once per week. Faith Today has readers among virtually all of Canada’s Christian groups, the largest numbers in Baptist, Pentecostal, Christian and Missionary Alliance, non-denominational, Christian Reformed, Mennonite Brethren and Anglican congregations.

Articles: What Faith Today Uses

A. Introduction

Some of what follows includes tips on good writing. An excellent Canadian Christian resource is also available which delves a little deeper into these issues, plus explains how writers can succeed with the Canadian religious periodicals. It is called Writing With Spirit by Lois Sweet (Augsburg, 2003).

B. Cover and feature articles

Each issue of Faith Today publishes a mix of 4-6 feature stories, one of which is selected as the cover story. They are assigned at least five weeks — more often five months — in advance. Each feature must address one or more of the desired outcomes stated in our tag line: "to connect, equip and inform Evangelical Christians in Canada." Almost all features quote a variety of Canadian sources.

Cover stories usually focus on Canadian trends, issues and ministry initiatives of interest to Evangelicals. But feature articles can also include: service articles (“how to” pieces, treating topics from prayer to websites); analysis articles explaining a trend or phenomenon; faith profiles of people or ministries; slices of life that help readers understand their own experiences; background articles such as an overview of new Bible translations or books in a particular field; and transformation stories that show how a situation was turned around.

Two other kinds of features which Faith Today publishes occasionally are the essay and the news feature.

An essay is usually written by a writer who draws on a particular area of expertise to provide an intriguing, Christian-based exploration of a group of ideas (e.g. spiritual or social issues). Some essays we published recently include examinations of reconciliation, technology, why we weep at the deaths of public figures, and how the Church should respond to terrorism.

A news feature is usually about one page consisting mainly of information. There may also be a bit of analysis. These are rare because our publication schedule is only six times per year, so our readers get some of their Christian news faster from other sources.

We don’t normally publish a “theme” list like many other periodicals. We rely instead on a dynamic flow of topics suggested by editorial staff and freelance writers.

Features generally vary from 800 to 1,800 words. Articles of more than 1,000 words require submitting an outline two weeks before due date. They also have sidebars, which may include statistics, a profile or a very brief related story. Sidebars are calculated in the total word count. Essays are 650 to 1,500 words. News features are 750 words. Cover stories are 2,000 words.

A typical feature article for Faith Today is written in the third person and has a point of view that is supported by clear arguments based on sound research and interviews with Canadian sources.

Successful features will:

  • begin with a captivating and colourful lead that draws readers into the topic by enabling them to experience the issue. This should be human focused, anecdotal and interesting;
  • include a clear statement that identifies the issue which the feature will address and why evangelical readers should care about it (a.k.a. the indicator paragraph, thesis, or nut graph). This tells the readers where the article is headed and convinces them to continue;
  • reflect Canadian and evangelical diversity (depending on the type of article, this can be in the theological perspective, denominational background, geography, sex, age, ethnicity or other characteristics);
  • include contrary views as appropriate, thus anticipating the reader’s questions. However the feature should have a sense of closure and a point of view. A good feature persuades and “shows” the reader rather than “tells” them the important issues being addressed. Readers should be left with a balanced understanding of the issue at hand;
  • contain analysis and opinions from a variety of sources;
  • create a lively style using anecdotes, metaphor, vivid descriptions of settings and people to keep the reader in the piece and caring for the issue;
  • provide a simple explanation of the research in the writer’s words, illustrated by occasional succinct quotes. Features should not be merely source quotes strung together;
  • close with an ending that ties into the lead and theme statement. It should not only sum up the article but possibly point to the future (without suddenly introducing a new idea in the last paragraph).

C. Kingdom Matters section

This section of Faith Today includes a lively collection of short items that reflects how God is at work in the Church in Canada, both in formal ministry and in daily life. The articles are tightly focused on one aspect of a topic. Writing must be concise and concrete.

Topics include achievements, effective initiatives, short profiles and coverage of news events. Common news "beats" include: education, media, social issues, courts, native concerns, missions, churches, politics/government and youth. For controversies, interviews with representatives of all sides of a story are essential. Local news is acceptable as long as there is an element with national appeal.

Length: 150 to 450 words. Faith Today looks for strong photos to illustrate and accompany the items. The availability of photos makes it more likely for Faith Today to be interested in a story query.

D. Books & Culture section:

Reviews of Christian books, music, theatre and art are limited to 300 words. Preference is given to items with a Canadian connection. Short reports on special events and contests are also used.

Keep in mind the 50-50 split in our readership between leaders and laity: write so that both audience segments can read the review. Reviews should summarize content, describe the intended audience for the product, and include opinion as to quality, usefulness and entertainment value as appropriate. Some mention of where the product "fits" in relation to existing products is also welcome (e.g. is the influence of other artists/thinkers/producers evident in the work? does it fit squarely in an accepted genre or not?)

Please make explicit the Canadian connection, e.g. "The author is a professor at XYZ school in Ponoka, Alta." Please also cite the following details (which we print under an image of the book cover alongside the review): Publisher name, year, number of pages, price for Canadian customers in Canadian dollars, noting if the price is for paperback or hardcover.

E. Letters and Milestones section:

Comments on previously published issues are subject to editing for clarity and length; maximum length is 300 words. To be published, a writer must include his/her name and location as well as a phone number (this will not be published).

In each issue Faith Today includes milestones such as announcements of appointments, resignations, organizational name changes, awards and other items of interest to the wider Christian community.


Writing Style

Faith Today follows the Canadian Press Stylebook for spelling, grammar, capitalization, etc. The CP stylebook is available at www.cp.org and elsewhere for about $35. A free, shorter introduction to our style, the Faith Today Style Guide, is available for free online.


What Faith Today Doesn't Use

Bible studies, poetry, serialized articles and most seasonal material. (To clarify: we welcome short Easter-themed submissions but print one per year at most.)


Queries: Getting an Assignment

To propose a cover or feature article, query Faith Today in writing by an email to editor@faithtoday.ca. Describe the topic and the angle you wish to address; why it would be of interest to a Christian audience in Canada; the research you intend to conduct; the people you intend to interview; your writing background and any qualifications that you have to write about the topic.

Show in the query letter that you have already done a few minutes of Canadian research. This may involve using an Internet search engine that includes only Canadian sites. Consider using our publisher’s custom Google search, which restricts itself to the websites of EFC affiliates, or using the search feature at a major Canadian Christian website such as www.christianity.ca or www.canadianchristianity.com or www.christianweek.org.

For cover stories, Faith Today works with experienced writers who can do diverse research and provide analysis as well as write a lively article.

For Kingdom Matters or Arts & Culture: Send a query by email, fax or letter. Outline the story and whom you plan to interview. If you are new to us please include your writing background.

Contacting Faith Today: We prefer carefully composed query letters sent by email to editor@faithtoday.ca. If you are mailing hardcopy, include a SASE with Canadian postage (or international reply coupon) for prompt reply. If your idea is very time-sensitive, call 905-479-5885 x. 241.

Unsolicited manuscripts are not accepted. They will not be returned.


Rate Schedule

Rates include both first North American serial print rights as well as perpetual web rights. In rare cases they also apply to articles written exclusively for our website.

Most features: $Cdn 0.25/word
Essay features and guest opinion columns: $Cdn 0.15/word
Kingdom Matters: $Cdn 0.20/word
Reprints: $Cdn 0.15/word

Writers who request it can have their cheques made out in American funds.

Expenses: Telephone expenses are covered though they must be submitted with an itemized copy of the phone bill. These are usually limited to $30. Other expenses must be negotiated in advance.

Web Rights: All features and material published in Faith Today may be selected for posting on several websites owned by The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, on our mobile phone application, and on websites that promote Faith Today, unless permission is refused by the writer at acceptance of the assignment. (The EFC websites currently include www.evangelicalfellowship.ca and www.christianity.ca and www.faithtoday.ca. We are not currently posting articles on any promotional websites.)

Kill Fee: Faith Today reserves the right not to publish an assigned article if it is not of publishable quality or does not meet the terms of the assignment. The payment is 30-50 per cent of the assigned fee, plus agreed upon expenses.


Publishing Practices

Payment is made within six weeks of the acceptance of a publishable story and the submission of contact information for all research sources. Two copies of the issue in which the author's article appears will be provided for the author. HST/GST (Harmonized/Goods and Services Tax), where charged, are paid in addition to rates. Writers who charge these taxes should invoice us.

We often require writers to submit more than one draft of an article, and payment will only be requisitioned after production of a final draft by the writer and approval by an FT editor.

Copyright: Faith Today purchases first North American periodical rights only, with these exceptions: we grant reproduction permission without consultation with the author for: an anthology of collected works of Faith Today material; audio services for the handicapped; photocopies for use in a local church or classroom.

Reprinting: Freelance writers and columnists own their work. We will direct any requests for reprint permission to them. (Articles by Faith Today staff are owned by the magazine, which generally forbids reprints for commercial uses, e.g. for advertising, advertorial or fundraising copy.) Reprints must include a credit line indicating Faith Today as the source and date of first publication. Please also add a line saying, "For a free sample copy of Faith Today, please call toll-free 1-866-302-3362." Please send a copy of the reprinted article to us for our files.

Publication of an opinion, event or advertisement does not indicate endorsement by Faith Today staff or its publisher, The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.

Simultaneous publication: Writers may re-sell an assigned article after Faith Today has published it. For breaking stories, Faith Today may accept an article from a person who writes for several publications using the same research or interviews and whose work will appear elsewhere before Faith Today has published its story. However in that case the situation must first be discussed with an FT editor and the FT story must be significantly different from the other articles. In the event that there is a conflict, Faith Today may choose not to publish the story.

Photos: Writers are asked to help us obtain colour photos of their main interviewee, due five days after the article. A stock photo (e.g. mug shot) is acceptable, but we prefer a casual photo or an action shot (perhaps taken by the writer). Photos can be prints or sent in high-resolution electronic form. Our minimum for an image sized 4” by 4” is 266 dots per inch (a smaller image must have more dpi). The format can be jpg or pretty much anything. If your photo file is less than 150 kilobytes, it’s probably not good enough. If you need to scan photos and are not an expert, we prefer that you send prints to us by mail so that we can scan them. We will return prints to the source at no charge upon request.

Pseudonyms: Faith Today generally does not publish material under pseudonyms.

Filing method: Articles should be submitted by email to the assigning editor. We currently use Microsoft Word, but can handle text in all major formats. All articles must be accompanied by a list of research sources, with MAILING ADDRESSES and phone numbers. We may need to contact them to finalize photo arrangements, to check facts with them, or to send them tear sheets of the article once the magazine is printed.

[Guidelines version: Jan. 20, 2014]

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