December 02, 2022
By Curt Wells
Question: I would like to submit a story to Bowhunter for possible publication. What is the process? — Russell H., via e-mail
Answer: I get this question quite often, so it’s time to address this again. Every publication has a specific focus. At Bowhunter, we publish articles about bowhunting adventures, tactics, gear, and great destinations. The best articles include all or several of these elements.
I will address photos first, because the lack of, or poor quality photos is the number-one reason an article gets rejected. If you send us a story with fuzzy photos of a buck in the back of a truck, you’re wasting everyone’s time. Don’t send prints or slides — those days are over. Digital photos are best taken with a “real camera” rather than a smartphone. Even a decent point-and-shoot camera takes better photos than a cell phone. Some newer phones, like an iPhone 13, will take decent images if the light is good and the focus is sharp, but a real camera with a flash powerful enough to fill in shadows and overcome backlit situations is a far better choice. You don’t have to lug around a DSLR. Get a small point-and-shoot camera with a belt pouch, so it’s easy to pop it out and take photos of a scrape or a wallow without having to stop and unload your DSLR from your pack. I carry a DSLR, but I also have a Canon G7X Mark II on my hip. It takes excellent images and HD video.
Photos must be well-lit, sharp, and tasteful. No lolling tongues, excessive blood, or arrows sticking out of the animal. Some things we can fix, but resolution is not one of them. Shoot at the highest resolution, and do not downsize photos. We want them straight out of the camera, and that includes trail cameras, which often provide good support images. Screenshots won’t work.
We need more than just “hero” photos. Snap some support images of things like live animals, camp, game sign, glassing, calling, climbing a mountain, using a decoy — anything that will help illustrate your story. Scenery photos are worthless, unless there is an animal or a bowhunter in the image.
Your manuscript should be submitted in Microsoft Word. Do not send your article as a PDF, or with photos embedded. Keep it to 2,000 words or less and write with “flow.” It’s like driving down a road with potholes. When you get to a word, sentence, or paragraph that you have to read twice — that’s a pothole.
Restructure until the road is smooth. Lead off with something interesting, like some action. Grab the readers by the eyeballs and draw them in. Tell your story, and then end it with something that ties back to the beginning, or leaves the readers thinking about what they’ve read. You don’t have to be a professional writer; you just need a good story and photos to match. We can fix your words. We can’t fix your photos!
Also, consider timing. If you shot a monster bull elk in September, don’t wait until March to send us your story. By then I’ve likely purchased all the elk stories I can use. Think eight months in advance.
Your article package should include your digital manuscript, photos, and a list of photo descriptions/captions. If your photos are large, high-res images, you can go online and send them via an app like WeTransfer to my e-mail address, which is email@example.com.
Lastly, don’t be intimidated. We often publish articles by amateur writers, and unlike some websites and publications, we’ll send you a contract and pay upon acceptance of your article. Tag a special animal, and you’ll likely gets calls from folks looking for info and a photo. The next thing you know, your story is on the web, and you got nothing. Don’t give it away. Give us the opportunity to create something you’ll treasure.