Episode 24: Developing Your Writing Niche with Jen Paulson
Jennifer Paulson is the editor-in-chief of Horse & Rider magazine, one of the leading Western training magazines on newsstands today. The magazine provides practical training tips from professional trainers, horsekeeping advice and insight into living the Western horse life. A horse enthusiast herself based in Colorado, Jennifer has worked at Horse & Rider since 2010.
Horse & Rider is such a respected publication, and we know you'll enjoy hearing from Jen about how the magazine has evolved, what she looks for in freelancers, and what it takes to produce the right content.
First off, tell us about your own horses—what do you and your family do with them? Right now Jen is focused on developing her sons' interest in horses, through their steadfast Paint gelding. Her son Leo, 9, is possibly upgrading to another horse in the spring, and Joe, 6, is just getting started with riding Paint. It's a great mother-son time, and it's great for encouraging the horse editor's passion for her work.
How did you get into equine journalism and eventually join the team at Horse & Rider? Always a horsewoman, Jen wanted to do something with horses. Has a degree in ag communications and started writing for the Rocky Mountain Quarter Horse Association. After graduating from the University of Wyoming, Jen was hired by the American Quarter Horse Journal. She got to have some amazing experiences right out of the gate.
Wanting to move back to Colorado, Jen took a job working for a magazine called The Trail Less Traveled. She also worked on Ride with Bob Avila. After about a year, she was hired to work at Western Horseman for a few years. She then worked for an agency - The Integer Group - for 5 years. She learned different ways of thinking about marketing and publishing. When Horse & Rider moved back to Boulder, she returned to equine publications and a way to bring horses back into her life. in 2010, she was hired as managing editor. In 2014 she was promoted to editor, and in 2017 she was named editor in chief of the newly integrated and rebranded Horse & Rider.
How has the publication changed during your tenure, particularly this year? Publishing has changed so much just in the last decade, particularly with social media. Moving Horse & Rider forward with a brand that has a history and following, the company that owns Horse & Rider discussed merging Horse & Rider with two sister publications - American Cowboy and Trail Rider magazine to present a robust, well-rounded publication with a modern idea of the horse life.
The concept of horse life has always been at the heart of Horse & Rider, so revising the tagline to be "Today's Western Horse Life" made sense with the magazine's new outlook. Horse-owning readers have responses positively!
AIM has a great research division, and "Today's Western Horse Life" was the most popular in the company's research.
What makes Horse & Rider unique amongst other equine publications? The Horse & Rider voice is what sets it apart from other equine publications. A friendly, helpful, conversational tone. Cover testing on images and cover lines for newsstand results. Table of contents study to evaluate the content of that issue. Ad research to see which ads resonate with readers. etc
How much does Horse & Rider work with freelancers – writers, photographers, etc? H&R works with freelancers quite a bit. There is a roster of contributing editors and trusted writers the magazine works with on a regular basis. The magazine works with Mallory Beinborn is the contributing photographer. But the magazine is widening its team of freelancers. If your work goes with what the magazine is looking for, Jen is open to working with you.
How have you brought in freelancers from the other magazines, and what do you look for in a freelancer? i.e. experience, skills, story ideas, clippings… Bob came from American Cowboy as a columnist, and Renee Riley came from Trail Rider and she is the trail content editor now. The magazine continues to work with the freelancers from the other magazines. Some of the editors from American Cowboy work on pieces for Horse & Rider as well.
Real horse experience is really important for H&R freelancers. Experience is important. Understanding the magazine's voice is exceptionally important. Writers that can effectively shoot photography are highly desirable.
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What kinds of things turn you off on a freelancer? Missing deadlines--if you think you'll miss a deadline, talk to her beforehand and see if you can work something out. Making excuses is the other thing. Be honest about how your workflow is going and what you will be delivering. Writing in passive voice is a big no-no.
What advice can you give freelancers hoping to snag assignments from a publication like Horse & Rider? Writing samples are great. Show that you read the magazine, you know the departments and how the stories come together. Show that you care about the H&R audience and want to be involved. Read the magazine!
Send pitches tailored to H&R. Don't send a pitch you've sent out to multiple magazines. Follow up, be patient.
Best way to send you a pitch? Email is good, a follow up phone call is a great way to build a relationship.
Any other advice on that note? Be energetic, be positive, show you have hustle and want to do it. If you're out and about at an equine event and see Jen, don't be afraid to come up and introduce yourself!
How can listeners find you online?
Horse & Rider Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HorseandRider/
Horse & Rider Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/horseandridermag/