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Coastal Living is a print and online magazine geared toward beach lovers and coastal property owners across North America. Articles touch on destinations along the Pacific, Atlantic, and Gulf shores of the continent, and, on occasion, cover the Great Lakes and the Caribbean, as well.

Written with a sense of poise and sophistication, the magazine is light without being silly, stylish without being pretentious, and visually appealing — it’s full of idyllic beach photos. In the words of the editors, the magazine is “…an accessory on the coffee table, a workhorse in the kitchen, and a friend in the hammock.”

Coastal Living’s 660,000 subscribers are mostly middle-aged women who own (or would like to own) a second home by the sea. The magazine gives them ideas for decorating or reviving a beach home, creative suggestions for seaside cuisine, and plenty of destinations to visit and stay along the coast.

If you’ve got a North American coastal story idea, start by looking through the magazine archives to get a sense of the style, and to find out if your idea has already been published.

Then, read through the writer’s guidelines. You won’t find them on the Coastal Living website, but I’ve posted a copy for you, along with an exclusive interview with the editor, at the bottom of this page.

The magazine sections that are open to freelancers include:


The Homes section, full of beach house style and comfort tips, makes up at least 50% of the magazine editorial. Stories in this section cover decoration ideas, renovation tips, product profiles or round-ups, communities, and gardens. Send queries for this section to assistant homes editor, Abigail Millwood.


Articles in this section are single destination-driven or multiple-destination round-ups with a specific angle. Some current titles include: “Top Five Places for Winter Surfing,” “Top 10 Floating Inns,” and “The Real Pike Place.” Send queries for this section to senior editor, Larry Bleiberg.


Lifestyle articles are stories about the people, art, culture, and customs of a particular place. Sometimes they focus on one person, as in “Framing the View” about an Oregon coastal painter. Others highlight unusual happenings, like “Fetching Waves,” about surfing dogs. Send queries for this section to: lifestyle editor, Sarah Brueggemann.


Meals with a seafood theme, quick beach-side cooking ideas, and creative ways to celebrate the holidays at the beach are a few of the article subjects you’ll see in this section. All recipes will be professionally tested before publication. Send queries for this section to: senior editor foods & entertaining, Julia Rutland.

Coastal Living doesn’t accept full manuscripts, but it is on the look-out for well-developed ideas expressed in an attractive query letter. (More about how to write a query letter like this in tomorrow’s e-letter.)

Keep in mind that this is a glossy magazine, with a large readership and a relatively high pay-rate. These are all good things, but they do make it a bit more competitive. You’ll stand out from other writers if you impress the editors with your query.

Coastal Living’s editor prefers queries that:

** Propose a story that coincides with the themes and style expressed in the magazine

** Pitch an idea that has not already been published in the magazine

** Present a fresh or surprising idea, or a new angle on a well-known topic

** Use language that shows your writing abilities, with strong, descriptive verbs and a lack of clichés

** Are free of spelling and grammar mistakes

** Include links to two previously published articles

Payment typically runs at $1 per word, for stories between 500 and 1,000 words long. Once you’ve landed an assignment with the magazine, Coastal Living may also pay your transportation, lodging, and dining expenses while you’re researching and writing your story.

If you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry — we’ll go into more detail about getting an editor’s attention with a great query letter tomorrow.

Insights from Senior Editor, Larry Bleiberg

1. How do you characterize your readership?

Our average reader is a 48-year-old female who has a second home on the coast, or dreams of having one, or who loves the coast. That means photography is very important. The writer doesn’t have to take the pictures, but always needs to keep images in mind, asking themselves what this location will look like in print.

2. Who writes for your publication? Where do you get your stories?

Staff and freelancers. Through queries.

3. If you were to give one or two bits of advice to a freelancer hoping to break into your paper, what would you say?

Have an idea with a strong angle or focus. A location is not a story. Also, please don’t call. E-mail is best.

4. What happens when a writer submits a query to your publication?

We collect promising queries throughout the year and then review them at an annual planning meeting in the fall. At the time, we’ll determine our story lineup a year in advance. Then we’ll make assignments so that someone will be researching a January 2009 story in January 2008. After the writer does the research (or sometimes before), he or she provides a shooting script giving detailed instructions of what a photographer should shoot. Then the writer sends in the story.

5. What is a mistake you typically see new writers (or writers in general) make?

Not having an angle.

6. Can you tell me a little bit about your article needs?

We cover the coasts of North America, including Canada and Mexico, plus Central America, the Caribbean, Hawaii and the Great Lakes. Although it’s hard to define, we’d like there to be something “coastal” about the story.

7. What, in your view, separates an OK travel article from one that’s truly inspired?

It should be something I hadn’t thought about, or have never heard of. Surprise me. Make me want to go.

8. Do you have any pet peeves when it comes to travel writing?

Stories that are about the writer. First person is fine, but it’s a special kind of first person. The writer is a stand-in for the writer. This is not the time to write about yourself. Keep out of it as much as possible.

9. If you had to name one thing you wish more freelancers understood, what would it be?

Find an angle. It’s been said before but it bears repeating. Paris is not a story. It’s a city. Find the story.

Coastal Living
Writer’s Guidelines

Welcome to the award-winning world of Coastal Living Magazine. Many kudos have come our way since the first issue date, May/June 1997, most recently winning Gold in the Women’s Lifestyle category. Folio: Show judge Dr. Samir Husni, a.k.a. Mr. Magazine, said: “Creativity in our business is not measured by age, but by content, and Coastal Living provides content in such a fresh, breathy manner that you can almost smell the sea water and dust the sand off its pages.”


Coastal Living is a lifestyle magazine that occupies a unique and well-defined niche. As stated on every cover, we are “The Magazine for People Who Love the Coast.” Our editorial lineup takes readers to homes, destinations, activities, and people along the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf shores of North America. We include Hawaii and Alaska as well as coastal Canada and Mexico. We also visit the multinational Caribbean islands from time to time, and the waterside ways of life along the U.S. Great Lakes. Our rule-of-thumb: With the exception of features on the Great Lakes, or “North Coast,” Coastal Living stories spotlight topics within sight, sound, taste, touch, or smell of salt water.


A tone of casual sophistication unfolds between the covers of Coastal Living. Regardless of the subject—decorating, entertaining, gardening, travel, nature, or zany beach characters—insider knowledge and ease prevail in the language on our pages. Our syntax welcomes humor but avoids cuteness. Well-balanced and poised, Coastal Living is an accessory on the coffee table, a workhorse in the kitchen, and a friend in the hammock.


Frequency: 10 x per year

Circulation: 625,000 paid subscribers nationwide

Readership: 4.1 million (average of 4.9 readers per issue)

Distribution: 80% subscription; 20% newsstand

Editorial-to-Advertising Ratio: +/-45 to +/-55

Publisher: Southern Progress Corporation (SPC), a division of Time Warner

SPC Editorial Offices: 2100 Lakeshore Drive, Birmingham, AL 35209

Web site:

Word Counts: 500-1,000


Coastal Living stories are planned 1 year in advance during an annual series of editorial meetings from about November through January. For example, the slate for 2007 is finalized as of January 2006. Flexibility allows some adjustment as the year progresses, but editors generally stick to the plan. That allows time for research, photography, writing, and production. This lead time is particularly crucial if a story has a seasonal angle, such as fall color or holiday decorating.


Depending on the type of article, the deadline for text to be researched, written, and submitted to the assigning editor is 4 to 6 months prior to publication date.


Subscription renewals and growing newsstand sales tell us that Coastal Living succeeds in transporting people to their dreams. Letters, E-mails, and focus groups reveal countless ways readers use our information to make those dreams come true. Surveys show the average time spent perusing a typical issue is 90 minutes—an impressive statistic in this fast-paced age. Reader characteristics include:

Gender: 69% women; 31% men

Median age: 48

Median household income: $88,376

Own home: 82.7%

College-educated: 77%

Geographic location (percentages rounded): South & Southeast—48%; Northeast— 14%; West—25%; Midwest—13%.

Travel frequency: 9 average number of days spent per year for vacation/personal travel per year.


Four overall subject areas (homes, travel, lifestyle, and food & entertaining) define the content of each issue. Divided into features and regular columns, stories depicting each of these areas are included in all three sections of the magazine: front-of-book, well (the middle section, with no advertising), and back-of-book.

The magazine also has special sections—such as ones focusing on summer entertaining and building a coastal home—typically written and produced by staff editors.

Behind every story, in all departments, is the desire to serve our readers—to give them ideas, techniques, or inspiration applicable to their own lives, families, homes, and communities. Woven into our stories is an awareness of nature, the environment, and the importance of coastal conservation. Often those topics form the backbone of a story.

Homes—With a mission to promote comfort, livability, and style, the Homes section makes up more than 50% of editorial. Story focus may be on decorating, building and renovating, architecture, products, community development, or gardens and landscaping. Our tone of casual sophistication is unmistakable here: Informal scenes sport just-right touches of grace and taste; otherwise luxurious locations project a “come in and make yourself at home” personality. Homes stories are staff- and freelance-written.

Travel—Coastal Living issues a passport to fun in our destination, outdoor activity, nature experience, and lodging and dining stories. We strive for angles that reveal the essential character of a place in fresh and lively ways no other magazine would capture. The sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell of surf and sand are ever-present in text and photography.

A travel/community hybrid is “So You Want to Live In. . . .” This popular column, appearing in every issue, includes many of the earmarks of a travel story because it evokes a sense of place. But it takes the reader beyond what might otherwise be a great weekend getaway spot to the practicalities of year-round life with the resident cast and culture of a specific seaside town or village.

Travel stories are staff- and freelance-written.

Lifestyle—Stories in this category may feature a family or other cluster of people with a common tie, or they may profile an individual person. They also may be hybrids—partly home/partly lifestyle. The latter depicts homeowners, architects, designers, or landscapers pertinent to the homes, gardens, or communities within the story.

Lifestyle columns include:

—”The Good Life,” which showcases a person or family with a will to live on the coast and a way to do it.

—”Coastal Character,” which portrays one person who may be a quirky local or a semi-celebrity but, either way, is intrinsically connected to the coastal environment.

—”Collectibles” spotlights rare, valuable, or otherwise treasured items or accessories with a marine connection or motif and is often presented in situ and/or with the owner’s path in assembling the collection. Lifestyle stories are staff- and freelance-written.

Food & Entertaining —In a word, “convivial” describes our approach to putting food and wine on the table or on the picnic cloth at lively gatherings profiled in each issue’s well section feature. Other columns include:

—”Seafood Primer,” a popular what’s it and how-to in each issue. The column highlights a type of (or method of cooking) fish or shellfish.

—”In the Coastal Kitchen,” features a roundup of topics from a 30 minute recipe that utilizes ingredients found in the pantry, a new kitchen tool, coastal cookbooks, seafood preparation tips, or a coastal cooking class.

—”Dinner in a Breeze,” offers an easy menu that can be prepared in less than 30 minutes.

NOTE: Recipes in all food features and columns are professionally tested in the Coastal Living kitchens to ensure accuracy and quality. Food & entertaining stories are staff- and freelance written.

Currents—Encompassing the above subject areas, this section opens every issue of Coastal Living and is home to a variety of short items (25-200 words). Travel news, cool home products, beach fashion, and seaside events are among the topics that populate its pages. “Currents” is primarily staff-written.


No manuscripts, please! Coastal Living does not accept prepared text, but we are happy to consider a well-developed idea expressed in a query letter.

Winning Queries:

—Indicate that the writer has read our magazine well enough to grasp our style and subject matter.

—Do not propose a topic recently addressed in a published Coastal Living story.

—Present a fresh and surprising angle on a widely acknowledged topic; or present a new story idea that is uniquely suited to Coastal Living.

—Convince our editors that the writer is highly qualified to write on the topic according to his/her experience and familiarity with the subject.

—Express the idea in language that captures and holds our attention. —Express the idea concisely and limit description to one page or less.

—Include scouting shots or photocopies of photographs. This is mandatory for any query related to home and garden stories.

—Maintain 100% perfect spelling and grammar.

—Are accompanied by clips of published work by the writer unless samples are already on file with Coastal Living. (In the latter case, the cover letter should remind us that we have clips and offer to send more if necessary.)

Submitting queries: Please make sure to keep a copy of everything you send us. Due to the volume of queries received, we cannot be responsible for lost or misplaced materials, and are unable to guarantee that submissions will be returned even when accompanied by a self-addressed stamped envelope.

Mail submissions, queries, and other information to Coastal Living, 2100 Lakeshore Drive, Birmingham, AL 35209.

Please do not send unsolicited articles, resumes, or writing samples by e-mail.


—Assigning editors will contact the writer if Coastal Living decides to pursue an idea. Specific angle, fees, expenses, and deadlines are discussed. That editor prepares and sends a story-focus sheet to the writer to confirm the story approach.

NOTE: Per the planning process followed by Coastal Living editors (see Planning Schedule), queried ideas typically will be considered on an annual basis for a future editorial lineup. (For example, all 2007 stories are planned by early 2006.)

—The Coastal Living office manager issues a story contract and a Time Inc. Substitute W-9 form; both should be signed and promptly returned by the writer. These documents must be received by the office manager in order for the writer to secure compensation.

Accompanying the contract are expense guidelines and a list of items for the writer’s submitted story package to include. (The story Focus Sheet also may be included or may be sent separately—see above.)


Coastal Living typically pays $1 per word, plus reasonable expenses (such as transportation, lodging, and dining for travel stories) agreed upon in advance. Compliance of our expense guidelines is mandatory.

Payment is issued within 4-6 weeks of story acceptance. NOTE: Following story acceptance, the assigning editor may still request text revisions by the writer.

Kill fees are 25% of the assigned fee, as noted in the contract.

Finder’s fees are paid when and where pertinent. The range varies according to the story.


To ensure prompt payment, writers must:

Meet the deadline specified in the contract.

Send a complete story package to the assigning editor as specified in the directions that accompany the contract. That includes 1) story text; 2) all fact-checking material; 3) names and complete and legible addresses of all story sources or participants who should receive complimentary copies of the issue featuring the story.

Put themselves in the shoes of our fact checkers and think about what they need to do their job. Writers must not fail to include complete fact-checking material in the story package. This is mandatory for payment.

Such material includes but is not limited to: 1) names and contact points for all story sources and anyone quoted; 2) brochures and/or business cards showing up-to-date data pertinent to lodging and other referenced facilities; 3) restaurant menus if applicable; 4) photocopies of pages from historical documents, Web sites, or other information sources used.

Submit an invoice along with the complete story package. The contract does not serve as an invoice.


(Homes & Gardens) Abigail Millwood, assistant homes editor
(Travel) Larry Bleiberg, senior editor
(Lifestyle) Sarah Brueggemann, lifestyle editor
(Food & Entertaining) Julia Rutland, senior editor foods & entertaining

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]

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