Writers’ Guidelines

Please read these guidelines thoroughly before sending us story pitches or manuscripts.

About the brand

Cottage Life is a media brand for and about water-based cottagers. Although most of our readers are based in Ontario, we encourage stories about cottages and cottaging in other parts of Canada. We publish six print issues a year: March/April, May, June/July, August/September, October, and Winter, as well as daily stories on our website.

The magazine has a strong service slant, combining useful “how-to” journalism with coverage of the people, trends, and issues in cottage country. We run columns and shorter features on subjects such as boating, real estate, building projects, cottage design and architecture, nature, personal cottage experience, and environmental, political, and financial issues of concern to cottagers. Depending on the subject, these can be anywhere from 1,000 to 1,800 words long. Our front-of-the-book department, Waterfront, features short news, humour, human interest, and service items, with a maximum length of 400 words. Our other front-of-book department, Workshop, is a place for “hammer and nails” DIY stories of the same length about maintaining a cottage. Major features range from 1,500 to 3,000 words and cover every aspect of cottage living—including profiles of cottagers, cottages, and cottage communities, investigations of relevant environmental and political issues, and in-depth service pieces that help readers solve common cottage problems. The fee varies with the length and complexity of the story, whether it’s for digital or print, and the writer’s experience. The editor and writer will agree on the fee when the story is assigned.

On our website, our focus is slightly different. We cover a wider range of topics including DIY, the outdoors, real estate, and timely news stories. Writing for our website is a great way for new writers to cut their teeth with us. 

Cottage Life demands accurate, lively writing that demonstrates a breadth and depth of knowledge about the cottaging experience—but it’s important to note: you do not need to be a cottager to write for Cottage Life! Writers are expected to support their logic with interviews and thorough research. We’re looking for stories that are more than just good information—they must also be a good read. We’re open to new types of stories, but the cottage angle should always be clear.


Your query should include a succinct outline explaining your angle, why the story is timely, potential sources, expected length, and why the story should appear in Cottage Life versus another publication. If we have covered your topic before, your pitch should detail how you’ll approach it from a different angle. If you haven’t previously written for us, please include PDFs or links to samples of your published work and some background information. 

Print lead times are long. Expect that the first draft of an article must be in-house at least two to three months before the issue for which it is scheduled is published. Photography is shot in the summer, so features are frequently assigned a year before they are published. Stories involving photography must be written and submitted the summer before publication.

Turnaround times for digital are much shorter with less emphasis on the craft of the work and more emphasis on the content itself. When pitching a story for the website, we are looking for a fleshed out focus statement and details on how you will package it (multimedia embeds, internal links, stock vs. original photography etc.) You can expect about a week between assignment and publication on the website.


Fixes and editing are normal parts of the editorial process. For substantial alterations, stories will be returned to you for revisions. If alterations are minor, changes will be made after close consultation. However, last-minute cuts without notification may be necessary because of space limitations for print stories. Because our digital lead times are much shorter, the editing process on these stories is not as comprehensive.

Changing a storyline could cause problems. If the story doesn’t work out the way you thought it would, discuss it with us well before the deadline. We may not want a story that’s fundamentally different from the one you originally agreed to write.

For print stories, the art department appreciates your help. Keep the visual side of the story in mind as you proceed with your research. We appreciate information on things you may have seen in the course of your interviews that could present good photo opportunities. Let us know about people and places you think are particularly photogenic. 

Fact checking

Giving sources a preview of your manuscript is not acceptable. Assure your sources that a fact checker will call them to verify the material used. If an interview subject insists on seeing your story before it’s published, contact us. We may prefer to drop the story (or, more likely, the interview subject).

Due to the short lead time on digital stories, they are not always fact-checked. We encourage writers to ensure they’re using reliable sources who we can contact for verification, if need be.

A checking sheet must accompany the first draft of all print stories, listing all sources and their phone numbers and email addresses. (It helps if you point out possibly hostile subjects.) Be precise. Writers must use primary sources, not information from another publication. However, if you do use printed materials in your research include PDF copies or hard copies of the originals and links to all websites. If you have drawn material from a book, provide page references and a copy; or make a PDF of the relevant material. Also, please note if any sources will be inaccessible for extended periods. If our researchers can’t verify a fact to our satisfaction, we can’t leave it in your story.

The nitty-gritty

Payment is made on acceptance of a fully satisfactory manuscript.

Expenses will be paid when we get an invoice with an itemized list and receipts. Travel and other expenses should be discussed with an editor and approved before they are incurred.

Kill fees are payable on assigned stories only. If the article is unacceptable and cannot be fixed, the kill fee is usually 50 per cent of the original fee. If you do the job as agreed and the piece is killed by Cottage Life for other reasons, the kill fee is usually 100 per cent.

Deadlines are a fact of publishing life and must not be violated. If it looks like you’re going to be late, please let your editor know well in advance of the deadline.

Finally, if you just want to pick up the phone to discuss your story—its progress or its problems—by all means, do so. We’re a friendly bunch!

Send queries to: edit@cottagelife.com

Our office

99 Atlantic Ave.
Suite 400
Toronto, ON
M6K 3J8
(416) 599-2000