Writers’ Guidelines

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

The magazine

Cottage Life is the magazine for and about water-based cottagers. Although most of our readers are based in Ontario, we welcome stories about cottages and cottaging in other parts  of Canada. We publish six issues a year: Spring, May, Early Summer, Summer, Fall, and Winter.

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, 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 250 words. 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, and the writer’s experience. The editor and writer will agree on the fee when the story is assigned.

Cottage Life demands accurate, lively writing that demonstrates a breadth and depth of knowledge about the cottaging experience. 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. The only way to become familiar with Cottage Life and its style is to read a few recent issues of the magazine.

The process

Your query should include a succinct outline explaining your angle, why the story is timely and appropriate for the magazine, potential sources, and expected length. If you haven’t previously written for us, please include PDFs or links to samples of your published work and some background information. Include your daytime telephone number and email address. We’re a small, very busy shop, but if you don’t hear from us in a month, please email edit@cottagelife.com to follow up.

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.

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.

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.

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).

A checking sheet must accompany the first draft of your story, listing all sources and their daytime and cottage telephone 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 or photocopy of the title page and 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.

Payment is made on acceptance of a fully satisfactory manuscript. Please submit an invoice with your story.

Expenses will be paid when we get an invoice with an itemized list and receipts. Phone expenses are a given, but 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.

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. Pass along brochures, pictures, or other materials that you think may be useful as reference for illustration.

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 (which is not the day before the deadline).

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

Send queries to: edit@cottagelife.com

Our office

130 Merton Street
Suite 200
Toronto, ON
M4S 1A4
(416) 599-2000