Notes for contributors

Contributions welcome!

Contributions from readers and fellow enthusiasts are vital for Velo Vision. Without them it would be a shadow of what it is: new voices lend it variety, relevance and interest. Nothing can replace a first-person account from someone who is on the spot, be it in using some new cycle or in running an innovative cycling activity. So contributors are always most welcome, and very much appreciated. My sincere thanks to all who have contributed to date, and many thanks in advance to all future writers and photographers!

I hope these notes may be helpful for anyone who might like to send something along - but as ever, if there are any questions, please do get in touch on 01904 692 800 or email peter (at) velovision.com. Many thanks!

Update Sept 2010 - I and other editors answered some questions for Geoff Caldwell, a student researching cycle journalism, and he's posted his results here. Well worth a read for any aspiring cycling writers.

Peter Eland
Editor, Velo Vision

What we're looking for
Material we're usually not looking for
Writing tips
Photo tips
Rates/rewards
Legal matters

What we're looking for

The best way to get an idea of the type of material that might suit Velo Vision is to have read the back issues - at least a year's worth if possible. Then if you have an idea for an article, review or story then please just email me (the editor) on peter @ velovision.com or call me on 01904 692 800 and we can discuss it further.

Generally, we're always looking for material around the use of cycles for transportation,

Subjects might include

  • A reader's letter on any subject, preferably with a picture. Feel free to comment on any aspect of recent magazines, answer other readers, or draw attention to anything others might find useful or interesting. Please be reasonably brief - there's no length limit, but I'm likely to edit letters which are overly long...

  • A review about a bike, trike or component. Reader feedback on interesting items purchased is always welcome... it could be anything from a single-page brief report to a three or four-page in-depth review.

  • A 'Reader's Bike' report about a cycle or component you've built or developed...

  • An article about an interesting cycle activity, culture, promotional activity, cycle business... anything that would interest me and other readers!

  • Will expand this section soon...

Material we're usually not looking for

  • Cycle racing: With very rare exceptions, we're unlikely to use material about cycle racing, racing history, race coverage or the like. This is well covered elsewhere. The rare exceptions might be for particularly interesting or unusual races or vehicles (e.g recumbent racing on ice).

  • Mountain biking: We won't tend to use material which might otherwise feature in the mainstream MTB press. We might be interested in innovative designs for off-roading beyond standard MTB technology, for example bikes designed for arctic conditions, hand-cranked off-roading, novel geartrains or braking designs, etc.

  • 'How to' articles: Velo Vision tends to assume we're writing for equals - that means we assume readers know how to ride their bike in most circumstances and how to do basic bike maintenenance. Communicating more about such matters, especially for those new to it, is better done in book form I believe. Occasionally we do run articles which verge on the 'how to' but only about subjects outside what most readers, as competent cyclists already, might be expected to know - cycling in arctic conditions, perhaps, or how to solve certain special needs cycling requests.

  • Route guides and tour reports: As Velo Vision is an international publication, guides to particular cycle routes tend to be of very little use to large numbers of readers who are geographically distant. Tour reports, while they can be entertaining if well written, seem to me to be better treated on the internet or in book form: with limited space in the magazine such reports, which focus in general mostly on the geography and culture of the places through which they pass, are more off-topic than on, in a cycling magazine. What we do like, though, is when cycle tourists put their own travels in the background and report on an interesting cycling personality or culture met along the way. The articles by Claude Marthaler (listed here) are an excellent example of this.

  • Charity rides: We have a policy of not sponsoring or promoting charity rides, however worthy the cause or impressive the endeavour, unless they're of very particular cycling interest. Stories about rides for charity tend to be largely about the charity/cause involved and not about cycling, which is what Velo Vision is actually about. If there's a cycling story in there which develops from a charity ride - an equipment review, a report on a cycling culture or activity you see on the way - then that would be great, and of course we could mention the charity briefly at the end as part of your author's 'sign off'. But the emphasis has to be on some cycling matter of interest to be on-topic for VV. Velo Vision does engage in various charitable activities, but we usually get several requests each and every day for sponsorship or publicity for charity rides and, regretfully, fulfilling such requests is just not possible. We also have some reservations about the whole idea, somewhat along the lines expressed here.

  • Car-bashing/preaching/politics: We feel the best way we can promote cycling is to offer practical, positive examples of bikes in action for transport and touring, and showcasing the new technology on offer and the possibilities it opens up for a greener, happier and community-centred lifestyle. There are many other ways of going about cycle campaigning, equally valid, but for Velo Vision we concentrate on communicating pro bike messages. So do NOT want anti-car arguments, environmental evangelism or politics, or accounts of injustices perpetrated against cyclists. If you feel the need to express such materials (and it may well be justified) then another forum is more appropriate.

Writing tips

I like a mix of styles in Velo Vision, and so I don't want to be overly prescriptive here. I tend when editing to use as light a touch as possible, so as to keep the original 'voice' of contributors. But editing is what I do, so do also feel free to just send me whatever you've got down on paper - I'm happy to organise, polish, re-write or generally knock it into shape and to the length required. But to get specific with some tips:

  • Preliminaries: If you have an idea, please drop me an email or phone up to discuss it. That could save time later...

  • Length and deadline: I should, in our initial discussion or correspondence, specify a wordcount and deadline. If I don't, please do ask! For obvious reasons the deadline if fairly critical. Don't worry so much about word count: if it's long I can usually shorten, and if short we may be able to use picures larger or expand another article so it all fits in.

  • Audience: You're writing for fellow enthusiasts, so write for people who will be informed in general about cycling matters, but any specific jargon or the like about the subject of your article would need explaining.

  • Be informal! Write as you might speak. Overly formal language or long phrases when a simple word will do are likely to attract the editor's scalpel. Generally we prefer first person accounts ('I' and 'we') rather than third person ('X did this/said that').

  • Add human interest: The technology is fun, and for some articles a purely technical approach is what's needed. But in general any article is made more interesting if you can bring people in - perhaps your own thoughts, other people's reactions, anecdotes, what difference some piece of kit has made to someone's life, and so on. This is also why it's good, if possible, to have (smiling!) people in the pictures. Any reader will always relate more easily to people than things.

  • Structure: This may come naturally or may not. If you're doing a review, the general layout is 'Background' (why you wanted such a thing, what else you tried, etc), 'First impressions' (as it says), 'The ride' (how it worked out in practice) and 'Conclusions' (were your requirements and expectations met? Do you plan further changes/mods etc?). For more general articles I'd suggest trying to break up text into sections, introduce things to the reader first, elaborate, then conclude with any lessons learned, future plans or closing thoughts.

  • Format: Plain text is all we need! When sending a text feel free to use whatever formatting you find easiest to work with, but I'll normally strip out any formatting a text comes with and paste it as plain text into my word processor anyway, as when I transfer it to the designer for layout all that gets moved across is plain text (he'll apply the magazine styles/fonts etc at that stage). For bold/italics/headers etc I'll apply text markups for the designer. As to file formats, I usually prefer RTF ('Rich Text Format', a very well established standard, and you can use 'save as' in most word processors to save as RTF) or Word .doc format (I'm on Word 2000 still, so nothing too recent please!). Or just plain text :-). PDF is fine too. Or in fact just send it along in most any format and I can usually open it one way or another. One thing I definitely can't open is Microsoft Publisher files.

  • Misc tips & tricks:
    • Start the article with an interesting or strong sentence, and aim to finish with one too.
    • Try to avoid repeating a word within a sentence, or in close proximity within a paragraph.
    • We standardise on British (UK) English spelling, but just write how you like and I'll easily change it over.
    • It's not often worth writing specific picture captions in most cases, unless there are particular things each shows. I'll usually write these at the very last minute to fill any gaps the designer has left for me!

    Photo tips

    Photos are vital for almost every article - nice images can really lift a page and catch the reader's attention. Wherever possible I like to include pictures of PEOPLE not just bikes, to add that vital human interest. If the people are smiling, that's a great way to help add to the positive mood of the magazine.

    I've put together a document here (PDF, 50k) with some photo tips and suggestions. It's in dire need of a re-write, but I hope it may be helpful!

    In brief:
    - Fill the frame with your subject.
    - Keep the background clean.
    - Any decent digital camera of 3MP and up should be fine.
    - We can also scan from slides, negatives and prints.
    - We prefer pics by email up to 10 Meg or so. Otherwise we can do FTP transfer or use images sent on CD or memory card...

    If you would like me to return any photo material which you send, please make this clear and keep a note of what you sent - if you don't have it back within a few weeks of sending please contact me to check. Unless by special arrangement we can take no responsibility for photo materials submitted - there's never been a problem so far, but accidents and losses in the post do happen.

    Rates/rewards

    Unfortunately Velo Vision is run more on enthusiasm than economics, and most reader contributions are rewarded in the same spirit, more with kudos than money! However, free subscriptions (or extensions to existing ones) are definitely on the cards, and contributors always receive free copies of the magazine in which the article appears. I usually send two or three automatically, but if you have many friends and family who'd like to see it please don't hesitate to ask for more - I'm delighted to send as many as you like (within reason!).

    I'm also working on ideas to reward contributors with various limited-edition promo items (Velo Vision mugs etc) and also give free subscriptions to the digital edition.

    We do occasionally pay a few contributors, principally professional cycle journalists and cycle tourists for whom writing is a livelihood. We're flattered that many of them write for Velo Vision at far below their usual rates - it is much appreciated, as we simply don't have the budget to equal what newsstand magazines can offer.

    Legal matters

    When you make a contribution to Velo Vision you will be giving us 'First Use Rights' - which means that we get the chance to use it once, but you're free to submit your material elsewhere as you wish - we have no exclusive. We may also use the material online in the same form as it appears in print (i.e. as PDFs with the same layout as the printed mag, or in the 'digital edition' via Exact Editions.)

    Note that we retain copyright in any editing work and layout which we may have done from your original material, so strictly speaking you should only send your original submission to other publications, not later drafts which I've worked on, unless you get permission from me first. This will normally be no problem.

    Occasionally I'm approached by other publications wishing to reprint material which has appeared in Velo Vision. If it's not something I've written myself I will always get permission from the author/photographer/contributor before allowing this, and if a payment is involved then we will come to an arrangement.

    Velo Vision Ltd is registered in the UK: No. 4462618. VAT No. GB 766 9376 67. Registered office: c/o David Newton & Co. Accountants, Lawrence House, James Nicolson Link, Clifton Moor, York YO30 4WG.


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