Experience Life Writer’s Guidelines

The dos and don’ts of writing for our magazine.

Hello, Experience Life writers (and potential writers). Below you’ll find some points to keep in mind in your current and/or future work for Experience Life magazine. If we have talked by phone, we may have already spoken to you about one or more of these topics, so please forgive any redundancies. If you’re new and looking to submit an article idea, please read our guidelines thoroughly and then submit your idea to mdregni@experiencelife.com, our deputy editor.

These are the basics on audience, content, deadlines, sources, etc. Please read founding editor Pilar Gerasimo’s essay, “Six Packs and Sex Lives” (download PDF), and also take a look at a back issue or at content here on our Web site before you launch into your project (or pitch us on a new one). It will help you get your head around the publication, its voice, etc.

General/Audience

Experience Life is a progressive health/fitness/quality-of-life magazine (we call it “a healthy-way-of-life magazine”). It’s also the membership magazine of Life Time — a large and rapidly growing health and fitness organization with dozens of industry-leading facilities located throughout the country.

Our magazine is published 10 times a year (January/February, March, April, May, June, July/August, September, October, November, December) and has a circulation of 700,000.

The majority of our circulation goes to member-subscribers of Life Time who receive the magazine at their homes. We currently have several thousand additional nonmember subscribers and are gaining several hundred new subscription requests each month. We also have controlled circulation to communities where new LTF facilities are opening, as well as to various businesses (doctor’s and chiropractor’s offices, etc.).

Since May 2003, Experience Life has been available on select newsstands around the country. Currently our primary newsstand outlet is Barnes and Noble, but you will also find us in Books-a-Million, Bookworld, and Hastings bookstores and at upscale grocery chains such as Wegman’s and Harris Teeter.

The magazine is written for a general audience of active, educated, discerning people who are interested in good health and passionate about self-improvement, well-being and living a good, satisfying life.

Our audience is a balanced mix of women and men (approximately 60 percent women and 40 percent men) and there’s a broad age range, but we aim our content at people who are 30 to 45 years old. Many of our members and readers have at least one child at home, so we address family angles and life-balance concerns regularly. Although we avoid printing anything so racy that it would outrage a parent who found their kid reading it, we do assume an adult audience. Mentioning sex as a fact of life is OK; going into detail about it isn’t.

Deep, well-balanced content

Each issue of Experience Life includes three in-depth features (2,500 to 3,500 words), plus four departmental neighborhoods of shorter pieces. These include:

Well Informed

  • Planner: A clean, date-book style department with smart, seasonal suggestions for healthy, balanced living, plus key dates to observe.
  • Talk to Us: Our engaged readers read closely, and they write, too. Here, we share their impressions of the stories they’ve read in our pages. We also share comments and feedback from Twitter, Facebook and our website.
  • On the Cover: Intimate, thought-provoking profiles of our fascinating cover subjects – accomplished individuals whom we select not just on the basis of their celebrity or appearance, but on their commitment to healthy-living values.
  • News and Views: A roundup of current health, fitness, nutrition and psychology research, plus significant happenings, striking quotes, expert perspectives and helpful resources.

Fit Body

  • The Workout: Cutting-edge strength, cardio and flexibility regimens from leading fitness wizards, featuring step-by-step guidance that delivers real, body-changing results.
  • Expert Answers: We answer our readers’ most perplexing workout quandaries and conundrums, calling on a team of category-leading experts to answer compelling questions on matters both weighty and trivial.
  • My Turnaround: Motivating, real-life success stories of regular people who dropped excess weight, transformed their fitness, overcame obstacles and changed their lives.
  • Head Out: Active exploits and relaxing retreats that encourage our readers to celebrate their healthy bodies – with everything from bold adventure-travel experiences to healing-spa escapes.
  • Worthy Goods: Road-tested gear, athletic apparel, technology and other well-designed goods selected with the demanding fitness enthusiast in mind.

Healthy Eating

  • Confident Cook: An inspiring how-to guide for healthy cooking. Ingredient-driven shopping tips, preparation techniques and nutrition know-how, plus beautifully photographed recipes that build cooking confidence through easy, firsthand successes.
  • Nutrients: Deep, carefully researched, feature-like coverage of important nutrition and food-related topics, from common food allergies to smart supplementation strategies.
  • Honestly, Dara: Ungarnished truths about the challenges of living in a strange and confusing food culture — from Beard Award-winning food and wine columnist Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl.
  • Worthy Goods: A hand-selected array of healthy, natural foods and clever kitchen gear that our editors dig, and that we know our readers will love.

Life Wisdom

  • Balance: Brilliant advice on managing time, priorities and choices – from practical tips on organizing busy days to thought-provoking explorations into what matters most.
  • Renewal: Each issue, we take on a different source of stress – from work and money to relationships and clutter – and give our readers the skills and know-how they need.
  • Bookmarks: Insightful reviews of books that help readers navigate our sometimes frenetic world.
  • Perspective: One of the most-read sections in our book, this reflective column by Life Time CEO Bahram Akradi offers both soul-searching explorations and straightforward advice on living with passion, drive and focus.
  • Meditation: A thoughtful, centering quote and a beautiful image to close each issue. Because these are popular tear-outs, we offer downloadable PDFs here on our Web site, too.
  • Worthy Goods: Natural beauty, organic personal care, sustainable household items and other day-enhancing pleasures.

Contract Rights
Life Time assumes first North American print and electronic rights to written materials and works for hire; it assumes exclusive rights for six months from date of publication. You retain other rights, with certain exceptions. Review your writer’s contract for details. Contact Michael Dregni (mdregni@experiencelife.com) with questions or concerns regarding contract terms.

Reprints and Clips
What we mostly are concerned about is exclusive print and Web rights for at least six months. After that, you can resell the article (as submitted, not as edited). Please note: If we have substantially edited, added to or otherwise altered the article and you still wish to use the piece as a clip (or otherwise represent it was your independent work), please ask us first. Editors typically do not like receiving clips that are not substantively representative of a writer’s own quality and style, and we don’t wish to encourage that practice. When in doubt, contact us with questions.

Resources/Sources

  • We typically supply at least some suggested resources for assigned articles, and encourage writers to develop additional resources as necessary. If the resources we suggest don’t pan out, be sure to let us know — particularly if you are hitting dead ends and need help finding additional resources. Same thing if you feel the resources we’ve given you are off-base.
  • We do expect writers to show a fair bit of journalistic initiative (i.e., to do some digging, sort out various perspectives on a topic), and we strongly encourage Web research as it invariably turns up a wider, more flexible and more timely array of resources.
  • Quoting from books, studies, journals, authors, health and fitness experts, and other expert/ qualified sources is great. As a rule, do not use quotes from secondary sources (i.e., other writers’ interviews or articles), unless the statement is significant enough to warrant mention.
  • Quotes and anecdotes from everyday individuals are fine, too (for colorful examples and real-life experiences, not expert advice, obviously). They don’t have to be LTF members, but if they are members of other health and fitness orgs, we avoid mentioning the names of their clubs and refer to them in generic terms. Even if they are Life Time members, we don’t mention their specific club affiliation, except in the How I’m Doing It department.
  • Although we expect you to do your own fact checking and get approvals from your quoted sources, we like to have their contact info just in case major changes occur and we need a new quote, clarification on a certain point, to get a second round of approval, etc. If they don’t have email, note that and provide a fax number instead.
  • You can also quote from scholarly journals and scientific magazines (like Scientific American), but not general, consumer-oriented health and fitness magazines like Shape, Men’s Health, etc. (We don’t want to be recycling stuff.) If you need suggestions on searching for or evaluating other possible resources, let us know.
  • Please supply (at the bottom of your finished article) a list of all your significant references (quoted individuals as well as referenced books, Web sites, etc.), along with contact info and/or bibliographic info as appropriate. The more specific you can be, the better. For example, when citing a study, provide as backup the exact URL where you found it. And, since it’s sometimes difficult to find the same study twice, please print a copy of the study and mail it to our fact checker at Experience Life, Attn: Courtney Opdahl, 2145 Ford Parkway, Suite 302, St. Paul, MN 55116
  • Please fact-check your own articles and be prepared to field additional fact-checking questions if necessary.
  • If you quote a book or magazine, we need complete title, author, publisher, year and page number info (although we won’t actually print all that as part of reference, it’s good to have). If you quote a person, we need name, title, organization or company, phone, email, address, etc. The more thorough and meticulous you can be about all this, the better. Seems like a minor detail, but it takes ages to track down if we have to do it later.

Rough Drafts/Outlines
We like to see an early draft or outline of work before final copy is due (so that we can redirect or make suggestions before you get too far into it), but sometimes schedules don’t allow that, and some writers don’t write from outlines. We try and negotiate that with individual writers, and are happy to provide direction, feedback or suggestions at any time in the research writing process.

That said, if you haven’t supplied an outline or draft, and if you haven’t called to discuss where you plan to go with your piece (particularly if it departs from the assignment notes provided), expect to see substantial changes and rewrite requests, and allow time for that in the week following your submission.

Deadlines
We take them seriously. We are working on very tight editorial turnarounds, and if you are late getting us your copy, our job very quickly becomes the fourth circle of hell.

Changes/Approvals
Depending on how things look, we may do one or two rounds of changes with you (meaning we may ask you to make changes or fill in holes and resubmit) and/or we may do additional copy changes on this end.

If we’ve asked you to make substantive changes and don’t see them adequately handled in your rewrite (and particularly if we don’t have time to send the piece back to you again) we may “have at.” Whenever possible, we strive to retain your original structure, content and tone. We do, however, reserve the right to make sweeping changes if we see them as necessary. And sometimes we do. Please don’t take changes personally. We frequently add and delete whole sidebars, chunks, subheads, blurbs, captions, etc.  We may rework quotes. We may cut or add copy. In other words, we may edit.

Pet Peeves
Copywise, there are three things that drive us nuts (please reread this section before you draft your copy and again before you submit it):

  1. Weak Quotes: If we are quoting, it should be a solid, interesting and well-worded statement. If it is just a basic idea, paraphrase. If it is an awkward quote, try running a cleaned-up version of it past the source for his or her okay, or ask for rephrasing. Please do not give us a quote that repeats what you just said, or that makes the point in a vague, rambling way, or that makes the speaker sound like a bumbling idiot (even if you believe that to be the case!). We have never had a source resent or reject the rephrasing of a point that makes him or her sound smarter than he or she is, but we have had several take umbrage with being “made to sound stupid” in a supposedly “accurate” quote. Unless you are quoting the President or something, please give your sources a break (and a little spit and polish when called for).
  2. Rambling Structure: If you don’t write from an outline, at least make sure you could create an outline from your finished product. Don’t make the reader (or us) work too hard, please. Remember: “Introduction, body, conclusion” is only as boring as the writing therein! Avoid abrupt or arbitrary “and another thing” transitions. Figure out what the reader really needs to know and is likely to be curious about, and present it that way (preferably in that order and in some kind of cohesive, flowing manner). Provide subheads at appropriate points, even if they are lame. We’re happy to swap them out for better ones, but we’re not okay with not getting them at all. It’s comforting seeing that you have a structure, evolution and some transitions in mind.
  3. Bad endings or clichéd endings: Endings are hard. We know. But please do your best to end on a strong, compelling note, ideally one that ties your story together, or speaks for its basic premise. Ending on a strong quote is fine. Referring back to the beginning of the story is fine. Ending on a lighthearted or funny note is fine. But please, please avoid stuff like “In conclusion … In the final analysis … When all is said and done …” Hey look, we’ve all done it, but we figure we should all do it less. When in doubt about your conclusion, call to ask.

Review
You will generally have an opportunity to review an article at least once (and occasionally twice) before it goes to print. During this review, we ask that you do your final round of fact checking, confirm quotes (particularly tweaked quotes), triple-check name and company spellings, book titles, Web addresses, etc. We also want to make sure you are happy with the piece overall. If you aren’t, please let us know so we can work it out.

Bylines and Bios
All feature articles get bylined. Some (but not all) departments get bylined, too. It just depends on room, content, etc. If you feel strongly about being bylined (or not being bylined) for a particular piece, particularly one that has been heavily edited, please let us know.

Last Thoughts
When in doubt about anything, ask. Always, always feel free to call or email with questions or if we can be of help in any way. Okay. That is about it. Thanks for taking time to read this. We’re delighted to be working with you. Happy writing!

Many thanks,
The Experience Life team

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