Here is some more information freelance writers can use, and which I've learned from doing lots of querying and having many articles published, plus my co-authored book on Christmas.
Editorial calendars.This is the schedule of themes and of articles the editor creates as he or she plans the magazine's issues.
Many magazines lock in their articles way in advance, from three months to a year in advance.
For seasonal articles, many guidelines say to submit your query one year in advance.
In June of 2009 I thought I was way ahead of time and submitted a reprint article on a Christmas theme to a magazine that has published some articles of mine before. You might think that querying in June for a December issue is well ahead of schedule.
I was sadly disappointed to hear from them that their Christmas issue was already set, in June. Their email had a happy twist, though, since they loved my article and asked to publish it in December 2010, and I said yes, of course.
Pay on acceptance vs pay on publication.Some of my favorite magazines pay on acceptance, which means when I send them the article they want, they send me a check. Hurray! More magazines pay on publication, so even if you send an article in June 2009, if they publish it in December 2010, you will be paid in December 2010, a year and a half after they agree to buy it. Hopefully a big fat check!
Using the same logic of "pay on publication" maybe we can buy a dress, perhaps in January, and offer to pay "when we first wear the dress", perhaps in June. Lots of luck on that one!
Whether "pay on acceptance" or "pay on publication", the check is always welcome at my house, and it is great to see my words in print, often with some gorgeous photos provided by the magazine. I hope the words are meaningful to readers, which is why I write.
Writers write, so to all of you writers out there, keep on writing and querying, and tell me about your writing successes.