12-13-05

Thanks for inquiring about contributing to N Scale Railroading magazine. The last contributor update was published in the Sep./Oct 2003 issue.

We try to speed up new authors but actual publication depends on the mix of articles by degree of difficulty, eras, geography, etc. The major articles are penciled in up to a year in advance.

I always ask myself, "How will the readers react to this article?" We try for a real mix.

Quality Color Images are the key for an all color magazine like NSR. Content of the photo is more important than the perfection of the photograph but photographs must be 'adequate'. I have a photography article in the first issue that might be useful for us non-photographers. We prefer 35mm "professional" film slides (like Kodak T-64 for indoor, Fuji Velvia for outdoor) rather than large format color transparencies. I have to hire someone to scan large format and it pretty much eats up the budget for that page. Prints don't reproduce nearly as well as digital or slides so we don't use them.

Digital images: Many images in NSR are shot with digital cameras. Like film images, they have to be "adequate". Don't manipulate color, don't enlarge the size, etc. NSR hires our prepress to do this. We print at 300 dpi, and the best tif from a 3 mega pixel Nikon 995 is a ~4x6 image. Now there are a few people who can do wonders with a crummy 1.3 mega pixel camera, but I think most of us need a good "prosumer" digital camera to equal what a 35mm with an F32 lens can do. When done right, digital "how to" photos can be superior to film. But they are limited in size. My latest camera is a Nikon 8700. This is an 8MegaPixel camera that shoots a 22.9 Megabyte .tif image, which is almost a full page at 300dpi. I've also improved my lighting by buying lights actually made for photography but I started out with $25 halogen lights from Home Depot. Format: I shoot product shots in .tif format but shoot most 'how-to' photos as .jpgs.

Format. We usually prefer CDs and articles can be in MSWord or .txt format.

We like photos to show as much of the story as possible. We open articles with a large photo of the completed project (this shows "WHY"), a paragraph or two opening, and the rest photos and captions. Don't "blow up" an article by adding text. What we like is more like building airplanes: Use as little material as possible and it can fly better.

I think we're pretty open minded on a lot of material and I think those of us involved have presented the material well, though obviously the photos have to be adequate. If this is a construction article, many of the 'how to' photos can be digital snapshots but there must be at least one photo that shows why the reader should be interested in this project. Articles we like are:

Quality layout features of home layouts, club layouts, etc. We need track drawings and close to scale pencil drawing is probably as good as cad drawings as we pretty much redraw everything. Converting file formats can be frustrating but we can usually figure it out. Autocad files can be tough to convert but one way is print it out and scan the print as a jpg or tif.

Modules and portable layouts. These are the same as home layouts. Ideally we'd have one in every issue.

Modeling Techniques. Construction photos of rolling stock, structures, etc. We tend to not want to do 20 page construction articles and have concentrated on 'basics.' (Complicated projects are usually a combination of basics.)

Fleet Articles. We have had a lot of positive comments on our rolling stock fleet articles. These are going to be a bit more difficult in the future as we can only show the wonderful Fine N Scale's X29 so many times, but this and some other articles we do feature rolling stock that is almost impossible to write an article on. If you know the basics and see the end result, you probably don't need an article and these can be 6+ articles per page.

The whole point is to publish material readers want to see. I think we're as open minded as anyone as far as recognizing original material, and we do appreciate it. We eventually pay money to contributors (and probably decently if we don't have to do very much work, not so well if we start punching the screen) but the main reason most of us got into this is to share what we do. We don't commission projects. One of our goals is to share what people are actually doing and what others can duplicate or be inspired by. I am slow on correspondence (I do most of the business stuff myself) but I'm always hoping I can catch up!

Phil Brooks wrote this after he got the first Aztec Favorite NSR award. He asks himself:
1. Will anybody read it?
2. Will anybody have any use for it?
3. Have I forgotten some step that will make the reader's model spontaneously burst into flames if he follows my directions...
4. Did I umm...you know.... like, uh... communicate well, and uhh... some junk?
5. Was my thumb out from in front of the camera lens?

N Scale Railroading
PO Box 77296
Seattle, WA 98177-0296