Writers Guidelines

The Hill Country Sun is a bi-monthly magazine that covers the Central Texas Hill Country from Austin to Leakey, from San Antonio to Burnet. Our stories are about interesting people, places, or things to do in the Hill Country. The stories are written for people who live in the Hill Country and for people who want to visit and travel in the Hill Country. It is a resource guide to help people plan for what they want to do to get the most of their Hill Country travels.

As with any publication, it is important for authors of stories to write to the specifications of that publication. We offer our specifications below.

Also, it is important that you read the Hill Country Sun thoroughly to get the feel for how our stories are written.

We have eight very important rules for stories:

1. Any story topic(s) must be pre-approved by Melissa Maxwell Ball, our editor.

2. Stories should be between  600 and 700 words long.

3.  Photographs must be provided by the writer—We always include photos with our stories. It is the author’s responsibility to provide photographs with the story, whether the author takes the picture or the picture is provided by an outside source. We do not pay additionally for the photograph, but we will provide credit to the photographer. Every person in the photograph must be identified. Please also identify the photographer of each picture.

NOTE: When you are taking your own photographs, please get close to your subject. Faces are important, usually chest high or above. Put your subject in an appropriate setting. For example, if the story is about a pie company, take a picture of the owner holding up a pie or two. If the story is about a potter, have the potter hold up a pot or two or show the potter making a pot. This is an important component of tying the photo and story together.

4. All stories should be written in third person narrative, not first person. When writing a story, it should be done in a way to create excitement from the reader to experience what they are reading about. Always remember, the story is about what the reader wants to read about. That is where your creative writing skills must captivate the reader.

5. Unless absolutely necessary, phone interviews of your subject as your only source for a story are not acceptable. Meeting the subject face-to-face gives you  a better understanding of the  subject and is the most accurate means of getting the story. Using the internet for factual research is appropriate. Writing a story based on a web site is not. Use interviews and first-hand research to write your story.

6. Your lead paragraph is critical. It must convey clearly why the reader should care about the subject and pull them into the rest of your story.

AVOID: “If you’re traveling in the Hill Country, stop and visit Such-and-Such,” or “If you like fried jalapenos,

stop at XXXXXX Restaurant.” Be direct and to the point, but in a way that captures the reader’s attention. 

7. ACCURATE INFORMATION IS CRITICAL. Make certain you have the correct name, and correct spelling of the name(s), for everyone mentioned in the article. Take the extra time to ask them to make sure it is right. They will appreciate your attention to detail. Remember, Lindsey Brown may be Lindsay Browne. If you quote someone, or they are in a photograph, they must be identified with their complete name and hometown. For example: Julie Harrington of Dripping Springs.

8. At the end of each article please include as much logistical information about the subject as possible, including the correct contact telephone number (with area code) and the following, if applicable: location, hours, admission, mailing address, e-mail address, web site address. Put this information at the end of the article (see the stories in a copy of the Sun as an example). Accurate information is critical.

* Writers retain all rights to their stories (and photos) and are free to publish them anywhere else at anytime they wish. The Hill Country Sun reserves future rights to publish articles that have appeared in our magazine in any other compilations of stories from our magazine that we might wish to publish, or to rerun in the Hill Country Sun at a future date without further compensation (with opportunity to update the story given to author before publication).

* The Hill Country Sun is in its 28th year of publication. This means we have published many, many stories on the Hill Country. That is why the editor must approve story ideas first before you submit an article. Call or e-mail with three or four ideas in mind, and an area in which you’d like to specialize either geographically or topically. Please note that we cover only those topics within the Texas Hill Country. Melissa will call or send email confirmation for a go ahead on a story idea.

* A story must have a clear Texas Hill Country connection (see our map on Page 2 of the Hill Country Sun for our definition of where the Hill Country is). For example, a band from Lubbock that plays venues in the Hill Country is not a clear connection. A band from Llano that plays elsewhere around the state is a clear connection.

* Deadline for stories and photographs is the 15th of the month prior to publication.  Anything submitted after that point would be considered for the next month’s publication. (This includes photographs)

Often, especially during the summer months, we have to hold stories a month or two, sometimes even much longer, so don’t promise your subject the story will appear in a certain issue. Payment is on acceptance, however.

* Please understand that we may agree to an idea that you have submitted. But the story and photo must then meet our criteria before BEING ACCEPTED. Agreeing to an idea you have submitted is not the same as accepting the story on it. Once accepted, you must submit a separate invoice to us containing your name, address, phone number and Social Security Number in order to be paid (you may submit the invoice at the same time as the story). We are not allowed by federal law to pay you without that SSN. List the stories you wish to be paid for on the invoice, the date you submitted them, and write “Invoice” at the top of the page. You may submit invoices via e-mail.

* You may submit stories and queries by e-mail to melissa@hillcountrysun.com.

Thank you for your interest,

Julie Harrington, Publisher

Melissa Maxwell Ball, Editor