Volume 33 Number 8
Cover of the Rolling Stone
By Michael Desmond | August 2018
Want to see my picture on the cover
Wanna buy five copies for my mother
Wanna see my smilin’ face
On the cover of the Rollin’ Stone
—“Cover of the Rolling Stone,” Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show
If you’re old enough to remember the song “Cover of the Rolling Stone,” you know it lampooned an aspiring rock band’s dream to appear on the cover of the iconic music magazine Rolling Stone. That song, marked by the band’s trademark humor, rose as high as No. 6 on the music charts. And in March 1973, the magazine famously took up the challenge. It put Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show on the cover—but in caricature, and with the cover line “What’s-Their-Names Make the Cover.”
Sometimes, life lampoons art imitating life.
Here at MSDN Magazine we’ve been putting talented developers on the cover since the days of DOS and the 640KB memory limit. Look through the articles in any issue of MSDN Magazine, and you’ll find that much—even most—of the content is written by authors who work outside of Microsoft. This is not an accident. Our mission is to provide actionable, code-level guidance to working developers engaged with the Microsoft stack. And what better source for this technical wisdom than the developers in the field, who use the tools and frameworks, and brush up against sharp edges and lurking pain points every day?
We’re here to give talented developers a platform to share their hard-won insights with the dev community. Do you have an innovative approach or elegant solution to a common challenge? Have you found a way to leverage a new feature or tool that hasn’t been widely explored? It could make for a compelling feature article.
“Don’t tell them what. Show them how.”
So, what’s it take to get on the cover of MSDN Magazine? It starts with a good, original idea. The best concepts are both technically specific and broadly relevant. This can be tough (sometimes even impossible) to achieve, but proposals that manage this trick often do very well with our readers.
Avoid rote overviews or rehashes of published documentation or blog posts, and be sure your idea is technically rigorous. Our readers are veteran coders who’ve been around the block—they’re seeking code-level insight. Finally, your idea must be robust enough stand up as a magazine feature, which typically runs three to five pages (about 2,400 to 3,400 words).
When it comes to structure, I advise authors to cast their article in terms of a realistic challenge/solution scenario if they can. This helps ground the exploration and makes it tangible for readers. As I always tell new authors to the magazine: “Don’t tell them what. Show them how.”
Keep in mind also that the best articles are articles, not white papers or documentation or technical blog posts. I urge authors to incorporate narrative elements like an engaging lead/intro, and a coherent “plot” that lays out the technical challenge and guides readers through its resolution.
Don’t panic. We have skilled editors here who can help with all of that. But keeping these things in mind will help improve both your proposal and your finished article.
If you have an idea you’d like to propose, we invite you to submit your pitch at firstname.lastname@example.org. Just make sure the subject line of the e-mail reads “MSDN Article Query,” so we’re sure to see it. For detailed guidance on writing a successful proposal, also be sure to check out bit.ly/2L2fmDN. It just may put you on the cover of MSDN Magazine.
Michael Desmond is the Editor-in-Chief of MSDN Magazine.