I read somewhere that you master any skill by learning enough about it to teach it. This past January, I decided it was time to step out of my comfort zone, spread my writer’s wings and soar amongst the pages of a few good reputable magazines. Imagine my surprise and surge of new found confidence when I was published in not one, but, three magazines in January and received positive feedback and invites from two editors, welcoming me to write for their magazine as a contributing writer.
Getting positive feedback from an editor of any publication is great and even helps build your confidence as a writer, but, positive feedback and unpaid contributor requests won’t pay the bills. Unless you’re just starting out in the magazine writing genre and want to write for exposure, my advice would be to move on and concentrate on those paying magazine markets where you receive return on your freelance writing investment.
You are a business
When you decide to become a professional freelance writer, you have to maintain the mindset that you are a business, which means you are performing a service for profit.
Breaking into reputable magazines doesn’t require a secret power or any sort of special list. What it does require is planning, executing and being aware of what your targeted magazine needs are, outside of their printed guidelines. Oftentimes, the only way to get the information you need to answer their needs is by getting up close and personal (well close enough) with the magazine’s publisher or editor.
Don’t be too hasty
When I pitched my first magazine query back in 2007, I didn’t know very much about the how to of getting an editor’s attention, however, I knew how to use my intuitive observations to make a few things work in my favor. This person was a woman—I’m a woman. She was looking for articles about celebrities. I’d been a reader of gossip rags in my teens and wrote my first column for my senior school newspaper. This was a relative new publication and the publisher was looking to pay what was the going rate for 300 words back then.
If I had balked at the small payment and turned the opportunity down, I might not have reconnected with this same publication at a time when their magazine had increased its freelance writer payments and was receptive to fresh ideas for their publication.
I pitched for and was given the lead motivational column for their magazine’s premiere issue. Don’t be hasty when it comes to getting your foot in the door of reputable magazines. Sometimes a bit of cash and a byline goes a long way down the freelance writer’s road to publication.
Be aware of how magazine publishing criteria works
Another important lesson I’ve learned is that articles are usually slanted for publication for their next month’s issue of the magazine weeks in advance. For instance, one editor I sent a seasonal piece told me it was too late to be included in their December issue when I’d sent the article the first week of November.
Be aware of how magazine publishing criteria works. It will save you from freelance writer angst and embarrassment and could also be the difference between getting published or not.
Tips on how to get your work accepted by reputable magazines
Always query the magazine before writing your article
By approaching your work this way, you save yourself a lot of grief when an editor wants a different take on your query proposal. Make sure you understand a magazine’s stance on simultaneous submissions. One editor was upfront about their not accepting articles submitted to other publications. Many magazines address these issues in their guidelines.
Send your pitch to the appropriate editor
Make sure to send your pitch the appropriate editor for the section of the magazine where you want your article to appear. Always know the name of the person you’re pitching to, and address them accordingly. If you don’t know their names, try using ‘Dear Editors’ instead of ‘Dear Sir’ or ‘Dear Madam’.
Include important documents and information
Always send at least 2 links to your published work, a resume and a few words about yourself. Don’t be a chatter box, but, do let the editors get a sense of who you are. If you don’t have clips, send a written sample or direct them to a blog post, so they can get a feel for your work.
If you haven’t heard back in three weeks, it’s alright to send a brief reminder to the editor. When you work is accepted for publication, rejoice in your good fortune and be prepared to play the wait for your check to arrive. In both scenarios I usually wait at least a month before sending out a friendly SOS.
If your goal is to become published in reputable magazines, where your hard work as a freelance writer actually pays off, you have to do the work required to getting published. Becoming the best in any endeavor requires hard work and study and persistence. Freelance writing is a competitive business and you have to have true writer grit to become successful at it.
About the author:
Clara Freeman is a freelance writer and motivational author living in Illinois. Her work has appeared in numerous magazines, including CEO Business Magazine, Working Nurse Magazine, Bronze Magazine, Mirror Mirror Magazine, Costco Magazine, Women in Business101 Magazine and Today’s Chicago Woman. She also writes for Project Eve and BeliefNet.com and mentors other freelancers. For more of her work, visit her women empowerment site at http://wisewoman2.wordpress.com/.