Many writers earn their living writing for magazines. Freelancing part-time or full-time is considered by many writers as the ultimate “dream job.” To succeed as a magazine writer, you need to know how to: 1) express yourself fully to the reader; 2) tap into a multitude of interests on which to write; and 3) know how to research a topic thoroughly and accurately.
Many freelance writers pitch submissions and query letters to a variety of magazines, not just one, to diversify their writing opportunities. To join the ranks of successful writers, you, too, will need to write on assorted topics and sell your articles to many types of magazines, websites, and media outlets.
Research Your Market
The central principle to write and sell articles to print and digital publications is by fully understanding your market. Many magazines, trade journals, and websites target a specific class of readers, or a specific interest, or a specific skill or activity. One magazine may address the essential matters of cat care. Another magazine may target the nuances of collecting toy and antique trains. And yet
another magazine may focus exclusively on excursions and travel options offered in Indonesia.
Editors Have Specific Needs
This level of specialization implies that editors can perceive with clarity as to what articles they need for upcoming issues. Sometimes they narrow their focus right down to an exact writing style, or article angle, or even whom you interview. Since magazines usually focus on a specific class of readers (sometimes referred to as a “niche” market), you’ll have to write relevant and intriguing articles; your content will need to feel fresh and
original to an existing readership. Suppose you want to write for a windsurfing publication; sending an editor a 1,000-word article relating to the basics of windsurfing is insufficient to excite the editor and the publication’s educated readers.
Always Excite Editors
To excite editors to buy your articles, you can decide on two choices. The first choice is to participate in activities or events that the magazine addresses. If want to write and sell motorcycle articles about the new Honda or Harley Davidson motorcycles, then test drive one of the new models and
interview the motorcycle manufacturer. If you intend to compose articles on how to improve dog behavioral problems, then find an experienced dog trainer who is happy to lend you solid, sound, real-life information and facts.
Study the Principles of Journalism
Writing articles for magazines is a style of journalism; both styles of writing conform to identical expectations of quality and accuracy. Would you believe a news piece about pollution problems causing widespread illness if you knew the writer had never visited that town to support his article? Definitely not.
Write from Experience
Frequently, many of us lack sufficient time to undertake a completely new hobby. Sometimes the second option is usually more convenient: write on subjects that you fully and truthfully understand.
We are all complex people, entwined with many threads of interests and passions. Each of us has a story that we are dying to share. Each of us has our own pursuits and hobbies that intrigue us. We can readily extract ideas for numerous articles from our own personal experiences. Contemplate what you’d like to write about, and the subject
areas that greatly interest you. The process is tough initially, but once you brainstorm ideas, article topics will flow naturally to you.
When you have completed your first article based on your interests and knowledge, the next step is to research magazines and websites that perfectly match your article’s topic, writing style, and audience. With so many magazines and websites available (and multiplying insistently), you are guaranteed to find a handful of editors who are eager to review your article.
How can you locate appropriate magazines for your articles? What’s the most effective way to inquire if an editor is interested in your article?
You have countless ways to locate competent editors who will gladly review your full article or 1-page query letter. For starters, you could visit your local book store and browse the magazine shelves. If you do not have a book store in your community, you can browse Amazon.com’s magazine section. Many writers buy the newest edition of Writer’s Market, a massive directory listing relevant details about magazines and trade journals, along with standard pay rates and what publishers and editors want. You can also locate publications that buy freelance articles in our free online Writer’s Guidelines Database.
Your Query Letter
After you have chosen your magazine, write a concise and correctly-worded query letter, briefly summarizing:
1) the topic and subject of your article;
2) the importance and timeliness of your article;
3) who you are;
4) your past publication qualifications (editors prefer to do business with writers with impressive credentials); and
5) why your article will greatly interest the magazine’s readers.
The total word length, angle of topic, and the name of the editor will differ for each query letter based on the publication; it is possible to find details on submissions guidelines in the “About Us” section of the publication’s website.
Rejection and Success
E-mail or snail mail your query letter…and then wait. Prepare yourself for rejection (it happens to the best writers). Editors reject articles for countless reasons—few rejections pertain to lackluster writing skills (unless you truly are an incompetent writer). If you do receive a rejection letter either by e-mail or snail mail, read any feedback or tips that the editor might have written. Before sending out another query letter, figure out if you need to tweak it or improve it. The
most difficult sale to earn is always with your first article; maintain a constant supply of excellent, tightly-focused query letters and article ideas, and eventually you will sell your first article. When you do sell your first article, celebrate—you’re one step closer to succeeding as a freelance writer!