As promised, this week you get a break from me, as I am getting some rest and relaxation at a cottage by the lake. (Although, how much peace and quiet can you really get while vacationing with 40 relatives?) So this week, you'll be treated to three guest bloggers, who also happen to be good friends of mine.
Today, Tracy Ruckman shares her insight into writing for magazines. If you've always wanted to see your byline in a magazine, either printed or online, you'll want to soak up the information in this article. Thanks to Tracy for sharing her expertise. Enjoy!
Magazine Writing 101
By Tracy Ruckman© 2008
Trying to decide what to write about for our first piece on writing for magazines kept me up late into the night. Finally, I decided the best thing I could provide for you would be resources. So here’s a list to get you started, divided into the appropriate categories. Feel free to add to my lists in the comments below. We’ll eventually tackle various subjects brought up by these lists, too, so if you have questions leave them in the comments, and we’ll address them at the appropriate time.
The dreaded query letter is a necessary evil. But once you get the idea of them, it’s easy to recreate for each article. If you find a particular query letter style is not selling, rewrite it a bit until you get some bites.The best book on the subject is How to Write Irresistible Query Letters by Lisa Collier Cool, but there are dozens of other books devoted to this subject as well. You may want to spend some time at your local bookstore looking through a few to see which one fits your needs best.There are also plenty of online guides available as well:
How to Write A Query Letter
Writing Query Letters
How To Write A Query Letter (#2)
Where do you get ideas? We’ve all heard that question a time or two? I write travel and food articles regularly – these are two things that interest me most. Look at your passions, hobbies, routines, lifestyle – what’s unique about them? Think of several slants you could take on one particular item, then work up a query letter for them.Newspapers, local events, even a simple conversation with your neighbor, or a walk through your neighborhood could produce scads of ideas for you to write about for months.Writing prompts can also give you ideas. Some of the best places to get prompts regularly are:
Writer's Digest Writing Prompts
Writing Fix Daily Generator
Creative Writing Prompts
This is a biggie – almost as much as the query letter. Everyone wants to know where to sell articles.
The internet makes this so much easier than in the past. Nowadays, you can find several magazines at your grocery store, or local bookstore, then look them up online. The main Web sites may not have writer’s guidelines listed, but check the site map (the link for it is usually at the very bottom of the page in tiny print) and it may point you in the right direction. Look for “Writer’s Guidelines” or “Submissions” or “Write for Us.” Sometimes instructions will be left on the “Contact Us” page, so check that first.
Writer’s Digest provides two ways to access one great resource. Their Writer’s Market Guide is published each year in hard copy, and also maintained online. With the online version, you can search out markets, create folders for your favorite markets, and usually get the most updated information – or at least a date of when it was last updated. Even using the online market guide, though, you’ll still want to check the masthead page of the current issue of any magazine you wish to submit to – publishing is a rotating market and editors change positions frequently.
Sally Stuart publishes The Christian Writer’s Market Guide with approximately 700 magazine publishers listed in it each year. When you purchase the book, you’ll also receive a CD that you can download to your computer, to make searching for markets easy.
Besides these two main sources, you’ll find many online databases to peruse – just don’t get so addicted to searching out markets that you give up writing time! Some of the lists I’m providing below are free sites – or parts of their lists are free – and others are paying. I’m providing some of both routes, because you may find that one or two of them work well for you.
Here’s a list of lists to get you started:
http://www.freelancewritinggigs.com/ (provides a short market list each Monday, and a list of freelance writing jobs every weekday.)
www.absolutewrite.com/forums (this extensive forum is a great place for many reasons. But you’ll also find listings for magazines.)
firstname.lastname@example.org – the owner sends out a newsletter twice a month with a list of paying markets, and a great calendar to remind you of upcoming events to write about regularly. Not much traffic on this list, so it won’t flood your inbox, but it’s an invaluable resource.
http://www.fundsforwriters.com/ – C. Hope Clark is a writer’s best friend. She fights for wages, and promotes those publications who pay. She has several different e-newsletters, some free, and some ridiculously inexpensive, and she offers a blog, too. The newsletters provide market listings, contests, grants, and jobs. I subscribe to all of them.
After you’ve scoped out some magazines you’d like to write for, STUDY those magazines. Don’t just flip through it – study it from cover to cover. First, look at the target market. Would a teen girl buy this magazine, or a 40-year-old bachelor? Would a 30-year old homemaker read these types articles, or would a 20-something career girl? A college graduate or someone in retirement? If you can’t tell by the articles, check the advertisements and ask the same questions.
After the markets, study the content. Do the articles appear to be written by staffers or freelancers? Or a good mixture of both? If both, are the freelancers scattered throughout the magazine, or mostly in the front or back sections? You’ll want to target your article to the area where the freelancers are located.
I grew up reading one particular magazine – it is my DREAM to be published in that magazine. But the ONLY place they accept articles from freelancers is their last page, inside the cover. Because there’s only one spot, this magazine is extremely hard to break into, but I haven’t given up yet.
After you determine the freelance status of the periodical, study the individual articles. How long are they? What is the style of writing? Is the article broken up into sections with headers? Is it written in 1st person or 3rd?
Many magazines provide theme lists or editorial calendars for the upcoming year, to let writers know how to plan articles to pitch. As you research the various magazines, inquire about a theme list to make the most use of your time.
Studying the magazines, usually 2-3 or even 6 months of previous issues, will give you a feel for the overall voice of the publication, so that when you compose your query letter, and then eventually your article, your writing will reflect that voice and cause the editor to take notice.
So, let’s get started. Study, query, study, query. And be sure to send me stories of your success – I’ll post them here on the blog and we’ll all celebrate your publication with you!
Tracy Ruckman is a freelance editor and writer, specializing in the Christian market. She owns Write Integrity Editorial Services, and the Pix-N-Pens blog featuring Christian books and authors.