A Primer on How to Get Published in MagazinesPosted: October 22, 2007
Here’s a short primer on how to get published in magazines. It’s strictly a formula, but by following it, you could be published within a short time. And checks for your articles could begin appearing in your mailbox.
We’re assuming here that you’re a reasonably proficient writer with basic knowledge of spelling and punctuation. With this formula, submit queries to publications by email (if they prefer this method) or by regular mail, along with self-addressed stamped envelopes.
Many writers use this 1, 2, 3 formula when starting out in the freelance business. The formula worked for me and it could for you. Here’s the formula:
1. Start Local
2. Move into Regional
3. Go National
1. Start Local. Write five or six articles for small newspapers — paying or non-paying — in or near your community. Your goal is to build a clip file of published articles. Target small newspapers first, not magazines, because they are more likely to buy your work — and there are more of them. Don’t bother with big daily papers — they’re hard to break into. Start with small nearby newspapers.
Write about someone or something that strikes your interest. Can you find someone who grows beautiful roses? A Scout leader who served for several decades? A shop owner who writes poetry in his off-hours? A former sports legend? A bed-and-breakfast owner? When you contact these individuals, tell them you’re preparing an article for publication and plan to send it to such-and-such newspaper. Bring along a camera when you interview them and snap a dozen or more photos to illustrate each article. Stress the community connection in every local article you write. Meanwhile, begin collecting every regional magazine you can lay hands on.
2. Move into Regional. After your first articles are published in small local papers (and they should be if you do a reasonably competent job of writing them), use those bylined articles to move into regional markets. Approach editors of magazines where you live, in nearby towns, and across your state and area. Send the editors copies of your best clips with query letters targeted to each publication. Study the magazines to learn the types of articles they use, then develop your own article ideas based on the results. Does a publication use profiles of individuals or business owners? Does it have a focus on health or business? Does it run nostalgia pieces or feature stories of individuals making a difference in the community?
Make sure that your ideas are a good fit for each publication. You wouldn’t send a business publication a query about an unusual hobby, for instance, unless that hobby had morphed into a thriving business. Note the publication’s style and tone. Does it use first person pieces? Are the articles down-to-earth and personal or more formal? What sources do they use for quotations? Try to envision what your proposed article would look like in the publication alongside one of those articles.
3. Go National. As your work appears in regional publications and your clipping file grows, begin to target national magazines. Proceed as before, choosing your best clips to send to these editors. Develop very narrow targeted ideas for the publications. Hone each query to a state of perfection.
Whatever your interests and your target magazines, check websites and writer’s guidelines to learn what the publications want to buy. When you receive assignments, make sure that you give the editors what your queries offered: professionally written articles that reflect your status as a selling writer.
Some people call this 1, 2, 3 method a “paying your dues” approach. I call it a common sense road map to getting published in top magazines. It’s been said that bylines beget bylines, and I’m a firm believer in that premise. It’s a proven way to build a portfolio of published articles to help propel you into higher-paying magazine markets.
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