Try Writing for the Trades

Looking for a market that’ s eager to buy what you write? Try writing for the trades.

Hardware Age, Grain Magazine and Sporting Goods Business might not have the glamour of prestigious publications like Harper’s or Travel and Leisure and they don’t pay the same kind of big bucks. But trade journal checks do arrive on time, usually, and most of the publications are open to writers — two compelling reasons for freelancers to take a look.

Trade and professional journals are publications that focus on a particular occupation of industry and help readers do their jobs better. Their editors are always eager to find new writers who can give their readers industry information on a continuing basis.

You can find a wide variety of trade publications at your local library or bookstore, or you can do computer searches for trade journals. Either way, you’ll find lots of potential markets for freelance work.

Pick out a few publications in which you have some knowledge or choose some that catch your interest. Don’t contact any of them, however, until you study the magazines thoroughly either at the library, book stores or the internet to determine their market listings. Read all their advertisements and columns, opinions, letters to the editors — read every bit of copy in each publication. Determine how they use photos. Check out their guidelines to see what kind of articles the editors want. Some editors recommend that you analyze at least six months of back issues before querying about a proposed article.

Payment varies greatly among trade and professional journals. You won’t get rich writing for them, but mixing in trade journal writing with a steady flow of news releases, brochures and other nuts-and-bolts copy can give you a little change in your writing routine, while adding a considerable amount to your annual income. Trade journal bylines can also help you break into other magazines.

Just be sure you give trade journal editors the same professional courtesies expected in any market: a query letter that’s right on target for that publication. a SASE included if you send the query to the publication by U.S. mail (although many editors today look for email queries), no missed deadlines, and copy that’s clean and error free.

Editors will love you for making their jobs easier. And you’ll love the bylines and the checks you get.

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Is There A Good Old Days Byline in Your Future?

While going through some old files today, I came across a magazine with a November 1997 publication date. Now I’m sure readers of this blog are not surprised that I keep magazines for 13 years. Being the pack rat that I am, I sometimes keep them for many more than 13 years. I do this because I find great value in magazines, even very old ones. Sometimes in these oldsters I find ideas I can use for brand-new articles; sometimes they may lead to blog posts that could help others find new markets. I think this one could help someone who is new to freelance writing and eager for that first byline in a magazine.

The publication I found today is Good Old Days Magazine. I immediately checked to see if it is still being published. It is — and amazingly still lists the same editor, Ken Tate, as in 1997. And it has a wonderful array of articles focusing on the past. As it did in 1997, it still takes a nostalgic look at the Good Old Days, telling the real stories of people who lived or grew up around 1935-1960.

The featured article in the current June issue is a delightful one about dowsing — the practice of using a Y- or L-shaped twig called a dowsing rod to search for underground water. Among other articles in the issue was one about a Stag Dance, the place where people went to enjoy an evening of socializing; one on childhood pets in the early 1940s; another about Feed Sack Dresses and the Big City (during the depression, women made garments from the sacks in which chicken feeds and other feeds were sold); and Faith of Our Fathers, about the Great Depression at its peak.

I downloaded the Contributor’s Guidelines and there I learned that most of those who contribute articles for the magazine are not professional writers. In fact, the guidelines state: “We prefer the author’s individual voice, warmth, humor and honesty over technical ability. Successful stories tend to stick with one subject (i.e.: how my brother and I got caught skipping school one day and faced the consequences…my most embarrassing moment, etc.)”. That sounds to me like a great opportunity for a talented beginner to earn a byline and a check.

The guidelines provide examples of the kind of stories the magazine publishes, plus specific details about their requirements. I’ve seen the publication on the newsstand at Barnes & Noble and it may be available at other newsstands. You may find copies at your local library. The publishers will send you a sample copy for $2.00 and a self-addressed stamped manila envelope mailed to: Good Old Days Sample Copy, 306 E. Parr Rd., Berne, IN 46711. You can read some of the articles and get more details just by visiting their website.

So how about it? Is there a Good Old Days byline in your future?

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They Held The First-Ever National Magazine Day and I Missed It

As a magazine junkie, I am distressed to find out that they held the first ever national magazine day last week and I missed it. That event took place on February 27 but I didn’t know about it until yesterday, when I dropped by Mr.Magazine’s blog and found “’Attack the Stack’ Ushers the First National Magazine Day.”

I always learn so much when I go to the site of Mr. Magazine (Samir Husni). According to him, the organizer of the First National Magazine Day is Kevin Smokler, a San Francisco writer who hopes it will become an annual holiday event. Mr. Magazine includes this quote from Smokler’s website:

On Saturday, February 27th, ordinary folk across America (like you, like me) will spend the day ‘attacking the stack’ or reading their way through the unread magazines they’ve accumulated. If you’re a big goody-goody and read your magazines straight through the moment they arrive, you may spend the day at your local library/bookstore/university exploring new periodicals, discussing your favorite magazines with friends, tweeting your favorite articles. As you wish.”

Considering the number of unfinished magazines on my office shelves (and in my living room, bedroom, etc.) the event would have suited me just fine. According to another bit from Smokler’s website, it is “a celebration of magazines and attacking the stack of unread titles piling up next to your bathroom sink.” And no matter where we live, he wants us to

invite friends over and rummage through each other’s stacks (of magazines). Spend the day reading at your local coffee shop or library. Mulch your magazines and construct a giant papier-mache wildebeest. It’s up to you. The idea is to spend the day having fun and forming community around a shared love of magazines.”

I’ve already marked the day on my 2011 calendar so I won’t miss the event next year. Although I’m nowhere near San Francisco, I figure I can be there in spirit to celebrate the day. Mr. Magazine sent congratulations to all magazine lovers on finally having a day they can call their own. I add my own congratulations.

You can read more about the “1st Ever National Magazine Day at The Booksmith.”
at Mr. Magazine’s blog on his website, and on of Kevin Smokler’s website.)
There’s also an interesting interview with Smokler here.

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How to Write and Sell ‘How-to’ Articles — Part 1

Years ago, I read an article about writing ‘how-tos’ for magazines and the author stressed this point: the main requirement for selling a ‘how-to’ is first-hand experience. Equipped as I am with two left feet and no green thumb, and being somewhat math- and technology-challenged, that approach was a difficult one for me to follow.

But I am interested in people and what they do. That interest led me to an African violet expert, so I wrote a ‘how-to’ about how that woman grows prize-winning African Violets in her basement. A local home and garden publication snapped up my article.

I took on a business assignment to write a ‘how-to’ about how an employee implemented Statistical Process Control techniques in the manufacturing branch of his company. I had never heard of SPC before and considering my limitations, my article would have been impossible if the employee had not explained the process in a way that was easy for me to understand and I, in turn, could relate that to others. The company’s employee publication ran that ‘how-to’ in its next issue.

And then there was the couple I heard about who used fifteenth technology to start up and run a modern-day printing operation. Using their expertise, I was able to write a ‘how-to’ showing how to put the centuries-old process to work in a modern setting. The article appeared in a national trade magazine.

The point is this: You don’t have to be an expert to write a ‘how-to’ in areas far removed from anything in your experience. I’ve found that editors eagerly grab well-written ‘how-tos’ aimed at their readership.

So, If you’re not an experienced outdoors person but want to write in that field, find an expert who fits the category. I understand that, despite the present economic downturn, ‘how-tos’ are the best selling category for any outdoors article.

And editors of publications in other fields also eat up ‘how-tos.’ Go to any newsstand and look at the covers and contents pages of diverse publications. You’ll find many promoting articles like these:

“How and Where to Paint” (Traditional Home)
“How to Drop 12 Pounds in 14 Days” (Prevention)
“How to Fake Flawless Skin” (Home Journal)
“How to Save on the Cost of Printer’s Ink” (Consumer Reports)
“How to Find Time to Write” (The Writer)
“How to Add Realism to Your Training” (Guns & Ammo – Handguns)

Whatever your the market you want to write a ‘how-to’ for, research well. Spend time examining newsstand publications, looking especially at lesser known magazines — they may receive fewer queries than others. Be sure to read guidelines and back issues of the magazines you plan to target.

Ideas for ‘how-tos’ may come from your own and your friends’ experiences, from your children, newspaper articles, local radio and tv features. If you find things in your everyday life that don’t work and you try to fix them, that may be the basis for a how-to from your own experience. But you still may want to include advice from experts in your piece, and be sure to mention the experts you want to quote in your query. That can help to sell your idea to the editor.

Where can you find experts? The same place you find ‘how-to’ subjects — check newspapers, radio and tv shows, ask friends, relatives and neighbors, look on the internet. Try Expert.com and Profnet.com. Google your subject and see what turns up. WritersWeekly.com has a special section where you can ask for expert help for articles. If you have a college or university nearby, you may find a wealth of experts on campus.

Be sure to come back here for How to Write and Sell ‘How-to’ Articles, Part 2, where we’ll get into the specifics of actually writing a ‘how-to.’

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Researching Profile Articles

Over the years, I’ve paid for lots of shoes and cornflakes by writing profiles.

Among those were profiles on a banker who wrote poetry in his spare time, a physician who fights against the dangers of tanning beds, a ball player who started a popular automobile publication, a restaurant operator who is an expert on Japanese arms and armor, a college professor who is an advocate for children. You get the idea — my profiles focus on one aspect that makes a person unique.

I know there are writers who produce full-blown profiles of people, interviewing them several times, often interviewing their friends, family and co-workers as well. Some writers spend days with a subject before producing a single word of their article. Their profiles may cover many pages in a publication and bring the writers big bucks.

I prefer to write relatively short pieces focusing in on an individual and a particular interest in his or her life. Some pieces run as few as 200 or 300 words; others make require 1,500 to 2,000 words to tell their story. And although the payment is less than some other writers get, editors seem to like my shorter articles. I think they are easy to sell, they can bring in steady income, and sometimes I can sell multiple versions of the article to non-competing publications, all based on my original research.

Usually I had read bits about of these people and wanted to know more. Much of the information I use comes from interviews, backed up with research from news articles, reviews, and internet sources. In every case, I know it’s vital to do my homework before the interview.

Early in my freelance writing career, I soaked up everything I could find about profile writing, especially tips about interviewing. I’ve saved much of that information, including the following that I found in an article by David A. Fryzell, a New Mexico publisher, five or six years ago. I think you’ll find the tips helpful, too.

1. Research your topic thoroughly before the interview, looking especially for background information you can use to focus your article.

2. Outline your proposed article before you interview so you’ll know questions that need to be answered at the interview.

3. Don’t ask questions to which you already know the answers. Ask only those questions that fill in the blanks in your research.

4. When you set up the interview, request a press kit or press release and read previous articles and books about the subject.

5. Try writing a mock headline and subheads to focus the point of your article.

Five great tips. I’ve always found the last two to be especially helpful.

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What Should I Write About?

Here’s a question that sometimes plagues new freelance writers. “What should I write about?”

When article ideas don’t come easily to you, when you’re not tripping over ideas with every step you take, when your creative well seems to have run dry, where do you go for help? Sometimes the answer is as easy as deciding what to fix for dinner tonight.

Scores of magazines offer recipes and menus to help you get a meal to the table on time. The same thing is true for writing subjects. The answer to “What can I write about?” can be as simple as picking up a publication or spending time at a local newsstand checking a magazine’s table of contents.

Here’s one example:

An article by writer Marge Jesberger in the March/April issue of Writer’s Journal offers this gem:

Demand is Great–You Can Supply

Every time you pick up a magazine, you see something on diet or exercise. You also see articles on flea markets in the spring and snow sports in the winter. You feel the market is glutted, so why compete? That is the best reason to submit a well-researched and up-to-date article on these subjects. If something is popular, editors and publishers are on the lookout for more of the same.

That advice holds for most any type of magazine — general interest, specialty, trade journal, health care, business, you name it. Back in journalism school, our instructors used to call the perennial sellers “evergreens.” These are types of articles — much like asters, daylillies and other perennial flowers that emerge for us to enjoy year after year— that come back regularly and never seem to go out of favor with readers.

So if you want to know what to write about next, pick up any target magazine of your choice and look for “evergreens” within its pages. Check several issues, maybe even go to the library and read back issues to find out which evergreens the editors seem to favor.

Then get busy and query with an updated version of one subject that you like. Granted this approach won’t result in blockbuster articles that fetch big bucks, but it will keep you writing, get your name and writing skills in front of editors, and probably add a modest sum to your yearly income.

I think you’ll find that editors welcome queries about the tried-and-true subjects that please their readers. And that can be a quick way to get a byline and a check — and sometimes a regular writing gig with a publication.

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© 2009 by Laverne Daley

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Possible Markets for Your Work: 13 New Publications

Whenever I go to Barnes & Noble, I am struck by the fact that new publications appear on the newsstand almost every week. That’s a remarkable thing, I think, especially in these tough economic times.

After returning from my most recent trip to B&N, I checked out Mr.Magazine.com, my favorite source of information about new publications. I wanted to see what Samir Husni, Ph.D., — Mr. Magazine — had to say about the newest arrivals on the magazine scene. This week I found that he presented information about 13 new magazines, along with his impressions of some of them.

The new publications range from Natural Cat, a new addition to the family of pet magazines, to Fighters Only, a British martial arts and lifestyle magazine, to Gulf Coast Wine+Dine, a Southern hospitality magazines covering Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

If you go to Mr. Magazine’s website, you can find details about these three and the other 10 publications he spotlights this week. They include Rebel Ink, “a tatoo magazine with attitude;” plus a magazine to devoted to the Mambo Scene; a Jiu-Jitsu magazine; a new music publication called Blurt; a New York focused magazine, Prestige New York, that launched in Singapore nine years ago and now is available the U.S.; a publication about loft and condo living called Loft Life; Guitar Aficionado Magazine; a French art and artists magazine called Technikart Paris-NewYork; a new Marvel publication about super heroes called Wolverine Magazine; and Marie, a publication focusing on mixed-media art.

Some of these publications could turn out to be paying markets for your freelance work. You might want to check them out now and get a jump on the competition.

© 2009 by Laverne Daley

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Use the listed information at your own risk. Words into Print gives no warranty to
completeness, accuracy, or fitness of the markets, although research is done to the best of our ability.

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