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Making Money Writing for the Trades
by Constance Fabian-Isaacs

If you ever get tired of the form rejection letters you get from the top paying commercial magazines, consider writing for the trades. Trade magazines are always looking for field experts and good writing. For some reason, they aren’t the first choice of most writers who want to make money. This gives the trades the distinction of being a prime asset for anyone who would really like to build a writing clientele and a solid portfolio of writing clips.

For example, I make my living writing online help for computer software. I picked up a copy of Software Development Magazine hoping to find an article or two addressing online help development and writing. There was nothing in the issue I read. In a later issue, I found that they had articles reviewing online help development software. I was intrigued that they would review the tools but not talk about the technology. So I thought, maybe this is an opportunity for me. So I pulled together a query letter and sent it to them via email. It took about six or eight months and I finally heard back from them asking to see the article.

My co-author and I went to work, wrote the piece, and sold it to them. They were pleased to get submissions from professional writers. Most of their contributors are not, so they require a lot of spoon feeding to get the articles finished. With us, there was some tweaking to do here and there, but they were extremely pleased to work with us because we were "real writers." I later sold them another piece for which they gave me a substantial raise. They are always eager to hear my ideas, although they don’t accept all of them.

The trick to writing for the trades is this. Know your stuff or know someone who knows their stuff and team up with them. Trade magazines are hungry for good writing, but the editors will buy a less than perfect manuscript from an expert before they purchase a sparkling piece of prose from someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about. The good news is, there is a trade magazine for every profession imaginable.

To get started, think about the day job that you’re working to support your writing habit. Look around the place where you work.

There’s almost always some sort of magazine laying around about that business. Most of the time, there’s two or three. The best place to find these kinds of magazines is in the reception area or talk to the company executive’s secretary. He or she will either have some of the trade magazines handy or could tell you which ones to get.

Read them with your particular job in mind. See how this magazine addresses the issues of your job. Think about ways in which to address those issues in your own unique way. The fact that you are a writer and that you know about your subject will give you instant admiration with the editors of the trades you choose.

Put together a query letter. If you want to write for computer magazines, please have access to a computer and query via email. This query letter should be as professional as any you’ve written. Make sure it has an industry-related hook. Define your unique perspectives concerning the issues. Then list your qualifications. The editors of the trades will be most impressed by your years of experience in the field or your access to the experts.

There are side benefits to publishing in the trades as well. First and foremost, it’s fun. For once, you get to state how things should really be done--the way you’ve always wanted to see them done. Second, once you’ve published in the trades you have elevated your status in this profession. You’ve gone from novice to expert in one fell swoop. You can take that article and make sure that it is placed in your employee file and let everyone know you’re published—in your field. This goes a long way toward getting you a new found respect in this field. People you’ve never met will write to you for advice or to give you accolades.

Plus—these markets pay. Most trades pay in the medium to high range. Think about it. They are collecting the leading minds in their business and those folks don’t come cheap. So join their ranks.

Take a proactive approach to ending rejection letters. Start writing for the trades. Take that day job and make it work for you.

© Copyright 1999, Constance Fabian-Isaacs

Constance Fabian-Isaacs is a freelance writer and a Sr. Technical Communications Specialist for GuideWorks, LLC in Englewood, CO. She has written for both the oil and gas industry and the entertainment industry.

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