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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 arent 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 dont
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 doesnt 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
youre working to support your writing habit. Look around the place where you
Theres almost always some sort of magazine
laying around about that business. Most of the time, theres two or three. The
best place to find these kinds of magazines is in the reception area or talk to
the company executives 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 youve 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
There are side benefits to publishing in the
trades as well. First and foremost, its fun. For once, you get to state how
things should really be done--the way youve always wanted to see them done.
Second, once youve published in the trades you have elevated your status in
this profession. Youve 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 youre publishedin your field. This goes a long way toward
getting you a new found respect in this field. People youve never met will
write to you for advice or to give you accolades.
Plusthese 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 dont 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
© 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
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