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A Beginners Guide to Selling to Magazines
by Kathryn Lay
There are magazines all around you. At the
library. The bookstore. The grocery store. They range in age, interest, genre,
gender, and economics. With so many magazines available, why does it seem so
elusive and frightening to get an article or story published in one?
Knowing where and how to get started will get
you on the right track to getting that first of many acceptances.
STUDY YOUR TARGETED MAGAZINES:
The magazine market is large and varied. Whether
you are aiming for local magazines, religious magazines, national publications,
or specific trade magazines, you must learn how to study and understand them,
what they are wanting from writers, and how to gear your ideas to fit their
style and readership.
Most magazines have sections and columns that
reflect the type of articles they want, their tone, and the readers you will be
addressing. As well, advertising inside magazines will tell you a lot about the
type of reader you are reaching.
When studying potential magazine markets, make a
list of the magazines you want to approach (you may first want to begin with an
area that you feel you have an expertise or interest in). Study several months
issues to get a feel for what theyve done, what they havent done, and how
theyve done it. Next label the articles as to their types: Profile, How-to,
List article, Informational piece, Personal experience, Essay, and so
Learning to be a magazine reader as a writer
will give you more insight into selling to magazines than just reading
guidelines or market information
UNDERSTAND AND SET WRITING GOALS
Have you ever thought about your writing goals?
I have often gone pell-mell into writing whatever comes along and though its
gotten me far in many ways, Im now ready to be specific about my
Do you have specific magazines youd like to
break into? Do you have financial goals with your writing?
If youve never written down your goals, try
doing it. It doesnt mean you are stuck with those forever, but challenge
yourself to write realistic ones that are attainable, as well as those dreams
you hope might happen but are afraid to say it aloud.
Setting marketing goals doesnt mean you have
moved from writer to agent, it just means that you are serious about getting
your work in front of a magazine editor.
Set weekly goals, monthly goals, and long-term
goals. These are for yourself. You might share them with us or a writing buddy,
but the only one that really matters in understanding, making, and accomplishing
them is yourself.
Lastly, dont view goals that arent reached as
failures, but as opportunities. Time has a way of changing trends, editors,
publishing houses, your editing and rewriting abilities, and so on. Projects may
go unpublished and suddenly, the time is right and you find the perfect
opportunity and wham! That goal you set months or years earlier has become
Make a contract to yourself that you will work
at keeping your goals. They are YOUR goals. You made them because you wanted
them. If you meet them or chuck them out the window, it affects no one but
Do you wonder if you have enough good ideas?
Make a list of what you know and would like to know. Your hates and loves. Your
areas of expertise and those of your family and friends. What are recent
personal experiences youve gone through that might help or inform others? What
is an issue you feel strongly about? What are your collections or hobbies.
Ideas are everywhere. Once you start listing
them, you may find you have more ideas than time, which isnt a bad
QUERY YOUR WAY IN
Too often, new writers let the fear of writing a
query letter keep them from sending out their good ideas. Instead, they dont
send them, or spend time writing full articles and sending them only to the
magazines who will luck at manuscripts. First, understand why learning to write
a query letter is important.
The purpose of your query letter is to sell an
idea. Most of the time, you will be sending a query letter for an unwritten
manuscript, for an idea you hope the editor will want to read. Editors know what
their magazine needs are and what ideas they will use. No matter how much you
study, you wont know whats on that editors mind at the time you send your
manuscript. Rather, with a query, you are sending an idea.
The editor may love the sound of the idea and
ask you to submit a manuscript on speculation (meaning, they arent promising to
buy it, only consider it). Or, they may like the idea, but want a different
slant. Or, they may not like the piece and prefer something else based on the
experience you mentioned in your query.
Dont be afraid to take the time to study how to
write queries. Check out http://www.writing-world.com. There are several excellent articles on writing
MAKE A MARKETING PLAN
Now that youve studied magazines, begun setting
goals, and studied how to write a query letter, its time to think about your
marketing approaches. Do you go through your writers market lists or guidelines
and start at the As? Do you pick your favorite and send them
Look at your notes from your studies and your
list of ideas. Like a great relationship, finding the right article or story to
go with the right magazine may take some time, but your chances of putting
together the perfect match shouldnt be rushed into.
Begin pairing your ideas with publications and
before long, youll be raring to start sending out those queries, stories, and
Are you unpublished? Face your fears, make a
plan, and prepare your writing and marketing knowledge. The way to publication
in magazines isnt frightening, once you know where to begin.
© Copyright 2003, Kathryn Lay
Kathryn Lay is the author of 26 books for children, over 2000 articles, essays and stories for children and adults and the book from AWOC.COM Publishing, The Organized Writer is a Selling Writer. Check out her website at www.kathrynlay.com and email through firstname.lastname@example.org
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