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Lucrative Print Markets—and How to Crack Them
by Kelly James-Enger

Want to improve your query success rate? Making the right approach is key. Read on for a quick look at some of the most lucrative print markets and how to crack them: 

National consumer magazines

I started out writing for national consumer publications, but the "biggies" are harder for new writers to crack. If you already have clips, you have a better chance of selling to a national pub. But if not, don't despair.

Break in by pitching short, FOB (or front-of-book) pieces. Nearly every magazine has a regular FOB section where it features short, newsy, "quick hit" type of pieces. These short pieces are relatively easy assignments, and the editors are more likely to give new writers a chance here. Writing FOB pieces let you prove yourself and start developing a relationship with the section editor, which makes it easier to sell other ideas in the future.

Regional and local magazines

Smaller, regional magazines are a great place to break in for new writers, but they offer opportunities for established writers as well. These magazines cover the same topics as national magazines but with a local angle. They're more open to newer writers, which is a plus if you're starting out. No, they don't pay as well as national magazines do (running from $0.10 to about $0.50/word), but the editing hassles are usually minimal, and response times tend to be quicker. Writing for regional magazines can help you develop a portfolio and specialty and give you clips you can use to break into nationals; they're also good for helping you develop a local name for yourself.

Trade magazines

Trade magazines are aimed at people who work in a particular trade or industry. A few don't pay, but most pay about $0.25 to $0.50/word and higher. If you have experience in an area of business, use this fact as a way to break in.

If you're pitching a trade magazine with a query letter, use industry lingo and show that you're up on the business the magazine is about. Mention the types of sources you'll interview, and use a time peg if you can.

While many trade magazines accept queries, a letter of introduction, or "LOI," is often the most effective way to break in. Keep in mind that the standards are just as high with trade publications as consumer ones—sometimes even higher. Don’t assume that because trades don’t pay as well as consumer magazines, you can do second-rate work and get away with it.

Custom magazines 

In addition to consumer and trade magazines, there's a relatively new breed of publication you shouldn’t overlook. Custom magazines are aimed at a particular audience—say, Jeep owners or people who buy Iams dog food for their pets—but their look and coverage resemble their consumer cousins. Custom magazines aren't simple advertorial vehicles—many are high-quality publications that mimic the look and feel of their consumer counterparts.

Most are intended to help create loyalty between the reader and the company behind them. That means that editors must consider not only what types of subjects to cover, but how the articles relate to the client company’s objectives. As with trade magazines, a LOI is often the best way to break into this lucrative market. For a list of many custom publishers, visit http://www.custompublishingcouncil.com. In addition, many magazine publishers (like Meredith, Rodale, and Time, Inc.) have custom publishing arms which are open to freelancers.


No, you won't get rich writing for newspapers. But these markets are more open to pitches from newer writers, and can help you develop a portfolio when you're starting out. Major newspapers like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal offer visibility and impressive clips in addition to your paychecks. Smaller newspapers may pay as little as $25 for a feature story; larger newspapers, up to about $0.50/word. While some editors at newspapers may prefer telephone queries, email queries are usually the quickest and most efficient way to pitch your work.

Armed with these tips, you’ll find print markets easier to crack—and garner more assignments as well.

© Copyright 2008, Kelly James-Enger

Kelly James-Enger has authored more than a dozen books, including Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success (Writers Digest, 2012) and Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writers Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books (CreateSpace, 2010). Check out her blog, Dollars and Deadlines, for practical advice about how you can make more money in less time as a nonfiction freelance writer.

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