By Annette Young
Check out the latest issue of the Writers & Artists Yearbook and you can find information on a multitude of magazines that accept submissions from freelance writers. But is the information they provide enough? The brief description can indicate whether the publication may be the type of magazine you wish to write for, but when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of writing, the word length or actual house style may be vastly different from your initial preconception.
There is no substitute for studying your chosen market; although this can be a costly procedure, you can limit your spending and purchase only a selected few of the publications so that you get a feel for the content. Look on these purchases as an investment for your freelance career. To keep your start-up costs down, it is possible to look at back copies of magazines initially, but remember that markets have to study reader trends and their requirements may well have changed since that issue. You also need to ensure that any article you may be working on has not already been previously published within your chosen magazine.
Before making any purchases, begin by working your way through the Yearbook and ascertain any potential publications, then narrow your choice until you have a few favorites and that’s when your research really begins. Choose your publications wisely; try to focus on magazines whose criteria suit your own specialist subjects or interests. Every market has their own needs and by compiling a file that can list specifics, this could undoubtedly increase your chance of success.
Many magazines will have their writers’ guidelines available on their website, but if not, send a written request asking for them. Always enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope and once you receive the guidelines, study them intently; there may be some useful advice which you can add to your file.
Taking time to do the relevant research now will save endless rejection letters flooding through the letterbox. Editors do not want to reject a well-written article or story; they have space to fill within the magazine and if your submission matches their criteria, then you have one foot in their publishing door.
Editors receive a great many submissions each month, many of which are completely unsuitable for that publication. If you have managed to pen a carefully crafted piece that is ideal for that market then you will be in with a chance.
An article that has far too many words or has not been targeted at a specific audience, however well written, will have little chance of success. But when researching, don’t just look at the main articles to get a good overview of the publication as a whole. It is vital that you study every part of the magazine and that means do not overlook the fillers or the advertisements. All of these provide great indications on desired subject matter and it also gives you an insight into the type of people who purchase the magazine.
Understanding the age group for each magazine is imperative. There is very little point writing a short story about teenage problems if your chosen market is aimed at the retirement sector. Whether stories or articles are your main consideration, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can read just one issue and then submit your work. Your comprehensive file will be invaluable so that you know which subjects have been covered, thus avoiding querying any previously published topics. This saves you wasting your time researching and then writing about the subject and it saves the Editor from having to discard it.
Take an average 20 stories or articles and see if you can find a general pattern contained within them. Try and visualize the type of person who would be reading this publication. Double-check the word count and whether it is written in the first or third person. This may sound like hard work but no one is going to hand you a writing opportunity on a platter. Opportunities within the publishing industry have to be grasped firmly in both hands and for most writers, golden opportunities have to be created.
It is worth checking to see if your chosen magazine uses the same writers on a continual basis, but don’t let that put you off. Your submission still has a chance, especially if you have done your homework. Remember to address your article to the right person. Sending your precious manuscript to someone who has not worked for the magazine for some time will only show that you have not researched the publication thoroughly enough. This will not show you in a favorable light.
With Internet access being so readily available to all, research for your article is now much easier, but remember to check and double check your facts. It is worth remembering that it is very easy to upload information onto the web and facts may not always be accurate.
Increase your chances of publishing success by careful research and before you know it, your byline will be appearing in magazines everywhere.
Based in the UK, Annette Young currently works as a freelance writer specializing in healthcare and relationship articles but also teaches creative writing and journalism both at college and for private students. She is currently Co-Editor of a new holistic website advocating the benefits of living a more natural lifestyle. Website: Your Life Naturally. You can email Annette Young at annettejyoung AT hotmail.co.uk.