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Ideas That Magazine Editors Are Looking For

Updated on November 11, 2013

First the Bad News

Pitching ideas to magazine editors is hard work. I’m just being honest here. No, it’s not hard work like digging ditches, or being a miner or a lumberjack, but it is tedious and never-ending. You write your query letter, wait weeks to hear back, deal with rejections, have few successes, write your articles, wait impatiently for your payment and then….and then….you do it all over again.

And again, and again, and again! The acceptance-to-failure ratio is so small that it requires a constant stream of query letters in order to make a living. The good news is that there are writers who make a good living doing this; the bad news is that the number of writers who are successful is small.

Now, if I haven’t scared you off of this path, let’s talk about ideas that every editor is interested in. At least that way you have firm ground to stand on as you make your pitches. The whole process is time consuming enough without wasting your time pitching ideas that nobody in their right mind would be interested in buying, so here is a list of ideas that will at least give you a fighting chance when you write that query letter.

How do compost toilets work? Unusual but useful ideas are big in magazines.
How do compost toilets work? Unusual but useful ideas are big in magazines. | Source


There are two keys to this idea. One, it must be a common problem you are solving and two, it must be a unique way that you solved it.

Practically everyone knows how to clean a toilet; do you have a new way to do it? Is there a new way to pack lunches efficiently for school kids? How about a new way to budget time?


In today’s economy money is always an issue for about 80% of the populace. Show readers how to save money and you will be a very popular writer. Frugal is the new catch-phrase of the 21st Century, so as a freelance writer you need to make frugal work for you.

How can families save money during the holidays? How can they save money landscaping? How can they save money selling their home? How can you travel on a modest budget? The possibilities are endless.


Think of a common problem and then come up with a creative way to prevent it. What is your neighborhood doing to prevent crime? How does your place of work help employees by scheduling time to exercise during work? How does your city prepare for winter? How can car owners prepare for winter with simple maintenance steps?

The more common a problem the more readers that will be interested, and editors are interested in readers. Solve a common problem in a creative way and editors will be more than happy to pay you for your article.

Look to your community for interesting ideas
Look to your community for interesting ideas | Source

Advice from a pro


Yes, editors love lists and yes, readers love lists. You see them online every single day. The ten best places to visit in Italy. Ten inexpensive solutions to insulating your home. Five great exercises that take less than thirty minutes. The five best scissors on the market. The ten best movies of the 1970’s.

What makes you an expert in these topics? You do! Perception is king when making lists. Of course there will be debate but that’s half the fun of list articles.


We all love secrets. We all want to be privy to a secret. The word “secret” is money in the article writing business.

The secret to better article writing…..Five exercise secrets of champions…..Five gardening secrets my grandmother taught me…..The secret to long life…..can you say gold mine? Scan some magazines the next time you are at a supermarket and see how many of these articles you can find. Someone got paid good dollars to write them; it might as well be you who gets the paycheck next time.


Overcoming challenges is a popular theme with editors. Editors and readers alike enjoy reading about how people beat the odds and tackled a problem.

How I learned to conquer shyness…..What my father taught me about facing fear….Lessons my grandmother taught me about frugal living…..I’m just pulling these off the top of my head, folks; I’m willing to bet you can do the same. If you have answers to common questions based on your life experience, then chances are excellent that someone else will be interested. Let your experience earn you an income.

Unusual or whimsical sells
Unusual or whimsical sells | Source

I find this guy to be very practical and truthful


I’ll tell you a secret about technology: most people love it and most people do not understand it. Notice how I just told you a secret? Anyway, speaking as a Baby Boomer who is confused by high tech gadgets, I can tell you that articles that tell me how to do something simply are articles I will read, and there are a lot of Baby Boomers out there who feel the same.

How Windows 8 made my life easier…..How I easily learned how to cut and paste…..How Apple helped me in my writing career….How YouTube increased my readership. Also, don’t be afraid to discuss failures. We all fail, and there are readers out there who want to know if an idea failed…..How a certain app failed in its promise….How Facebook hurt my marketing efforts….all interesting stuff that other readers will be interested in.


We all love odd. Odd makes us all feel better and you know that is the truth. Odd is different from bizarre, though, so be careful that you don’t step over the invisible line. Editors are not fond of bizarre, unless you are trying to get published in Whacked Magazine. On the other hand, interesting stories that stem from an odd twist of fate, or whimsical stories, something of that nature, sell well.

For example: a story of you traveling to the Fiji Islands to recover from a nasty divorce only to find the man of your dreams….that’s a feel good story we can all embrace. How you cleaned out grandma’s attic and found gold coins worth millions….that is a feel good story for sure.


In today’s world where politics are always in the headlines, it is not hard to find something to debate, but perhaps if you think outside the box you have a better chance at being published. Which is better, cloth diapers or disposable? Which is better for your health, wearing a bra or not wearing a bra? Which is better, Windows 7 or Windows 8?

Look for the oddity when choosing a debate; too many people have covered the obvious ones like politics or Coke vs Pepsi. If you are going to do politics, then take an angle that has not been written before…..which is better, Democrat or Republican: You Call This A Choice? See what I mean?

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That’s Enough to Get You Thinking

Quite honestly, I would never suggest to a writer just starting out that they make a living freelancing to magazines. The odds are too great and it is way too much work. However, if you decide to give it a try, I think these suggestions will help you.

There is no substitute for good writing, but in the highly competitive world of magazine writing, good writing is not enough to guarantee that your article will be purchased. As I have said in numerous articles in the past, look for a unique approach. Use your imagination and find a different angle that will hold the interest of many readers. Once you have found that article you will have taken a giant leap towards publication.

2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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