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Maximize Your Magazine Article Writing and Marketing
Some Facts and Figures Worth Noting
So you fancy yourself a writer do you? Your long range goals include writing for magazines and seeing your byline, and one article leads to another and fame and fortune are yours. Easy peasy as my mother was fond of saying.
Not so fast!
There are literally thousands of periodicals, and they all need writers to fill their pages. That is the good news.
There are literally millions of writers, all of whom have the same dreams and long range goals that you have. That is the bad news.
With numbers like those working against us, it is a wonder that we all don’t go out into the real world and apply for a job working at McDonald’s and forget this silliness about being a writer. What in the hell were we thinking?
Well I have some more good news for you. Armed with a modicum of talent and a whole bunch of willingness and determination, you can make it writing magazine articles. You can find success, but it won’t happen by accident or divine intervention. It will happen through hard work.
Now that we have had our reality check for the moment, let’s move on to some tips that just might help you to realize those dreams.
A Modicum of Talent
Good writers get hired to write for magazines. Bad writers….well….are bad writers.
You do not have to be an outstanding writer to have one of your articles purchased by a magazine but you do have to be adequate. I have seen a great many mediocre articles in print and online. They are technically correct but they lack voice. They were composed by technicians rather than by writers, but they were the right article at the right time for the right magazine and they were printed.
If you have game….if you have a modicum of writing talent….then your first requirement has been met. If not then get game. Learn how to write before you even approach a magazine editor, or don’t waste your time.
Every Freelance Writer Should Own This Book
Do Not Shortchange Yourself
Okay, let’s say you have what it takes to write an intelligent and interesting article. Now what?
I am known by my peers as a hard worker, but in all honesty I have one lazy character trait when it comes to writing articles: I don’t like writing five different articles for five different magazines when one will do quite nicely.
So I’ve taken my lazy trait and I’ve devised a plan with it. I call it my Six Step Plan For Maximization, and because I am feeling very giving today, I’m going to share it with you.
The Six Steps of Maximization are: local, county, statewide, regional, specialty and national. It looks something like this in practice.
- Local….I write a human interest article about a teenager in my home town of Olympia, Washington, who was recently in a movie and I sell it to the local newspaper or alternative magazine.
- County….I take the same article but add a few paragraphs about other teenage actors from the area who have been in movies.
- Statewide….Same article expanded to include famous actors from the state of Washington.
- Regional….More research to find actors from Idaho, Oregon and Alaska, and incorporate that into the original article.
- Specialty….Teenage magazines and entertainment magazines just might be interested in a local boy making it in the highly-competitive world of acting.
- National….Since this is a human interest story with a feel-good mojo to it, there is no reason not to approach national publications with it. Little guy makes it big; who wouldn’t want to read about that?
What we now have is one article with six different markets to sell it in, and within those individual markets we have a great number of magazines who might want my one article. In other words, I can sell the same article to three statewide publications, or four regional periodicals. The sky may have a limit, but it has far more potential than just The Daily Olympian, our local news rag.
But Can You Do That?
Well of course I can, and I have! There are exclusive rights and then there are reprint rights when selling your article, and avoid exclusive rights whenever possible. Now I’m not a fool; if The New Yorker wanted to pay me $5000 for exclusive rights I’d sign that contract in a heartbeat, but those chances are slim….so I play the reprint game, letting editors know where the article has appeared before and what I am doing to make their article unique for their market.
Editors are concerned with four different requirements when it comes to buying a feature article, so let’s take a look at those requirements.
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VERY LITTLE OVERLAP
Editors are concerned with readership as they should be. For them this is a business, and their chief concern with any article is that their chief competition won’t have virtually the same article. All understandable and easily rectified if you play your cards right. For example, if I am peddling an article on farming to Our Iowa, I cannot in good conscience expect The Iowan to buy the same article, but I can expect a statewide magazine in Kansas to be interested. Since there are a number of farming states, my market for one farming article is fairly large without worrying about overlap.
Even if there is a danger of slight overlap, offering different photos to different magazines is a reasonable solution. At least that way there is a new visual perspective to the article.
While we are on this subject, do not underestimate the value of quality photographs. Magazines want high-quality, high-resolution original photographs with the articles being pitched. Obviously, If I am doing a farming article it would be impossible for me to go to Indiana and take pictures of farms there, but I can easily take photos of farms here in Washington and they are very serviceable for a generic farming article.
Another good video
REWRITE IN THE NEW STYLE
Whenever you are approaching a magazine, it is imperative that you read back issues of that mag to find out what their style is. Make no mistake about it: every magazine has a style that they prefer. You will need to tailor your article to match that style, so if you are pitching one article to five different magazines, you will need to re-write it five times.
NEW TWIST FOR EACH NEW PERIODICAL
Inserting news items that are pertinent to a particular periodical gives your article a nice, new twist. For example, if I was approaching a magazine printed in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I might add a news item specifically about Ann Arbor, whereas if I took that article to a Michigan statewide magazine I would drop the item about Ann Arbor and include an item that had statewide significance.
A few tips for you
- Freelance Writing Tips and Suggestions
A plethora of ideas about the writing business. A veritable blizzard of suggestions for those who are snow blind.
The Bottom Line
And there is always a bottom line for a freelance writer. Do you want to make $100 from one article sold one time, or $1000 from that same article sold five, six, or seven times? With very little work you can re-tool an article and make it perfectly acceptable for a number of periodicals, and since we are all interested in making money it just makes good sense to do so.
The only way this system fails is if you sign away exclusive rights, so read the contract carefully and avoid that mistake. In my humble opinion the pay had better be extraordinary before you consider signing an exclusive rights contract.
And now there is only one thing left for you to do…..start writing!
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”