Writing for Magazines

By Harriet Michael

When I was a little girl, I loved fishing with my dad. We lived in Nigeria then, so we didn’t have access to many of the fun things people in America had. We didn’t even have swimming pools without traveling at least an hour’s drive from my home. But we had a man-made water reservoir where I could fish. I learned to cast my line out into murky waters, wait in anticipation to feel that tug on my line and then try and reel it in without letting the fish get away.

girls fishing

Maybe that’s why I like freelance writing. I cast pieces—articles, devotions, short stories—out into the murky waters of cyberspace and wait hopefully. Sometimes I feel that tug and sometimes I even reel in a great catch in the form of a contract for a submitted piece.

Of all the publications for which I write, magazines are among my favorite. I get to write on topics of interest to me because I choose the type of magazine I wish to submit to, they pay (some better than others) so I have a flow of cash coming in all year long, and they help build my platform because they are viewed by people I otherwise would not be able to reach.

Here are some tips for anyone hoping to break into the magazine-writing market:

  • Search engines are your best friends. You can find any magazine you think you might like to write for by searching that magazine’s name and the words, “writers’ guidelines.” Ex: “The War Cry writers’ guidelines” You can search types of magazines this way too. Ex: “parenting magazines writers’ guidelines” or “cooking magazines writers’ guidelines” Any magazine that takes freelance submissions will show up if you search by topic.
  • Read the writers’ guidelines, taking note of a few things:

a] What rights do they buy? I avoid magazines that buy all rights or exclusive rights. See the article on this blog about a writer’s rights if you do not understand this.

b] How much and when do they pay? Do they pay on acceptance of your submitted piece or when the article is published? This is merely a guide to me so I will know when to expect a payment, but both are fine.

c] What word count do they want? Stick to their requested word count to the best of your ability. Usually, it’s okay to be over or under by less than 10 words but some online submission sites will cut you off at their maximum count, so I prefer to err on the “under” side of things.

d] Do they have a theme list? Do they want a particular type of article?

  • Write and submit according to the guidelines. Follow the guidelines as closely as you can … and then wait to feel that tug on your line.

A question I often get when teaching workshops on freelancing or magazine writing, is should a person write from inspiration or according to a theme requested by the magazine.

My answer: “Both.”

Writing according to the magazines’ wishes, whether that is a theme or a type of article (like a “how-to”, essay, or story) brings greater success. If they are looking for something specific and you give them what they are looking for, they are more likely to buy it. However, there have been times when something has happened in my life that I simply wanted to write down. This happens often but sometimes these pieces sit on my computer for a long time until a theme or magazine where the piece might fit pops up.

One example of this is an article I had published in a gardening magazine last spring about a humorous experience that occurred many years ago. When it happened, my youngest son was in elementary school. I laughed about what happened all day at the time, so knew I wanted to write it before I forgot, but I had nowhere to send it. When I finally found a magazine where this piece fit, my son was in college. Still, they did take it, people enjoyed reading it, and I received a check for it, even though it was more than a dozen years from the time I wrote it to the time it was published.

Click-to-Tweet:  You’ll never catch a fish if you don’t throw a line in the water and you’ll never have an article published in a magazine if you don’t try your hand at writing and submitting one.

magazines

Writing Prompt / Exercise: Look up the writers’ guidelines for a magazine that you enjoy reading and begin writing an article for submission to that magazine. *Hint: Christian magazines get fewer submissions than secular ones, so the chances of getting published in them are higher.

How to Break Into Freelance Writing

by Jean Matthew Hall

A freelance writer is one who works on a self-employment basis. They can work for just one magazine or, more often, for several different publications at a time. The more versatile a writer can be, the more likely they are to be published and paid for their work.

Freelance writing can include magazine articles and stories, curriculum materials, coloring books, online magazines and websites for adults or for children, business websites, ad copy, testing materials and on and on.

Whatever type of writing you choose to do a few basics apply. They include (1) targeting the periodicals to which you submit and (2) creating your articles to fit those target periodicals.

Targeting Periodicals

  • Get organized and prepared—as a freelance writer you’ll be dealing with a number of publishers, website owners, etc. Create a large file for each one.
  • Decide what topics interest you—Most periodicals buy far more nonfiction pieces than fiction. Make a list of things you are curious or knowledgeable about: animals, space exploration, American history, Madagascar, inventions, etc.
  • Research periodicals that relate to those topics—this will be really time consuming. But you want to avoid sending your articles to the wrong types of periodicals, if you want to be published.
  • Start with Market Guides—Google “magazine (or periodical) market guides” and you’ll find a list for your type of writing. They cost about $30 each. Then USE them. Check the material in the front of the guides. Most have lots of information for creating and submitting the articles you are writing.
  • Make a chart—make a spreadsheet type chart for organizing the information on publishers. Include the following for each:

Periodical’s name, acquisition editor’s name, editor’s email or submissions email address, periodical’s website URL, do they accept unsolicited queries, the number of subscribers, target readers (age or business or hobby), list their regular features, what rights they purchase, what they pay, type of fiction they use. Make a column for notes.

  • Choose 5 or 6 publishers to target with your submission.
  • Read and study several issues of each of those periodicals. You can do this by requesting or purchasing copies, reading samples on their websites, reading them in your public library, using your public library’s website “Research Tools.”
  • Study the periodical’s website. Writer’s or Submissions Guidelines are often hidden. Search under “Contact Us” or “About Us.” Also look for author’s terms. Read and follow their guidelines exactly.

Now you’re ready to research and/or write your article or story.

  • Brainstorm ideas. Nancy I. Sanders suggests a “Wagon Wheel” graphic organizer that includes a hub with the types of articles you wish to write and spokes for potential ideas for nonfiction articles. On the side of the page list the topics that have already been covered in the magazine samples you’ve read. Those should help you with ideas to write on the spokes.
  • Contact the publisher with your ideas. Write a short paragraph of description for each idea. Be sure to include how you think it will fit in with that periodical’s focus or theme. Mention any other publications you have written for. Ask the editor if they would be interested in any of your ideas. Be sure to include your contact information and thanks for considering your ideas.

Sound simple? NO!

But it’s worth the effort if you:

  • Want to see your name in print
  • Want to touch the lives of thousands of people with your idea
  • dream of writing an article about the subject of your passion
  • are serious about generating income from your writing.

You can also search for freelance writing jobs in places like:

Job Boards. Try some of the free ones:

  • Problogger
  • BloggingPro
  • All Freelance Writing Job Board

Twitter is a great place to find freelance writing opportunities. Follow several freelance writing job boards like:

  • @Write_Jobs,
  • @WhoPaysWriters
  • @JJobs_tweets

Ask around among friends, family, neighbors, former coworkers.

Make it clear on your website that you are looking for freelance writing opportunities.

Guest blog for free. Such articles not only give you exposure, but also count as writing samples!

Network with other freelance writers on Facebook.

Visit local printers and web designers. Let them know you are looking for freelance jobs, give them a sample or two of your work and a business card. Ask if they will keep you in mind or mention you to their customers.

Join Face Book Groups for freelance writers. A few of these groups are:

  • The Smart Passive Income Community
  • Blogger2Business
  • The Entrepreneur Incubator

Oh! And don’t forget to pray. Ask the Lord to provide opportunities and to put you right where HE wants you with your writing.

Jean Matthew Hall spent twenty-six years teaching children and teens–and loving it! Then twenty more years teaching women’s Bible studies.  She recently signed a contract with Little Lamb Books for a series of picture books. Yipee! The first book should be available in the spring of 2019. Sometimes our dreams come true in ways we couldn’t imagine. Jean’s have.

Click to Tweet: How to Break Into Freelance Writing via @InspiredPrompt with @Jean_Hall – make it clear on your website that you are looking for #freelance #writing opportunities.

 

A Lot Can Happen in 10 Years!

by Harriet E. Michael

When I thought about this topic, so many things came to my mind. So much has happened in the last 10 years, nationally, internationally, with friends, with my family, and with me. It was hard to decide what to write about. I chose the single biggest change in my personal life that has occurred in the last 10 years.

10 years ago, I was not a published writer!

typewriter

Writing is a new work God is doing in my old age. It’s a huge blessing to me and I can only hope it blesses others too. I thank Him daily for opening these doors, even though as is often the case, it was born out of adversity—from a difficult and even dark time in my life that started in the summer of 2003.

By 2009, I had an unpublished manuscript written on the topic of prayer. This is what later became my book, “Prayer: It’s Not About You” which started out four years earlier as a journaling exercise as I sought to learn more about prayer. Interested in writing, I attended the Kentucky Christian Writer’s Conference, hoping to learn how to get a manuscript published. I came home thinking that goal was not achievable, unless I self-published but I had learned three things: 1) I knew very little about the publishing world, even after the conference, 2) I have editing issues. 3) I didn’t have a platform.

I now know that a writer can pay an editor, and hire out other parts of the publishing process and turn out a good independently-published book. But at the time, getting a book out seemed impossible.

itsawriterthing.tumbler

Writing still intrigued me. Actually, it did more than that; it pulled like a magnet. I had words I wanted to share and had spent the previous four years honing my ability to put them down on paper. (Learning to write on a computer came later. My 60,000+ word manuscript and my first few articles and devotions were all hand-written and transcribed onto a computer.)

The wheels started turning in my head. If I could start getting small pieces published, then I would be scratching that writing itch while building an income and a platform. So, I sat at my kitchen table one day, shortly after returning from the writer’s conference, sharing my thoughts with my daughter. I sheepishly told her about the great workshop on how to freelance small pieces and confessed my desire to try my hand at it. But who did I think I was fooling? I was not a writer.

My daughter looked up from her orange juice and said profound words that jump-started my writing career. She said, “You know mom, the average American reader only reads at a sixth-grade level.”

I burst out laughing and replied, “I can write at that level!”

And I sat down immediately and began transcribing a devotion I had handwritten in my journal onto my computer to send to The Upper Room. That devotion, titled, “The Day of Small Things” based on the question posed in Zechariah 4:10, “For who has despised the day of small things?” became the first piece I ever submitted. It was not the first piece I ever had published, because it takes a very long time from submission to publication with some devotional magazines. It was published a year and a half later in the February 2011.

Today I have somewhere around 200 small pieces published in magazines, devotionals, anthologies (more if you count each individual devotion separately). The places I have been published as a freelance writer include: Chicken Soup for the Soul, several Lifeway magazines and their devotional, Open Windows, several David C. Cook and Standard Publishing magazines, The War Cry, Upper Room, The Secret Place (just to name a few).

Now I also have three books published, both independently and traditionally, two more under contract to be released this winter and next summer, and others at different stages of publication.

And, to think that 10 years ago, I was not a writer. Today, I cannot imagine not writing! I think I have finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up.

freedom

(Click to Tweet) I think I have finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up. #amwriting #freelance

Writing Prompt: Ben highlighted, then deleted every word of the story he’d spent two hours creating. Now what?

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