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Focus Is Key to Magazine Writing by Terry Whalin

Recently a Morgan James author and I were talking about writing for magazines. She admitted that she had tried several times but been rejected. From my years of writing for publications, I’ve learned some difference makers when you pitch a magazine editor to write for their publication.

One of the keys is focus: Is your pitch or article or idea focused on the reader of the particular publication? When you write for publication, the editor is actively looking for articles which meet the needs of his particular readers. Every publication has a distinct audience. Do you know this audience and are you thinking about them when you write your pitch or article? This audience focus is important.

A second key would be following the submission guidelines for the publication. Many of these guidelines are available online. Do a Google search, locate the guidelines, then read them and make sure your pitch is a solid fit for the publication—before you send it.  I know following the guidelines sounds obvious but you would be shocked at the number of authors who ignore them. These authors think, “I’ll go ahead and pitch a 2,000 word article even though the guidelines say they only take articles up to 1,500 words. The editor can cut out those extra words. That’s what editors do.”

See the fallacy of such thinking? You are asking the editor to reject your work because you did not follow the guidelines. These editors know their audience and publication and are looking for something specific from potential writers. If you deliver what they are requesting, then it will be more likely to be considered (and possibly accepted).

Another key to success is reading the publication. Do you read this magazine? If not, read the articles online or get several issues and devour them. Do they publish service articles? Do they print how-to articles? Do they use personal experience stories? Do they use personality profiles? There are many different types of articles and writers need to do their analytical research to see what the magazine is publishing. Also look at who is writing the articles? Did someone on the magazine staff write the article?  Or did a freelance writer produce it? Notice the names in the magazine masthead. These names are often staff writers. What percentage of the articles are staff and what percentage is freelance? As the number of freelance articles increase in the magazine, your possibilities are increased for acceptance and publication.

The final key is the format of your submission. Magazine editors prefer to receive double-spaced manuscripts in the New Times Roman font. Yes most computers will default to Arial but that is not used within the magazine community. Also make sure the top of your submission includes your name, mailing address, phone and word count for the article. Does the end of your article include a brief bio (normally two sentences)?

Each of these elements are important decision making elements for the editor who is reading your submission. As a writer, you can help yourself from getting rejected through making sure each element in your submission is attractive to that editor.

Perseverance and persistent pitching to magazines is important for your success. The editor knows what they need for their publication yet they are actively looking for solid writers who can meet their needs. It may take persistent pitching for you to find some success with publications. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. You can do it if you follow the guidelines and deliver what the editor needs.

Terry Whalin, a writer and acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing, lives in Colorado. A former magazine editor, Whalin has written for more than 50 publications including Christianity Today and Writer’s Digest. He has written more than 60 nonfiction books including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams. His latest book is Billy Graham, A Biography of America’s Greatest Evangelist and the book website is at: http://BillyGrahamBio.com Watch the short book trailer for Billy Graham at: http://bit.ly/BillyGrahamBT His website is located at: www.terrywhalin.com. Follow him on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/terrywhalin

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One comment

  1. Perseverance and persistence. Got it.
    Thanks, Terry.

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