Written By Lara Manetta

How to Write for Your Favorite Publications

The world of popular magazines and websites can be incredibly intimidating. Writing for them can seem like that’s something for other, more qualified people, not you. That you need some sort of invitation or special permission to get your name on those pages.

But, the secret is that there is no secret to getting in on the game. Most of the sites and magazines you read every day are written by writers just like you. And every one of those writers was just breaking in, once.

Whether you’re a novice writer starting out or a content mill refugee searching for better paying work, clips from digital and print publications are within your reach. And, there are a lot of reasons to go for them. These outlets typically offer far more money than the reliable but low-paying mills. Even the ones that don’t offer a huge amount per word can be a path to better pay overall. The more bylines you collect, the easier it is to get more paying gigs.

But, if you haven’t written for a magazine or website before, it can be hard to figure out where to start. Where do they find their writers? Do you have to know someone? Do these publications assign articles, or should you be coming to them with ideas of your own?

Most of my income comes from ghostwriting. While the money is good, it has one marked downside: I have very few bylines I can share when I’m searching for new work. A sudden hole in my schedule motivated me to start seeking out more clips with my name on them. I’m having to dust off some dormant skills and get back out there hunting for opportunities. I thought it’d be useful for others who are either new to writing or rusty like me to see how to go about scoring work with the publications they love.

First Find Their Guidelines

Whenever I visit a new digital publication, there are three places I hit first: About, Contact and the bottom menu of the page.

Why? Because these are where you’ll find the submission guidelines. They’re not always labeled that way. Often, you’ll see “Write for Us” or something similar instead.

Once in a very long while, writing opportunities will show up on the “Careers” page. It’s not the first place to look, as freelancers are not publication employees; but, every now and then a site or publication looking for a regular contributor will post their need there.

These guides will tell you what sorts of stories the publication is looking for and what they aren’t. They will also give you vital details like desired length and voice. There may even be an editorial calendar you can check so you can tune your pitch to fit upcoming needs.

When you are ready to send a query, make sure that you format your submission exactly as noted in the guidelines. This includes linking to existing work, if requested, and sticking to the specified query length. Editors are constantly slammed with queries. They don’t have time to wade through a request that doesn’t fit their format. Give them every reason to keep reading by conforming to their requests.

Find Out Who Pays What

Before you start pitching a market, you’ll probably want to know what your efforts will pay. This is something that is rarely listed in submission guidelines. So, how do you figure out how much your work will be worth?

WhoPaysWriters is a resource I hit every single time I find a new publication I want to pitch. This anonymous database has information about hundreds of publications that includes the rate paid, how long it took to pay and what relationship, if any, the writer had before sending their pitch.

Take to Twitter

One way to really increase your chances of having a pitch turn into a job is to send editors what they are hungry for right that moment. And no place is better for that than Twitter.

Many editors have their emails in their Twitter bios and will post calls for submissions when they have need of specific types of stories. Often, they’ll let you know what they don’t want, which is just as valuable as what they do. For instance, a Self Magazine editor recently tweeted that she was inundated with personal experience essays when what she really needed was informational articles with a personal slant. It’s not hard to alter your focus from your personal experience with hot yoga to an article on why hot yoga might not be the best pick for everyone.

There’s a lot of noise, but Twitter’s search tool can yield some gems. Good search terms to try include pitches, pitch me, send me and submit. While researching for this article alone, I found active calls for submissions for The Baffler, several writing contests and a number of literary journals.

Plus, when you are looking for people to follow, don’t limit yourself to publications and their editors. Submittable, the utility many publishers use for submissions, has its own Twitter where they feature different calls for submissions.

The Worst You’ll Hear is “No”

Now that you know where to send pitches, are you stuck at the edge of the ledge? This is me telling you to jump.

Not sure your previous clips are up to muster? Pitch them anyway. Not sure how many freelance submissions they accept in general? Pitch them anyway. Not sure if the publication you are looking at would be interested in the story you have to tell? Pitch it anyway?

If an editor isn’t interested in your submission, the worst you’ll hear is no. And, no leaves you no worse off than you were before. In fact, you probably won’t even get a no. You’ll just hear nothing.

And, you know what? That’s fine. Not getting the assignment is not an indictment of your idea, your writing or you as a person (as much as writers tend to think it is). Rejections aren’t personal. All they mean is that your particular story didn’t fit that particular editor’s needs at that particular time.

So, if at first you don’t succeed. Pitch again. Keep send those queries out. Sooner or later, one of them is going to land in the right inbox and you’ll get an offer.

Keep at it, and before too long, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to see your name in the publications you enjoy.

Bio: Lara Manetta is a professional writer whose work has appeared in Eating Well Magazine, AOL’s Green Daily, The Dollar Stretcher and other publications. She is a contract writer with Bryant Street Books and ghostwrites fiction and nonfiction for the Michael Levin Writing Company. Find her at GhostonDemand.com.

Your Comments:

  1. Viney Kirpal says:

    Insightful and useful.

  2. Maxine Clark says:

    Than you!

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