As aspiring writers, one of the biggest goals to strive for is getting published. It's a necessary stepping stone and a key element to the success and prospects of our writing careers.
Our credibility greatly depends on our published work, so the more success we find in it, the better it is for our writing journeys. Getting published means going through a submissions process, being edited, rewriting and being edited again - all before actually being published.
These processes are a vital part of your growth as a writer, and magazine work offers you this opportunity for growth in abundance (if you approach it in the right way).
Magazines are one of the biggest publishing avenues the industry has to offer, but like books, are often considered a 'pipe-dream'. So, how do you get published in a magazine? It's not as hard as you may think...
1. Decide Where To Start
The first thing you should be sure of is where you want your work published. A simple way to guide you through making this decision is to look for a magazine that you enjoy reading.
Your favourite magazines will be where your interests lie, and therefore the articles featured will most likely be what you yourself are striving towards. It's a privilege freelance writers get - to be able to choose the topics that interest us and write about them.
Top Tip: Don't waste the opportunity - when you can, write about your passions.
Every magazine will have its own unique style. Think about what kind of writing style comes naturally to you - you may find that there's a publication out there that suits your voice from the get-go.
Alternatively, and more commonly - you will have to adapt your writing style to suit the vibe of a specific publication. But don't let this get you down - it's part of your growth as a writer. Writing in different styles will increase your versatility, as well as help you hone in on what you're best at.
2. Know Your Target Audience
Magazines are all about readership and every magazine will have a target audience. Whether it's an older, more sophisticated generation or a younger, tech-savvy audience, your article should first and foremost be aligned to the specified readership of the publication.
The magazine Frankie - for example, says their magazine is:
Aimed at women (and men) looking for a magazine that’s as smart, funny, sarcastic, friendly, cute, rude, arty, curious and caring as they are. We cover design, art, photography, fashion, travel, music, craft, interiors and real-life stories – we aim to surprise and delight readers with every turn of our beautifully matte pages, and have a good old laugh while doing so."
On the other hand, Top Gear is clearly aimed at males who have a passion for cars. Alternatively, Vogue, has a completely different target audience of wealthy, fashion-loving women who are designer-minded. When you understand the target audience, you will be able to tweak your pitch and your work accordingly.
3. Be Familiar With the House Style
Some magazines have a writing style that's cheeky with a dash of sarcasm, while others may be more formal and straight to the point. Every magazine has a 'house-style' that writers are expected to adhere to.
House styles greatly depend on the type of content each magazine publishes, and ensures that the publication has a coherent flow overall.
A standard news website for example, would lean towards a reportage, formal writing style while a quirky fashion magazine would perhaps have a more opinionated, casual writing style.
Most publications will outline their desired style on their website. Your integration and swift adaptation to this will be noticed.
Top Tip: Another must is to read their previously published articles. This will give you a comprehensive idea of what topics and in what style the magazine generally publishes.
4. Edit and Perfect Your Work
Your reputation as a writer is at stake and the person you want to impress is your editor. From an editor's point of view, it will frustrating to read someone’s work carelessly pitched or executed.
Instead of sending in work that are merely drafts, proofread it more than once. Always look out for the details that matter such as punctuation, grammar and spelling.
You want an editor to look forward to reading your work, instead of dreading it.
By constantly upholding writing principles such as these, your polished work will make an impression with the editor. A good impression will also make it more likely for you to receive more writing jobs in the future.
Top Tip: Another effective way to proof-read your work is to read it aloud, as you will start to hear the unnecessary words and poorly phrased sentences.
5. Pitch Your Stories Professionally
In an email pitch to the magazine publication of your choice, introduce yourself then present your pitch in an engaging, courteous and professional manner.
You are not only making an impression on yourself as a writer, but creating a gateway for relationship and opportunities in the future.
In the same manner you approached with your pieces of work, proofread your emails as these say as much about you as your work does. It will also be helpful to editors for you to include links to your portfolio or other examples of your work, to give them a better idea of your writing skills.
When creating your pitch, take these questions into account:
- Why should they publish your work?
- Is this what their readership is interested in?
- Will this get more people drawn towards their magazine?
An essential part of this process takes us back to the starting point of knowing the magazine inside out by researching what they have published beforehand and who their target audience is.
6. Take Constructive Criticism Well
One of the most crucial, yet often overlooked (or negatively portrayed) parts of being a writer is being able to accept constructive criticism. Whether you fail or succeed in getting your work published, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback.
Feedback from an editor can only serve as a positive influence in your career if you take it on board in the right way. Continuously improve your writing with the advice from the editors who have more experience in the writing industry.
Often, editors might respond with feedback that will require further editing of your work. Revisiting your work, incorporating suggestion and tidying up loose ends is a mark of consistency and respect. It shows the editor that you're serious about your work.
Don't feel as though you have to accept every change to your work (it's your name on it at the end after all), but do engage in a friendly, constructive conversation with your editor regarding any suggestions.
Top Tip: Always remain respectful and professional.
7. Learn to Build Relationships
The conversation between your editor and yourself is as important as sending in good pieces of work. Maintaining professionalism, consistency as well as a critical and insightful attitude towards your work cannot be overstated.
Essentially, first impressions are significant but a long-lasting drive and passion towards your writing is what will help you find more opportunities to work with in the long run.
Think about it from an editor's perspective: would you give a job to someone who is only interested in doing well just one time?
Each time you submit your polished work is working towards building a better reputation for yourself. Remember that your editor, and indeed, the magazine is investing in you. You want to return their investment ten-fold.
8. Always Keep Trying
The more you write, the better you will be and the more confidence you will have. So keep striving to better your craft. Instead of constantly comparing your work to that of others, acknowledge that you're at a different stage in your career, and try to learn from them.
As writers, we improve not only by receiving feedback from editors but also by reading. Reading gives us an opportunity to improve our own writing and be inspired. In the words of Jane Yolen:
Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise the muscles seize up.
Once you’ve gained some momentum, it’s hard to stop.