Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Breaking into Mags - A New Question

How do you begin writing for magazines? Do they ask you, or do you submit material? Do you need to be an expert at a particular topic? How does that work?

There are some good posts in the archives of the blog on smart strategies for getting started, but generally, unless you're an established book author or something similar, you're going to have to submit. And by submit, I mean you're going to have to come up with some unique ideas - editors are always looking for "fresh" angles on the same-old, same-old subjects - and email them to the correct editor. You'll probably have to do this at least several dozen times before you crack anything. Sorry! That's just the truth. How do you craft an idea? Again, there's more detail in the archives, but basically, think of something that would make an interesting story, then come up with an angle that hasn't been covered to death, then toss in some interesting research. Or maybe go at it the reverse way: find a cool new study, then fashion a pitch around it.

You don't have to be an expert in the field, but it's certainly easier if you have some level of familiarity with your subject. For example, of late, I've been doing A TON of parenting stories. Why? I have two kids. But I didn't start writing for parenting magazines until I got pregnant because I simply had no knowledge about what would or wouldn't be interesting to editors/readers, and furthermore, I had no knowledge about any of those potentially interesting subjects. In other words, even if I knew that a story on vaccinations might be interesting, I didn't know anything about the vaccinations themselves, so the learning curve and level of research required would have been huge and too time-consuming to be worth my while. To that end, I do a lot of health and fitness writing because, well, I'm a pretty fit and health-focused gal, so it doesn't take a lot for me to develop story ideas OR to research said articles. Make sense? It's not that I have to have a Ph.D or M.D to write these stories, but I should have a good working base of knowledge. Besides, I'll interview those Ph.Ds and M.D.s for my story.

Does that help? What about you guys? How "expert" are you when it comes to the stories you write?


theheylady said...


You've got a lot of archives here. Do you have any thoughts on where to start wading through for the posts you refer to?

I'll probably just read them all. Tricky marketing tactic!

Allison Winn Scotch said...

You can search by word on the Blogger toolbar up top. Type in "breaking in" or something like that. I believe a few posts should pop up. Hope that helps!