Question of the day: I'm curious about how you broke into writing for major women's magazines. Is it hard to do so? Harder now with the economy than it used to be? You did a great blog a while back about how you packaged a story with a "Why You Resist/Why We Insist" theme and I wondered how a big a part of the process that is -- coming up with the catchy concept and headline.
I'm going to break this question up into a few parts because it has a lot of different elements to it, so check back for the answers to the second and third questions.
I think I've chatted about this before, but I'm happy to revisit. I broke into women's magazines in a fairly untraditional manner: I did it with no magazine experience. Basically, many years ago, I was doing some celebrity ghostwriting for a PR firm (yes, celebs hire ghostwriters and don't pen things themselves), and I was antsy to break out and do some editorial work. I was planning my wedding at the time, so sent of a pitch letter to The Knot, which now is a magazine, but back then, was only a website. I figured it would be an easy way to break in. Well, as fate would have it, they were looking for a ghostwriter for one of their books. I submitted a proposal, along with some sample chapters, and they hired me. I know. I couldn't have been more floored.
While the experience was less than ideal (for reasons I won't publicly get into - and don't take this as disparaging against the current Knot - this was years ago and many editorial teams ago), I have no regrets about it. Because with that on my pitch letter, "I recently ghostwrote XYZ for The Knot," I broke down my first door. I fired off a query to Bride's, based on a similar subject to the book, and voila, was granted my first feature. Easy as pie!
Ha! While it didn't take me long to break in, once I broke in, it DID take me a looooong time to land something else worthwhile. I did contract one other feature relatively quickly, only to be met with a swift and nasty kill fee, for reasons never explained to me and yeah, oh boy, was that demoralizing. (And FYI, in my defense, I'd freaking outlined the piece AND written half of it in proposal form, so to this day, I remember that editor and would never work with her again.) So instead of concentrating on features, I opted to really bone up my clips: I started pitching FOBs and a variety of websites, who always need more articles than magazines do, and slowly, things began snowballing for me. Cooking Light and Men's Health (I adore those editors to this day) began contracting a bunch of my FOB ideas, and eventually, I was able to leverage my good work with those shorter articles into feature pieces, not only for those original magazines but others as well.
Breaking into magazines requires a lot, A LOT of patience. There is very, very little instant gratification but if you realize you're in it for the long-haul, and attack your career with that mentality - whittling away piece by piece - I do think that you can find success.
So I'd love to hear from readers how YOU broke into mags.