Today an aspiring writer asked me for advice on submitting articles to magazines. Besides writing a few short stories for national magazines and entertaining the idea of breaking into the market, I have little experience. Yet I wondered how different writing for magazines can be than writing for any market.
While every writing media has its own little nuances, there is usually one similarity, regardless of what market a writer chooses to write for. To attract the attention of an editor of publisher, you must write something that sparks your own passions.
Before you head out to the library or local newsstand to buy the latest copies of every magazine you dream to write for, you need to decide what exactly it is that you want to write. Define your passion. What do you love? What topics interest you most? What are your hobbies? What do you like to talk about at parties? Topics that are fascinating to you will be a pleasure to research and write. But you are wasting your time if you try to write on a subject just because it's hot and has a large market.
You can't fake your way through a piece on the NFL draft to please Sports Illustrated if you don't care for football. Readers will see right through you. Just because cooking is all the rage, you can't market yourself as the next Paula Dean if you hate to cook. It's so simple, it's amazing that many writers still miss it.
I write--or desire to write--romantic suspense. I was recently told at a writers' conference that many publishers aren't buying romantic suspense right now. Editors are looking for historicals or anything--and I mean anything--with an Amish theme. Sadly, that's not what I want to write. Instead of beating my head against a wall until an Amish romance fall out onto the page, I need to produce the best romantic suspense I can and keep honing my craft until the right editor at the right time decides to give my story a chance.
Regardless of what writing medium you write for, sit down and make a list of your passions. Then think of ways you can broaden that scope. What new spin can you put on your topic? Can you make your topic more appealing to women? Or pet owners? Or parents? Continue to broaden your list of possibilites. Chances are you will come up with more angles to the original story that will result in several articles. I know writers who've sold the same article over and over just by making a few alterations and adjustments to suit different markets.
But stay true to your passions. Be who you are. Don't apologize. You are interested in certain subjects for a reason. Chances are there are a lot more people out there interested in the same thing and a magazine or magazines willing to buy your articles to sell to those readers.
There's a lot more to writing for magazines or breaking into any publishing medium, for that matter. But for now we'll stick with the basics. You are an expert at something. Take your knowledge, your interest, your passion, and turn it into the fuel that will create an endless supply of articles.