Freelance Writers: 4 Types of Publications You Should Pitch

4 Types of Publications You Should Pitch
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Along with Carol Tice of Make a Living Writing, Linda is offering the Freelance Writer’s Pitch Clinic, where you’ll learn how to pitch editors and land the writing gigs you want.

You have a stellar article idea. Now comes the hard part: where to send your pitch?

You don’t know any good publications for your idea off the top of your head, so you slog over to the local Barnes & Noble and rifle through the newsstand.

And…you find only one magazine that fits your idea. Is it even worth writing up a query letter? You head home, despondent, scrap your previously promising idea, and vow to try again with another topic.

If this sounds like something you’ve done, I want to tell you a secret. Come closer… closer… no, not that close! Here it is:

By relying only on your local newsstand, you missed out on hundreds of publications you could have pitched.

There’s a metric buttload of publications out there, just waiting for enterprising writers who think beyond the newsstand. So leave the bookstore to the writers who don’t know any better, while you pitch these lesser-known but often well-paying markets.

Trade magazines: They’re not glamorous, but they pay well

For years, my stock in trade was, well, trade magazines. These are business-to-business publications that are read by people in a certain industry. For example, I’ve written for:

  • In-Plant Graphics, for owners of in-plant print shops

  • The Federal Credit Union, for CU execs

  • Pizza Today, which targets pizza restaurant owners and managers

  • Boating Industry, for businesses that make and sell boats and boat-related products

  • Independent Joe, a magazine for Dunkin’ Donuts franchise owners

I admit it — with trades, the glamour factor is missing in action. You won’t get the same thrill seeing your byline in Boating Industry as you would in Glamour.

But guess what? I’m not in this game for the bylines. I’m in it for the paychecks. (Agree? Click to tweet this idea.) Trades’ payment levels are all over the map, but the ones I wrote for typically paid from 30 to 50 cents per word.

Even better, trades are much easier to break into than newsstand pubs. Instead of crafting a fully fleshed-out query letter, you can often get your foot in the door with a query/letter of introduction hybrid — a letter that introduces you as a writer and quickly presents three or four ideas you have for the magazine.

Find trade magazines in Writer’s Market and directories like Tradepub.com.

Foreign magazines: Look around the world to find paying markets

Born in the USA! Proud to be an American! And all that jazz!

Sure, the United States is home to tons of magazines that hire freelancers. But other countries have paying markets too – and a lot of them need English-speaking writers, so your natural knowledge of your native tongue can be an advantage.

Because most American writers stick to U.S. publications, the competition for overseas gigs is a lot less fierce. And — hooray! — the pay can compare well to what you’d earn from an American market, depending on the country.

In terms of finding international magazines, Google is your friend: Just type in the country with your keywords and start surfing through the results. For example, if you write about architecture, a quick Google search comes up with this extensive list of English-speaking architecture magazines around the world.

Target international publication gigs the same way you would sell to U.S. markets: with a well-crafted query letter.

Custom publications: Hiding in plain sight

The magazine you get at Hannaford supermarkets. The publication your insurance company sends you in the mail. The one you pick up at your kid’s Taekwondo school while he’s working on his roundhouse kicks.

You may not even think of these as potential markets, but many of these magazines — called custom publications — assign articles to freelance writers. Not only that, they pay well: up to $1 per word and even more.

Custom publications are basically marketing vehicles, but you write for them in a journalistic style just as you would for a newsstand magazine. Some examples are:

  • ATA World, the magazine of the American Taekwondo Association

  • Fresh, for Hannaford supermarkets

  • WagWorld, for Purina’s Beneful dog food

  • Stronger, a magazine for Gold’s Gym members

  • Costco Connection, for customers of — guess what? — Costco

Keep an eye out at the businesses you frequent and in your mailbox for custom publications you can pitch, and also visit the Custom Content Council and search for companies that create materials in your niche.

Break in with a query/LOI hybrid or a well-researched query letter on a topic of interest to the publication’s readers. Don’t worry about trying to be “salesy” — these custom media projects are not at all about the hard sell, but instead aim to educate, entertain, and inform their readers.

Business communications: Go directly to the source

I’m going to say something crazy: You can find places to sell your articles by skipping magazines and online publications altogether.

So what’s left?

Actually, what’s left are the tons of businesses that need articles ghostwritten for magazines, newsletters, websites, and blogs. (I count blog posts as articles because of the popularity these days of long-form posts.)

For example, an online shoe retailer may need articles on how to find the best fit for its newsletter, or a consulting firm might want ghostwritten articles they can submit to trade magazines in their industry.

If you aim for successful, profitable, medium-to-large businesses, the pay can be pretty darn good: I’m talking $75 per hour or even more.

The trick to landing these business clients is to pick a niche where you have some experience — whether it’s through a previous job or your education — and write a letter of introduction where you show you’ve researched the company and have found something they’re missing. For example, the company may not have a compelling newsletter, or their blog might be stagnant. Then you sell the benefits of these projects — and yourself as the perfect writer.

The next time you have a brilliant article idea, sure, check out the local newsstand. But also widen your scope to trades, custom pubs, international magazines, and businesses — and watch your portfolio grow.

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Linda Formichelli is the author of the new book How to Do It All: The Revolutionary Plan to Create a Full, Meaningful Life — While Only Occasionally Wanting to Poke Your Eyes Out With a Sharpie. Go to the book website to lear... .

The Renegade Writer | @LFormichelli

Linda Formichelli

Comments

  1. This has been one of the most helpful posts in The Write Life I’ve read so far. Thank you so much! I”ll be looking into all four markets for work. I’ve been published in two magazines who love my work. However, there’s only so many articles you can write for just two publications. It can be a long wait breaking into newsstand magazines.

    • Thanks so much for your kind words…glad the post was helpful to you! Here’s to many more assignments for you!

    • Rose, I have also written a lot for nonsexy trade magazines, including Nation’s Restaurant News, Chain Store Age, and Home Center News (where I was a staffer for 5 years). There is SO much opportunity in writing for trades, and there are so many trades it would blow your mind.

      I met someone yesterday who is writing a lot for a magazine for collectors of antique tractors, of all things. Niche, trade, and company magazines have a ton of great articles. One of my favorite custom mags is the one for the Curves Gyms — maybe because it has the same name as my sister: Diane.

  2. Fantastic tips. It’s so true that there are a lot of markets for us that are not obvious. Doing a google search using keywords us an awesome tip.

    • Yes, so many writers forget Google! I had one mentoring client who wanted to write about floor tiles, and I did a Google search and found SEVEN trade magazines that dealt with that topic!

  3. Being a newish freelancer targeting businesses in the equine industry, you’ve given me some extra ideas for building my portfolio (and checking account) while staying in my niche. Very useful tips (and links) — Thanks Linda!

    • I’ll bet there are a TON of publications for horse owners (consumer mags) AND businesspeople in the equine industry (trade mags). I hope you have much success!

      • Thanks, Linda. There are dozens of consumer pubs that I can think of off the top of my head. Writer’s Market isn’t as helpful in this niche as some others, but Google and the American Horse Publications website are great resources. Looking into trades for markets like veterinarians, farriers, feed manufacturers, etc.

        The horse industry directly pumped $39 billion (yes, with a B!) into the US economy in 2005, and had a $102 Billion impact if you counted in industry suppliers and employees. (Statistics thanks to the American Horse Council). (I love doing research…)

  4. Very interesting article in which I learned things I didn’t know. Thank you… thank you!

    I just bought the Writer’s Market 2014 as my other one was so old that the information was out of date big time… but I am a bit disapointed as many canadian editors or mags are not in it anymore eventhough they are still living and kicking.

    I have a question. Maybe you or one of your friends or fellow writers would know… I am searching — should I say desperatly — the French version of the Writer’s Market. Is some of you would know if such publication exists? Or a web site I haven’t found yet? I am searching mostly for the complete list (yesssss this is a lot) of the French language magazines in the world or in Canada and Europe.

    As I am now living in a very English part of Canada, it is not easy to find some references.
    So, if somebody has a clue for me, it would be very welcome 🙂

    Thank you all and have a wonderful spring day!.

  5. I tell others the same thing about my field, it’s not sexy but it pays. I will be bookmarking this post, ideas are already popping up! Thanks!

  6. Thank you for your wonderful and most helpful article. This is just what we needed to see. I appreciate your generosity, and the brilliance of your insights. All best, ds

  7. Superb ideas Linda! I hadn’t thought to pitch to international publications but will be making this a priority from now on.

  8. Hi Linda,
    I really enjoyed this post, have it bookmarked and am going to put into practice your suggestions here.

    Thanks a lot and happy writing! 🙂

  9. Brilliant advice, and there’s nothing like a rainy day for putting it into practice. Thank you.

  10. Anne Vinnola says:

    Excellent article! I have some great ideas to get started now!

  11. Great article! Very helpful, I’ve taken notes. But the one thing I will be using as soon as possible – “metric buttload”. My brother and I have been using “buttload” frequently since 1989. I can’t wait to stun him with this.

  12. Smart, I love it! Thanks!

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