Everyone always says to write about what you know.
What could you know better than your own backyard? Regional magazines are a great way to break into magazine writing.
They’re also a great way to break into a writing niche. If you can write about local dining, why not send those clips to break into a larger market? I used regional magazines to bulk up my portfolio to break into national magazines, but I also still write for some regional publications.
Regional magazines can range from tiny booklets focused on a small local niche to magazines that cover entire states or regions. What they have in common is their focus on a particular area. Some of these are travel magazines focusing on tourism in a region, while others are local dining and foodie guides, and others are focused on outdoor activities or family activities nearby.
Next time you go out to eat or out to the grocery store, take a look at the free magazines on the racks nearby. These magazines need writers. Specifically, writers who are familiar with the local area or the topic of the magazine.
For the last three years, I’ve edited a regional lifestyle magazine, and I’ve also written for a variety of other regional publications. Even in a small mountain town, I have been able to find plenty of publications to write for.
Read on for tips on how to break into the regional magazine market.
Why regional magazines?
If you’re fairly new to freelancing, regional magazines are a good place to get a feel for magazine writing.
These publications generally have fewer writers competing to work for them than most of the big-name newsstand publications you’ll see around town.
If you live in the region, you’ll typically already have the basic familiarity needed to write for these magazines. If you’re a parent, music lover, or foodie, you may have the qualifications to write for the specialized magazines you’ll see targeting local families, music fans, and diners.
Let’s talk about money
Pay can vary widely from publication to publication. Some of these magazines will pay very little while others will pay decent magazine rates. If you’re just breaking into the world of freelancing, writing for local magazines is a great way to get some clips to use as a steppingstone for other publications.
Even experienced writers can make good money working for regional publications. If you know the local area well and are asked to write about, say, the local music scene, an experienced and knowledgeable local writer may be able to crank out a well-researched piece in just an hour or so. If you earn $100 for that article, you’ve just made $100 an hour. Not a bad rate at all.
- Chicago Parent Magazine pays $25 to $100 per article
- Metro Parent (focused on Southeast Michigan parents) pays $35-350
- Raising Arizona Kids pays $50-300
- Western New York Family Magazine pays $40-150
- Hana Hou! Magazine pays $50-175 for most Hawaii-related travel pieces
- Oregon Coast Magazine pays $100-650
Where can you find regional magazines?
Look for free magazines out on the street and by the entrances to local restaurants and businesses. Many of these are looking to hire freelance writers. If your town has a free weekly paper, check it out and see if they’re looking for writers. These publications are typically funded by advertising dollars, so they’ll generally be able to pay freelancers at least a little bit.
Freelancewriting.com also offers a pretty good roundup of some of the larger regional magazines. Many of the publications on this list are subscription-based and sold on newsstands, and they’re often a little more difficult to break into than free publications. But they’re definitely worth a try.
How should you approach and contact regional magazines?
Regional magazines generally don’t have bustling editorial rooms staffed with full-time writers and editors. More likely, they’re run by a team of freelancers who work for the same publisher.
Sometimes, publishers put out multiple publications with the same theme or region. Once you write for a publisher and build a good rapport, you may find it easier to break into some of its sister publications.
Some regional magazines offer detailed freelancer guidelines online. If you’re able to find submission guidelines, be sure to follow those closely.
But many regional magazines don’t have submission guidelines available. Many times, you’ll just find a single email address in a publication. Oftentimes, it’s for a publisher or advertising salesperson — not even the editor you were hoping to reach! It can be a bit tricky to find out who to contact, but it’s worth taking a bit of time to find out.
If there’s an email address or phone number, drop a note or give a call and inquire about freelancing. Once you track down the right email address, send a letter of inquiry along with three or so relevant clips.
And be sure to follow up if you don’t hear back. You might be inquiring when the publication is in the final throes of production. If you don’t hear back, send a polite follow-up two to four weeks later.
What If you don’t have relevant clips?
So, what if you found a regional publication that looks like it’s right up your alley, but you don’t have any relevant clips to send?
As an editor, I want to see that people can write in the style of the publication. The magazine I edit consists mainly of personality and business profiles, so I need to make sure people can conduct interviews and put together a solid profile.
If you don’t have any clips remotely related to what the magazine publishes, you may want to consider writing a sample piece. Most writers don’t like to write on spec and the sample piece may or may not be published, so keep that in mind. But it’s a great way to show an editor your writing chops as well as your dedication to writing for the publication.
I’ve had several writers approach me and offer to write a sample piece. It’s a much better technique than sending in a paper you wrote in college or a blog you write on a completely unrelated topic. While editors like to see that you can write for diverse markets, the one most editors want to see is one that proves you can write for their specific style of publication.
And, even if one regional magazine doesn’t end up being the right match, don’t give up. You’ll likely find many other options in your area. Keep reaching out to your local writing community and you’ll likely find traction before too long.
Have you ever written for regional magazines? What did you like about it?