An Introduction To Writing For Print

First let me take a moment to introduce myself.

My name is Catherine--and the plan is for me to share some information with you about my experience with writing for print. I have been a full-time writer for many years, and have had my writing published in national, regional and trade magazines, as well as newspapers, books and custom publications. I have also written text for calenders and planners.

If it's one thing I love it's helping writers avoid making some of the mistakes that I did along the way.

So why should you listen to me? I'll give you three reasons:

  1. I have made piles of money writing for print publications.
  2. I have broken into some big mags--examples include American Style, AAA Living, Boys' Life and American Fitness, to name a few.
  3. I am willing to share some of the secrets about writing for print. You will find that not too many print writers want to give away their resources.

So with that...why don't we start this journey by taking a closer look at some of the opportunities out there for getting published on paper. Here are some of the possibilities:

  • Magazines. Don't just think about the publications at your local bookstore--there are plenty of magazines out there that are mailed direct to the customer or are written specifically for a particular trade. I write for a publisher that puts together a lifestyle magazine for a very well-known client, and I have penned many a piece for trade magazines out there as well. Hospitals, associations and non-profits are other places to look for magazine writing opportunities. The pay rate range varies a great deal for this type of writing.
  • Newspapers. There are all kinds of different ways to approach writing for a newspaper. You can get in touch with your local paper to see if they will pay for freelance work or you can write a travel piece for a big city publication. Pay for newspapers tends to be on the low side, but it is a great place to get some published clips if you can find a good angle.
  • Catalogues. This market is not as large as it used to be, but there are still some jobs writing copy in print these days. Many tend to be employee positions, but sometimes you can find a temp spot as a freelancer. Pay varies.
  • Greeting Cards. Create text for birthday cards, thank you cards and sympathy cards and make a little money in the process. You won't get rich off of this one--but it is a fun writing job that doesn't eat up too much time.
  • Calendars and planners. Most of these gigs are on a per-project basis, but they can turn into an ongoing job if you impress the client.
  • Books. You don't have to write an entire book to get published in one. Other opportunities in this arena include travel guidebooks or anthologies. Many will pay in copies or pay writers a nominal fee, but the prestige can be huge. Some will pay a decent stipend, and fewer still will share royalties with the writer.

Although this isn't an exhaustive list of places that you can get published in print, it can help you focus in on an area that you may find interesting. Whether you have been writing for the web or are just getting started on a writing career, print can be a little bit intimidating. Luckily there are plenty of ways to get going.

If you have yet to go into a Borders and pick up a magazine with your byline in it--perhaps it's time to add that to your list of accomplishments. I'll see if I can't help you do just that.

I'm here to tell you--it feels pretty amazing.

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Catherine L. Tully has over nine years of experience writing for magazines such as American Style, AAA Living and Boys' Life. She is the editor for an award-winning blog on freelance writing and also owns and edits a blog for dance professionals.

14 thoughts on “An Introduction To Writing For Print”

  1. Catherine, I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to get published in a national magazine. I got my start in pro writing as a journalist, so I have plenty of local newspaper and teeny tiny magazine writing credits, but I’ve never gone for the big fish. I’m looking forward to your series!

  2. I’m definitely looking forward to what you have to say as well Catherine. As long as the money stays good in the area I work in, I doubt I’ll pursue by-lined print pieces (only print work has been ghostwritten trade pieces for clients as of yet). But that’s why I wanted someone like you on board — to fill in the blanks on things I can’t cover in that area and to serve up some professional tips I can look back on when I am ready to pursue print work. Glad to have you on board! 🙂

  3. Well I hope that I can provide a good deal of solid info for those looking to get published in print. It’s a complicated thing, but once you get the hang of it, it’s so much fun!

    Thanks for the comments ladies!

  4. There are several magzines that I would love to be published in, Cathernie and I’m hoping your posts are going to help with that!

    Definitely looking forward to reading your series.

  5. Catherine has been helpful to me over the past 9 months as I wait for my first accepted and bylined magazine piece to get printed. It was accepted in June, turned in in August and paid in November but still lies waiting for the juicy ink of printdom. Without Catherine’s guidance I would have no idea that this is sometimes how it goes.

  6. I’d like to be published in a national/international magazine. I tried to break into the greeting card field, but it didn’t happen. I’m not sure why because the greeting cards that are out are not that great — just my opinion. I create my own and sell them.

    I’m keeping my fingers crossed and visualizing writing a guidebook. My application/letter went to the top and is in the hands of the editorial team. I’m sure they received a ton of letters and it’s only been one week. I know it takes some time before you hear anything.

  7. Catherine, I’m really looking forward to reading your posts! I’ve broken into a few small niche national magazines but no big glossies yet. I really need to do this – not just because they’re more prestigious – but because as an expat writer, they’re the ones I have the most access to!

  8. @Rebecca…don’t give up! Everything takes forever in print (well, usually). Keep trying the greeting cards too…you never know when you’ll hit! Good luck with the guidebook…let us know how it goes.

    @Barbara…an expat, eh? Very cool. You have a unique viewpoint and much to offer. Think about a travel piece perhaps, depending on where you are living…

    Thanks for the comment, and I hope I can help you reach that next level!

  9. Hi Catherine:

    Love this post–must be the name (my full name is Catherine)-unfortunately I associate it with being in trouble as that’s what my Mom called me every tine I was. 🙂

    I have a question. I have done a ton of ghostwriting of articles but so far my clients have had specific print magazines lined up – industry-specific. I have a client who wants me to do the research and the queries, in addition to the articles.

    Do you have any recommendations for determining a fair fee for this service? I could come up with a fee for queries as I have a pretty good handle on the time needed but I don’t know how much time to consider for the research of targeted magazines and their query guidelines.

    I do subscribe to writers digest so that helps immensely. Thanks for any tips, Catherine!

  10. Cathy–
    (I used to go by Cathy, but when I lived in Japan, Catherine was easier for them to pronounce…it just kind of stuck!)

    It is a bit hard to advise you without knowing what the field is. Some are narrower than others. If there are a lot of magazines that could work, this makes it harder for you. Also, it seems like every print mag has a totally different set of guidelines, so that can also be a time draw. Do you have an hourly rate? Perhaps you could do a “dry run” and see how long it takes to do one. (Maybe even query a piece for yourself!)

    My other piece of advice would be to charge what it’s worth. Don’t hold back because you are afraid the client won’t like it. Make sure your price is something that you feel comfortable making. That way you won’t be upset if it takes some time…

    Does that help at all?

    • Yes, this does help, Catherine. Thank you.

      I thought about it and thought what I might do is limit it to say 10 magazines. The theme is about a healthy lifestyle and targeted to business women so the field is wide open. I always do a formal proposal where I spell out the scope of services. Although I don’t charge an hourly fee, per se, I do know what my bottom line is.

      Appreciate the suggestions. Do you think my approach is a viable one? Have a great weekend!

  11. I do–but narrowing things down to the ten mags will take time too–don’t forget to figure that in. I hate trying to come up with prices–don’t you? 🙂 It would be much nicer if we had an “agent” who did that for us.

    No such luck.

    Thanks for your question–let me know if I can answer anything else for you too!

  12. Thanks, Catherine. I appreciate the help. The worst part of pricing is when you just don’t know how much time will be involved. I broke my proposal down into the research portion, a consultation reviewing the findings, then a fee per query.

    I usually guess wrong the 1st time out but this is how we learn, right? When you find that agent, let me know. 🙂


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