Magazine Writing — Gathering Intel

So you want to write for a magazine?

If that is the case--one of the most important things you will do is study publications that you want to submit material to in query form. But what is the best way to go about that?

Let's face it, buying tons of magazines can be really expensive. (Fun, but expensive!) So how do you do your research in the way that it makes the most sense?

Gathering intel about a publication has some distinct steps, and before you decide what publications you want to pitch, you'll need to narrow the field. Here's how:

  • Browse at the bookstore, grocery store and convenient store. Each of these places will probably have a slightly different selection. Start keeping track of magazines that you are interested in. Don't just do this should be an ongoing investigation.
  • Follow up with online research. Many print publications offer extra (and often, different) content on their website than they do in the glossy. Be sure to check that out too--it will offer additional insight into the types of articles they are looking to include.
  • Read the guidelines for writers if available. This will also offer you a window into the type of content the magazine wants.

OK! So you've done some preliminary groundwork and narrowed down the list of magazines you hope to get published in one day. Now what?

Now you need to study them.

This means getting several (I suggest at least 5) issues of the magazine. This also means you'll either need to buy them or find them somewhere. Here are some suggestions for how to do that:

  • Subscribe. This is the best solution--if you can afford it. If you subscribe to the magazine you will have all the issues on hand to compare/contrast and check out at will. Many publications offer fairly reasonable subscription prices, so this can be a good move. Plus, as long as you try to pitch the magazine, you should be able to write the subscription off at tax time (be sure to consult your tax professional regarding the particulars--I'm not an expert!).
  • Go to the library. Not the top solution, because you will only be able to view one month at a time, and not every magazine will be available. Still, it's free, and typically a good choice for those on a limited budget.
  • Ask around. Want to get published in Cosmopolitan? See if a friend might have a subscription--and give you her old copies. Or maybe your dentist's office will let you pick up old copies of their subscriptions when the new ones come in. Sometimes just putting the info out there that you are looking for copies of a particular magazine will yield results.
  • Hang at the bookstore. This can be nicer than going to the library since you can grab a coffee or tea and snack too. I take my computer with me and jot down some notes about magazines I'd like to pitch. That way I'm not relying on my memory only.

Gathering some intel on magazines can be a lengthy process--but it doesn't have to be an expensive one.  Targeting the right magazines, and using a bit of creativity in how you research the articles inside can prevent you from spending a fortune just to get published.


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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.

1 thought on “Magazine Writing — Gathering Intel”

  1. Great tips!

    I’d love to hang out at a bookstore again; however, I don’t have many bookstores where I live. Hmmm…Maybe I should open one? 🙂 I volunteered for Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Arizona and it was awesome! Not only did I meet a lot of authors, I received a gift card for my volunteer services. This is how I accumulated many books and magazines. Of course, I’d stop in and check out the new inventory. If you’re ever in the Phoenix area, visit Changing Hands. You won’t want to leave.


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