Breaking Into Major Magazines: Smart Moves
Author: Marcia Yudkin
Here are 10 tips on getting past the threshold of Maybe to Yes
at top magazines.
- Put timing on your side. You can change a perennial story, where there's
no special reason to do it now rather than next year, to one that prompts
an immediate assignment by adding a connection to some upcoming season or
event. For instance, the disposable versus cloth diaper debate; lacks any
time element. But you can peg it to Earth Day, coming up in April, or specific
future environmental pow-wows. You can get the same effect by tying a perennial
topic to recent front-page news. If devastating floods are lingering in
North Carolina, use that to make a piece on adequately insuring a business
- Freshen up perennial topics. Some magazines revisit the same topics again
and again because relationships, or toilet training, or camping in national
parks lie at the core of the magazine's mission. Hunt back about four or
five years in the magazine's archives for these central topics and update
- Create cover-worthy article titles. Editors sweat over the blurbs that
go on the magazine cover. If you study the kinds of blurbs they favor, and
give a similar title to your proposed article, you may score an assignment
from a title that is exactly on target.
- Be brief and detailed. This combination of skills has great value in
the magazine world, and a query offers a perfect setting to demonstrate
your mastery of rich compression. Let every sentence sparkle with detail,
but say just enough to get the idea across.
- Stay ahead of the pack. I once heard someone say that if you've read
about an issue in Time or Newsweek, you're too late to query other top magazines
on it. Spend energy pursuing stories that seem both trendy and unexplored.
- Get your details right. Nothing kills confidence faster than factual
errors! Recheck all information in your query before sending it.
- Be truthful. Don't exaggerate the facts of a story, don't present fiction
as real and don't inflate your credentials. This should go without saying,
but not long ago a freelance writer sold an article in which she had presented
a story she heard from a fellow airline passenger as something that had
happened to her. She claimed she didn't realize that that was unethical.
- Don't have a hidden agenda. Forget about any kind of revenge story, or
about hyping a company in which you have some sort of covert financial interest.
- Show enthusiasm. Make sure your writing feels alive and flavorful, not
parched and pinched. I've heard a number of editors say they like to work
with writers who show enthusiasm for their work.
- Flatter an editor. A good number of editors write on the side for other
publications, and if you happen to spot his or her freelance work and mention
it in your query, you win points. Mentioning that you liked a particular
issue of the magazine, or a certain cover story, helps build rapport, too.
Make sure that any praise is specific and sincerely enthusiastic.
Marcia Yudkin is a syndicated columnist
and author of eleven books as well as the creator of a new home-study course,
Breaking Into Major Magazines, from which the above is excerpted. For more information,
Copyright 2001 Marcia Yudkin. All rights reserved.