Become a Magazine Writer or Freelancer

A career as a magazine writer can be rewarding and fun. You get to meet and work with interesting people, learn about new topics and craft fascinating stories that readers enjoy. It is also very competitive and a job that requires diligence and patience. Once you see your name in print for the first time, you will know that your hard work paid off.

Getting a break in the magazine world is not easy, but it is possible for any talented writer. There are many magazines—from large to small—that rely on great writers to give their readers what they want. It is an exciting career, and there are a few ways to approach it.

What Magazine Writers Do

Magazine writers are essentially ​journalists. They find, research and write stories that interest readers. The kind of journalism that magazine writers focus on varies greatly from journalism for other publications, such as daily newspapers and blogs.​

With few exceptions, magazine writers often produce feature-oriented pieces. Some magazine writers focus on smaller stories, while others produce long-form, or narrative, pieces. It can include exclusive interviews with sought-after subjects and celebrities that can be several pages long.

It is increasingly common that magazines need stories for their online publications as well. Some of these stories never make it to print. Instead, they are published solely on the magazine’s website.

Full-Time and At-Large

Full-time positions as magazine writers are some of the most coveted in the print media world. Some lucky—and of course talented—writers take positions as staff writers for magazines. Staff writers usually work in the office and have more of a 9-to-5 schedule.

Other magazine writers have official affiliations with magazines and may have “at large” titles like writer-at-large or editor-at-large. It typically means that they get assigned a certain number of stories for a set fee. These positions often require no time in the office.

Freelance Life

Due to the nature of magazine writing, many magazine writers work as freelancers. Some have cushy at-large positions, while others live assignment-to-assignment. Freelance magazine writers who don’t have steady gigs—i.e., stories for a certain section that magazine editors regularly assign to them—can find it stressful to chase assignments constantly.

Some full-time freelance writers find success pitching stories, but many rely on editors to assign them pieces. The key to being a top-of-mind writer to editors is producing good, timely work. Sending them a scoop now and then doesn’t hurt either.

What Defines a Story

Every editorial staff is different, and quite often a magazine will give first priority to regular contributors. Once you get in with a magazine, they may send out a regular call for stories to their entire pool of writers. It will be a list of topics they are interested in, and each writer can choose which story they want to take on for that particular issue.

How to Get a Job

College or Experience: A college degree helps, particularly a bachelor’s in journalism or a related field. If you want to write for magazines, a solid education in writing, composition, proofreading and fact-checking will help significantly. For the right individual with drive and talent, a college degree is not always necessary. Experience and a long list of published articles can also get your foot in the door of some magazines.
Get an Internship: Many magazines offer internships, and though they are often unpaid or pay very little, they can offer valuable experience.

These positions will give you insight into the publishing process and look good on your resume and CV. Magazines will often give former interns a chance to write for them in the future as well.

Read Magazines: It is important that you gain an understanding of the style of magazine journalism. It is different than writing for a daily newspaper, and the best way for you to familiarize yourself with it is to read. It is often called learning your market, and it is essential, particularly if you wish to focus on niche topics such as beauty, fashion or technology. Through this research, you will learn about story length and format and how magazine writers capture a reader’s attention.

Start Writing: Writers need samples of their work and practice honing their skills. The best way to do that is to write and write often. Give yourself assignments and write sample stories, pick up a side gig with a local publication or do some work for a blog. It will create a body of work that you can show editors when sending queries.​

Develop a Niche and a Style: Every writer has their own voice, and many choose to focus their career on a certain topic. While you may start off as a generalist, finding a niche that you love to write about is good on many fronts. It keeps you motivated and allows you to concentrate and gain authority on a certain topic. It will also show editors that you are dedicated to the topic and give you industry contacts that will be helpful for future stories. A niche doesn’t have to be extremely narrow, either. An entry-level tech writer may not focus just on the Windows platform alone, but rather on the broader scope of computers, software and the business of technology. Many writers will concentrate on broad topics like politics or business, food or lifestyle, entertainment or sports.

Persistence is Key: The magazine world is very competitive, and it can be frustrating at times, especially when you have ten queries to editors out there and have received no response. Try not to get disheartened. Persistence will keep you motivated, so send out those queries and pitches and wait for editors to respond. If you don’t hear from an editor after a few weeks, send them another pitch or send that story you really care about to another editor (be careful about sending it to too many editors all at once). The magazine editorial process can be very slow at times and after persistence comes patience.

Love the Deadline: Deadlines are key to any writer’s success, and it is vital that you make every deadline you are given. It can be easy to procrastinate and put off a story until the last minute, but you need to think about the quality of your story as well. A writer who consistently misses deadlines will get a reputation, and that can significantly affect your prospects in the future. Learn to love deadlines and consider them essential to your career.


Facts About Magazines

At the MPA/PBAA Retail Marketplace conference in Philadelphia, Gil Brechtel, from the Magazine Information Network (MagNet) presented 14 fun facts about the magazine business at retail outlets in the United States. His fun facts, all based on research and analysis from MagNet, were so intriguing, I asked him for permission to post them here… so here are 14 fascinating and educating fun facts about the magazine business at the newsstands:

1. About 50% of all magazine copies are sold on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The lowest selling day of the week is Wednesday, with only about 11.5% of the total sold on an average week.

2. November is the weakest month for magazines sales, even though the day before Thanksgiving is among the best magazine sales days each year.

3. Bookazine sales typically spike during the first few weeks of July, where the average cover price of all magazines sold during that period has ballooned by about 12% in recent years.

4. Average monthly sales in June, July and August are 7% higher than the rest of the year, helped by a spike in teen and children magazine title sales!
December is a good month for those categories also.

5. On average, the biggest week to week sales gain comes during week 13, around the last week of March, where sales are consistently 8-10% higher during this week compared to week 12.

6. Friday, followed by Sunday, are the two best days for magazine sales in airport terminals.

7. Although Saturday is generally the best magazine sales day of the week, in July, Sunday sales outpace Saturday sales by almost 8%.

8. In the fall, celebrity title sales usually dip, while titles in the Food, Health and Automotive categories spike during the 4th quarter.

9. The computer category has the highest overall cover price of copies sold. The average cover price peaked at about $10.70 in Dec 2012. That is a 20% increase over 2010 prices.

10. Sales tails matter! Bookazines and other SIPS on sale for 2 months or longer sell nearly 20% of their copies after they’ve been on the shelves more than 6 weeks.

11. Supercenters show strong seasonal magazine sales increases in the summer, experiencing up to a 50% average surge in sales in the first three weeks of July!

12. Based on MagNet’s sample of non-bookstore retailers, 20% of all books sold in 2012 were sold on Saturdays. Friday is the second highest sales day.

13. Only 10% of Newsstand COT sales occur on Saturday, as opposed to nearly 20% at Bookstores.

14. How important to the industry are celebrity titles? Celebrity magazines sell more copies than the total sales of titles in the Food, Games, Health, Automotive, Home, Lifestyle and Teen categories combined.


‘Charmed Bracelets’ – Wear Your Story on Your Wrist

Charm bracelets can actually tell you a lot about the people who wear them. Some prefer kitschy miniature versions of the Eiffel Tower, and others go for hearts and stars. But, one main thing in common is that you get to show your story to the others. Tracey Zabar, a jewelry designer, actually wrote a book exploring the enduring popularity of bracelets.

And, believe it or not, charm bracelets have been around since the ancient times. In fact, humans would carry talismans as charms to repel evil or bring good luck. And those are the origins her book “Charmed Bracelets” speaks of. This book will tell you about the heights of the popularity charms had in the fifties, the fallout it went through during the women’s movement, and lastly, it will take you through their revival we can see going on right now.

In her book, she explains exactly why these charms are so appealing. In fact, she goes into detail describing the innate beauty these charms bear. Just think about it, there are so many things about them for you to like. They jingle while you walk, they sparkle, they are pretty, and, people simply love coming in close and examining each little charm dangling from the bracelet.

But, the most incredible feature these bracelets have is their power to tell a story. Each and every charm can store your fondest memories. You can cover your bracelet in numerous little figures and souvenirs. You can get a matching charm for every big occasion. So, feel free to collect them and store them on your bracelet for years to come.

Truly, to wear a charm bracelet is to wear your story on your sleeve. And, while the most important piece of jewelry most women have is their wedding ring, charm bracelets take close second place. These bracelets are also excellent conversation pieces. In fact, it is not rare for women to talk to you about their own bracelets upon seeing yours.

After all, jewelry is one of the methods women advertise their status, their power, and social position. Jewelry offers you a way to flaunt, bedazzle, seduce, or woo. And, for all they are, charm bracelets are an incredible feminine autobiography around your wrist. They can express who you are in a subtle way.

You can customize your charm bracelet any way you want. You can use charms that are feminine, whimsical, funny, or even glamorous. They simply demand the attention of others and turn eyes wherever you are. In fact, when it comes to Tracey Zabar, it is that attention that convinced her to start creating her own bracelets. She would walk around in the middle of New York, and women would approach her to talk about her bracelet. And, not long after, she had many of them asking her to create bracelets for them too. She found out that there is an emotional goldmine she could start using to open her own store.