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by Patricia Fry

Eight Steps to Getting Your Articles Published

Do you have an idea or two that you want to develop into articles? Would you like to promote your book through magazine articles? Here’s an easy-to-follow guide that will help you get published.

1. Research the market for which you want to write.

Whether you dream of writing for parenting, spiritual or business magazines, for example, it’s imperative that you study the market. Locate the latest issues of the magazines you want to write for at the newsstand or order copies from the publisher. Find magazine publishers listed in Writer’s Market. Some publishers still send complimentary copies to prospective writers.

Study the magazines from cover to cover. What types of articles do they publish? What is the writing style and the tone of the articles? Even the letters-to-the editor and the ads reveal something about the readership. Request a copy of their Writer’s Guidelines and follow them when designing and submitting your article.

2. List your article ideas.

Most new writers start with a familiar topic—something they know well or something about which they want a voice. Everyone has a pet project or a pet peeve. What’s yours? Environmental issues? Neighborhood Watch? Home schooling? Gardening?

When I started writing for publication 27 years ago, our family was involved in horses. A study of current horse magazines revealed what was and what wasn’t being addressed and that helped me to come up with some good ideas. As a result, I sold articles on tips for recycling your horse show ribbons, hairdos for horse shows, how to raise a foal, caring for the older horse and horse packing tips.

Many of my article ideas are inspired by life and living. I recommend that my student look everywhere for ideas because you never know where you’re going to find them. My grandparenting book was inspired by a conversation I overheard once while waiting in line at the grocery store. I made around $3000 from articles based on the unusual profession of a man I met at a Little League field.

3. Write a query letter.

Although some magazine editors ask for the complete manuscript, most want to see a query letter: a letter describing the article. The query letter is your introduction—your first impression—your sales pitch—your marketing tool. So make it good.

On your letterhead, include the date, a brief synopsis of the article, your qualifications for writing it and your writing credits. Try to keep it to one page.

Always include a self-addressed-stamped envelope (SASE) unless, of course, you send your query electronically. Many editors accept queries via email now.

4. Learn to play the waiting game

An editor’s response can take anywhere from one day (an email reply) to a couple of months. Postal anxiety is common among writers as most of us have an ongoing love affair with our mailboxes. To keep from hinging all of your success and happiness on just one response:

  • Send query letters on the same topic to more than one editor at a time.
  • Write queries on new topics right away so you’re being productive and not simply in wait mode.

Wait 4 – 6 weeks before inquiring about a query or manuscript.

5. Do the research and interviews for the article.

Once you get the go-ahead to write the article, line up your resources.

  • Start a file of articles on topics of interest to you.
  • Use this material to locate experts and fresh information and facts for your article.
  • Study the Guide to Periodical Literature. It’s found in the reference section at your public library. This is a guide to articles published in key magazines within recent months. You can order copies of the articles to use in your research.
  • Study current books on the topic.
  • Use the Internet.
  • Contact people you’ve interviewed before.
  • Talk to friends and associates.

Be sure to log your expert sources so you can use them again. You may want to include them in a sidebar of resources for the article. The editor may also require the names and numbers of your experts for fact-checking.

6. Write the article.

After you’ve completed your research, start writing the article while keeping the editor’s specifications in mind. Do they want a 900-word profile piece or a 1200 word how-to? Don’t send them an essay when they’ve asked for an article full of quotes from experts, for example.

Some people have difficulty starting an article. Here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Write an outline listing the points you expect to cover in the article and develop your article from the outline.
  • Just start writing. Organize your thoughts and correct your spelling later.
  • Begin an article with a line or paragraph from your query letter.

7. Recycle your article

Once you’ve sold an article on a favorite topic, write another one or two or three. If the magazine bought first time or one-time rights, you can still submit that article to other magazines as a reprint. Study Writer’s Market to find out which publications use reprints. Most magazines that buy reprints, pay half of what they would normally pay for an original article.

8. Keep good records

An effective record-keeping system will keep you apprised of the status of your articles and help you to prepare for tax time. Create a record of activity by logging each query letter and article. Keep track of expenses and payments. An efficient record-keeping system will also help in your communications with editors.

Patricia Fry is the author of A Writer’s Guide to Magazine Articles for Book Promotion and Profit (Matilija Press, 2000). $6.50.

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