Get published in a magazine: hot tips for aspiring feature writers
Have you ever dreamed of seeing your byline in a magazine? I’ve had dozens of articles published in both print and online magazines. And here are some helpful tips on how you can pitch your article ideas to editors and get them accepted.
Having never written a feature article before, I started off with the feature writing courses at the Australian Writers’ Centre. I found these helpful because I got industry insights, skills, and learned how to avoid pitfalls when pitching story ideas to editors.
Here are my tips for writers wanting to get published in magazines, based on my own experiences.
Read the magazine
And by ‘read’ I mean from cover to cover with a writer’s eye. Skip this step (as many newbie writers do) and you’re likely to fail.
Pay attention to headlines, topics, and the content. Do the articles need research and expert commentary, or are they more about personal experience? Note the tone of each article – is it friendly, formal or conversational?
Read as many recent issues as you can lay your hands on. Beg, buy, or borrow from your library.
Tip: Read the current issue and three previous issues, as editorial direction can change. Read their online magazine too, as many print magazines also publish digital content.
As you read the magazine note the following:
- Who is the features editor? Interact with them on social media so they’re familiar with your name before you pitch a story idea. But don’t send a friend request on Facebook – that’s creepy.
- How often is the magazine published?
- Does the magazine accept freelance pitches? Call the magazine to find out, or study the bylines. Confirm who the best person is to send story ideas to, and get their email address.
- What’s the demographic of their audience? From this information, you can see what topics the readers like. You can get all this information from the magazine’s media kit.
Find the angle
If you have a topic in mind, then brainstorm angles from which you’d write the story. Be specific. A mistake often made by new writers is suggesting a topic rather than an angle. What do I mean by that?
Topic: Teens and social media
Angle: How social media is making teens, especially girls, depressed.
See the difference?
One is a broad coverage of the topic of teens and social media. The second sentence is extremely specific about what the writer will cover.
Make sure your idea hasn’t already been covered by the magazine. The fresher the angle, the higher the chance it’ll be accepted.
Write the pitch
This is the part where many writers start trembling in their ugg boots. My first pitch went from my personal Yahoo email to the editor (cringe). The story idea was relevant to the magazine, but I didn’t make that mistake twice.
What should the pitch cover?
- A good subject line. Spend some time on it. Write the headline in the style of the magazine, and make it as enticing as you can. Remember, some editors receive more than 50 pitches a day. Make your email stand out
- Your name, why you’re the best person to write this story, and whether you’ve been published elsewhere
- A brief overview of the topic, headline and angle. Tie it to recent news, a new research study, trend or a celebrity
- What research and experts you’ll use (if required)
- A date you can send in the final article
You can also offer to write it on spec. On spec means you send in the final article for the editor to read and decide if it suits their magazine. It’s not good for you as a writer (if they don’t like it you don’t get paid), but if you’re willing to take the risk it can pay off in a commission.
4 tips for new feature writers:
- Get the editor’s name right. The wrong name and spelling can send your email to the bin.
- Don’t hound the editor if you don’t get a response to your first email. Unlike you, she’s not sitting there hitting refresh on her screen. Leave it for a week or two, and then send a polite follow-up email. If you still don’t get a response, move on to another publication.
- Always have two publications in mind for your idea. Tweak it according to the second magazine’s style and send it off if you get silence from the first editor.
- If a national magazine is a little scary for you, start by pitching to your local newspaper.
Here’s one of my pitches for Life & Style (SMH) below:
Would you be interested in the idea below for Life & Style – Family and Relationships section?
How to avoid embarrassment on social media by relatives
Have relatives ever embarrassed you on Facebook? Facebook in Australia has over 12 million members with nine million actively using it every day, you’re bound to bump into a relative or two or twenty!
What with the ranty brother spamming you with comments every two minutes, oversharing of childhood photos by mum, how do you educate them on Facebook etiquette especially during the silly season without hurting their feelings?
Should you befriend your relatives on Facebook at all? The article offers tips from a social media etiquette expert on how to avoid embarrassment if you do have them on your feed especially for the upcoming holidays. Parties and alcohol in the festive season inevitably mean being tagged in photos you’d rather not have anyone see!
In an online survey of 165 Facebook users last year by Northwestern University, researchers found that nearly all of them could describe a Facebook experience in the previous six months that made them feel awkward, embarrassed or uncomfortable.
I’ll interview two people who have been embarrassed by their relatives or close family on Facebook in various ways, how they dealt with it plus the consequences e.g. family fallout.
I can submit this article in two weeks if commissioned. My clippings are available on www.rashidatayabali.com.au should you wish to take a look.
This story idea was commissioned by Life & Style SMH article.
Over to you
Hope you found these tips useful on how to approach feature editors with your ideas. Now it’s over to you. What tip didn’t you know before reading this post?
Rashida Tayabali is a Sydney-based copywriter and feature writer. She loves writing clever and creative content that wows clients. A mum of two, she likes to read, travel and wander in her imagination.