Many people view being published in magazines and journals as the “holy grail” for freelance writers on the internet. It is true that it can be difficult getting published by these outlets, but if you learn from the mistakes of others your task is simplified. There are many that have tried before you and failed. There are also those that have tried before you and succeeded. I have a secret to tell you though, many of those that succeeded failed many times before they obtained the positive result that they desired. They learned not only from their own mistakes, but through the mistakes of their peers. One of the first suggestions I can give you when trying to get published by magazines and journals is to find a good mentor. If you are unable to do that, you can use the mistakes of others as your first building blocks.
Know your market
The first tip I received was to make sure you know the market you are writing for. If you are attempting to write for a magazine do not write an article on a subject that you just have a basic understanding of. Also do not attempt to write for magazines which cover an area of interest which you have a very limited knowledge in. Remember that there is a high level of competition to be published. All articles require some level of research, but if you don’t have a strong enough background in your market then you might actually lose some of the benefit of the research you complete. If you lose that benefit, you will not be able to convey it to your readers. As an example think of someone writing for a car repair magazine. If you don’t have a general knowledge of the systems of the cars you are writing about, the research you will do with either be double what someone with knowledge of the subject would have to do, or you might miss important pieces of information because you aren’t sure what you are looking for in the first place. With the competition in attempts to be published in magazines target the magazines you attempt to be published in as ones on areas that you have an expertise or strong knowledge of and your task will be easier.
Of course the subject material isn’t the only audience you need to be concerned about. You also need to be knowledgeable of the people you are writing for. Make sure you right an article that is written to their level of understanding. If you write at a level below their level you will bore them, if you write at a level above their understanding you will lose them as they become confused. Research the type of audience the magazine has that you are attempting to be published in. Does the magazine draw mostly readers with a casual interest in the subject, or is it one that only people with hard core interest in the subject read. This will help you determine the tone and level of your article for your audience.
Many people underestimate the value of editing their own work. Keep in mind that many magazines, especially internet versions do not have the budget to pay for large editing staffs. If you continually turn in articles with significant grammar and spelling errors you will turn the editor off from accepting future submissions you write. Many writers spend a lot of time on the research for their articles and the writing, but very little if any time editing their own work. They trust their word processing software to point out their mistakes for them. Do not do this, remember software is not perfect. Make sure you edit your own work and do not rely on your computer software. It’s amazing how many mistakes you will find that the computer missed.
Obtain Guidelines and follow them
The final guideline is to know what is expected of you when you first decide to submit your article. Contact the editor and ask for guidelines they provide freelance writers with when submitting articles to their magazine. Ideally if they have full time writers on staff, see if you can get a copy of the guidelines they must follow and follow those instead. The more you gear your work towards the environment of the magazine and publisher you are writing for the more likely it is to be accepted. Once you receive the guidelines, make sure you follow them. It doesn’t help to just have them in your hands. Read them and become familiar with them. If an editor takes the time out of their day to make sure you have the guidelines you need and then you fail to follow them, you are sure to make an enemy with the editor of that magazine. Remember, making enemies with editors is not the best way to get your work published.
Writing articles in the hopes of being published by a large reputable magazine or journal is not easy work. There is a lot of rejection involved in this type of work. If you are someone that can not handle rejection then this might not be the field for you. Remember every submission is a new project, learn from your past ones but don’t enter into your new assignment fearing rejection. Rejection is a part of the business, if you are able to dismiss it and move on to your next assignment without taking it personally you will increase your odds of being published. That along with a strong knowledge of your market, strong editing skills, and the ability to follow guidelines will raise your chances significantly of that ultimate goal of free lance writers….. publication on the large stage.