Magazines: Small business marketing for wordsmiths
Do you read magazines? Most of us do. We read magazines to learn more about our hobbies and interests, for entertainment, and to keep up-to-date with news and events in our industry. Even with blogs, podcasts and online media becoming increasingly influential, magazines still play a vital role in the publishing industry.
Print magazines are at the top of the heap when it comes to quality. Every print magazine is backed by an editorial team that ensure the quality is maintained across every article and layout. Most industries have at least one magazine that is considered highly influential – businesses featured within it’s pages have definitely “made it”.
So if you’re reading these magazines in your industry, why aren’t you writing for them?
Freelance Writing for Businesses
One of the marketing strategies I advocate for my copywriting & marketing clients is to get a byline in magazines in your niche. There are several advantages to this technique:
- Writing for magazines establishes you as an expert in your niche. If your name appears on the byline of an article in a major magazines, it adds authority and legitimacy to your business.
- Writing for magazines helps you to improve your written communication skills – the more you write, the better you get, and the more you written communication and content benefit.
- Writing for magazines also improves your networking, as a large part of writing articles involves finding and interviewing sources.
- Readers who enjoy your articles may be encouraged to check out your website and become customers.
- Most magazines will pay contributors for articles they’ve written. This gives you additional cash-flow to help you grow your business.
If you enjoy writing about different aspects of your industry, compiling tutorials to teach readers skills and concepts, and you can pen a coherent sentence, you could utilize freelance writing for magazines to help you grow your business.
Types of magazines accepting freelance articles
As a business owner, you’ll likely be writing articles for the following types of magazines:
- Consumer Magazines: These are the magazines we’re all most familiar with. The glossy covers, bold headlines and full-color layouts of popular consumer magazines call us from the news stand or the supermarket check out line. These magazines are purchased by consumers and contain popular content with mass appeal – lifestyle topics, celebrity gossip, healthy recipes, etc. Example: Cosmopolitan, NZ Bride and Groom, Women’s Weekly.
- Trade Magazines: These magazines don’t appear on news stands, but are usually delivered direct to businesses. Trade magazines cover news, trends and ideas in specific industries, and are usually the go-to resource for business owners in these industries. It’s much easier for beginning writers to break into trade magazines than the big consumer magazines. Example: Pizza Today, Mini-Storage Messenger, Pet Business.
- Specialist Magazines: These magazines contain articles covering a range of topics on a specialist subject. Many specialist magazines will target consumers of various industries, Example: Hobby farms, Model Railroader, GRIT, Abilities, Spotlight on Recovery.
- Online Magazines: These might take the form of a downloadable PDF, a paid newsletter, or a blog. Online magazines often have shorter lead times, but are able to feature breaking news articles and timely pieces, whereas print magazines require a longer lead time. Many popular print magazines offer an online version, such as Redbook and 2 for Couples.
What Magazines Could You Write For?
There’s no point pitching Cosmo if you’re a construction worker … unless you’re prepared to take your shirt off. When pitching article ideas to magazines, it’s vital to figure out which magazines will be a good fit for your articles. Here are some tips for finding magazines to pitch:
- Make a list of all the magazine you read. These are the best magazines to begin pitching, as you’re familiar with their content and format, and you can avoid pitching subjects you’ve seen them cover in recent issues. Being able to demonstrate knowledge of the magazine is vital to landing a freelance writing gig.
- Scope out your competitor’s website. If they have a bio or press page, it might include links or screenshots to magazines they’ve worked for or been written up in. This will help you to find new magazines to pitch.
- Check writer’s portfolios in your niche. This is one of my secret techniques for discovering new markets – if I check the site of a write in a particular niche, they will usually be writing for 1-2 magazines I’ve never heard of.
- Use market listings. These sites provide searchable market databases listing hundreds of magazines and markets. Writers Weekly has a great searchable database.
Be careful not to limit yourself to a narrow niche. Some industries will only have one or two magazines. You’ve got to think of creative ways to get your byline in different magazines to expose your business to the widest possible audience.
For example. say you run a popular bakery specialising in artistic pastries and desserts. What kinds of articles could you pitch?
- A guide to the best dessert spots in your city for a travel magazine, including your own establishment, of course.
- An article detailing your latest marketing campaign – a series of desserts inspired by famous paintings throughout history – for a small business magazine.
- A review of bakeware for a baking industry publication.
- Advice to brides on choosing their wedding cake for a consumer wedding magazine.
- Step-by-step instructions on creating a simple pastry for a cooking magazine.
Once you get going, it’s easy to think of ideas for magazine article ideas to promote your business.
How to Pitch an Article to a Magazines
Unlike novelists, who have to finish their entire book before they can get a publishing deal, magazines normally assign articles based on a “query” – a 250-1000 word pitch outlining the article idea and your angle on the topic. Writing pitches in an art form that definitely takes some practice – here are some of my top tips for beginning magazine writers:
- Understand when to use a query letter and a LOI: A query letter is a pitch of your article idea – you use these to “sell” an article idea to the editor of a consumer or specialist magazine. A Letter of Introduction (LOI) is used for trade magazines, and instead of selling the article, you’re selling yourself as an expert in the industry.
- Read the Guidelines: Most magazines publish guidelines for writers on their websites. This will help you figure out the types of articles they’re likely to accept. Always read and follow the guidelines – they are there to make sure you have the best chance of being accepted.
- Be Irresistible: Editors are super-busy, and they can’t resist a writer who makes their job easy. Show them you’ve got a source or photographs lined up, that you’ve got the experience to write an article without any hand-holding, that you can supply sidebars, and that you’re enthusiastic about being a regular contributor, and you’ll sweep that editor off her feet.
- Don’t Over-Do it: An editor won’t assign an article if he or she feels it’s written purely for promotional purposes – magazines call these “advertorials” and they’re usually written by a business’ PR department. Instead, ensure your article entertains the reader, contains useful information and offers a valuable “take-away”. Use your business as your credentials to explain why you’re en expert on the topic.
- Proofread: An editor won’t accept an article for a writer who can’t string a coherent sentence together, so prove you’ve got the chops by sending in a perfect query letter.
Freelance writing can be a great marketing technique for business owners in any niche looking to increase exposure and position themselves as an expert. For more ideas on how to use freelance writing to market your business, PLUS a step-by-step guide to pitching articles to magazine editors, and a FREE writing bonus, check out my brand-new ebook: The Small & Awesome Guide to Freelance Writing.