Write for Magazines: A Q&A with Linda Formichelli
There is a distinct advantage to being published in mainstream magazines--the numbers are better
In continuation of my celebration of Latinidad's tenth anniversary, I am
Published on LatinoLA: July 5, 2013
culling the best advice and advisors from back issues to help you get
published. Previously, I've discussed managing money and time, writing
classes, critique groups, the revision process, and the submission process. This month's focus is on writing for magazines.
Being published in literary journals can put you on the radar of agents and editors who are looking for new talent, but there is a distinct advantage to being published in mainstream magazines--the numbers are better. For example, Ploughshares has a circulation of around 5,000 to 10,000 whereas AARP The Magazine has a circulation of over 20 million. A single article in AARP can expose your book to more potential buyers than a tour, an advertising campaign, and all your previous literary journal publications combined.
Yet many writers, especially literary ones, don't consider writing for magazines. Even if they did, the skill set required to write a poem, short story, or essay is not the same as that required to write a magazine article. To learn more about how to write for magazines, read this month's Q&A with Linda Formichelli, a successful freelance writer, author, and instructor of the e-course Write for Magazines.
Linda Formichelli has written for more than 120 magazines, including
Redbook, USA Weekend, Fitness, Women's Health, Entrepreneur's
Business Start-Ups, Wired News, and Writer's Digest. Linda co-authored
The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance
Writing Success and The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock.
Linda lives in Concord, NH, with her writer husband and three cats. Her
interests include kung fu, science fiction, languages & linguistics, Archie
Comics, Thai iced tea, and volunteering for animal welfare organizations.
You can learn more about Linda at http://www.lindaformichelli.com/ and
you can learn more about Linda's e-course and e-mentoring at
Q: What was your first published article, and how did you land the
A: My first assignment was an article for EEO Bimonthly, a career
magazine for women and minorities, about informational interviews.
After I got my master's degree in Slavic Linguistics (!), I decided
to ditch the PhD program and go into publishing, so I went on
informational interviews at several publishing companies. After
doing the interviews I decided that working in publishing wasn't for
me after all, but I thought the experience would make a great
article. I read Queries and Submissions by Thomas Clark, wrote up my
first query, bought a copy of Writer's Market, picked out a few
career magazines, and sent the queries off to the pubs. Several
weeks later, I had an assignment from EEO Bimonthly magazine--for
$500, which practically made me pee myself. After that I started
contacting trade magazines like Sign Builders Illustrated and AKFCF
Quarterly (for KFC franchisees) and getting small assignments--worth
maybe 10 to 20 cents per word--and worked my way up, using those
clips, to national publications.
Q: What are the three most common mistakes writers make when querying
A: (1) Many new writers *don't* query, because they don't understand
the process of getting an article accepted for publication. I hear
from writers who say, "I wrote this great article. Where can I send
it?" In most cases, editors don't want to see an entire article;
they prefer to see a query letter outlining the idea. If they like
the idea, they'll give you an assignment, and then you'll write the
article according to the magazine's specifications. Exceptions to
this are the personal essay and very short items--in these cases,
editors want to see the whole thing.
(2) Often writers don't follow up on their queries--if they don't
hear back, they just give up. You need to be persistent! E-mail or
call the editor (if you're afraid, do it after hours so you can
leave a voicemail) and ask about the status of your query. The query
may have been lost in cyberspace or buried in the editor's inbox.
(3) I often see writers get in their own way by making "newbie"
mistakes that cause them to come off as amateurs. There's nothing
wrong with being new to professional writing, of course--we all have
to start somewhere--but editors want to work with writers who
demonstrate that they understand how the publishing business works.
Some mistakes that make you look like an amateur include:
* Sending the query to a generic "Dear Editor" or "Dear Sir or
Madam" instead of to a specific editor.
* Putting a copyright symbol on your query.
* Mentioning that your mom, your friends, or your cat think your
idea is great.
* Telling the editor how long it will take you to write the article
(she'll give you a deadline and expect you to adhere to it).
* Misspelling the editor's or the magazine's name--or, even worse,
addressing the query to a competitor magazine, such as "Parents"
instead of "Parenting." (I did this once and thank goodness the
editor was nice about it, but not all editors are so understanding!)
Q: Other than honing their craft, what is the smartest step writers can
take to get published in magazines?
A: Oh, my goodness, there are so many things writers need to do besides
honing their craft! Writing is a business as well as a craft, so
writers need to be professional. Take a look at books about business
and marketing and try to incorporate some of the advice into your
writing business. Build (or have someone build for you) a
professional website, get some nice business cards (not mandatory,
but they certainly work for me), follow up on your queries and other
communications with editors, occasionally send editors updates on
what you're working on, turn in your articles on deadline or before,
follow article instructions (i.e., don't come in 2,000 words over
the assigned word count!), send thank-you e-mails or notes to your
editors and sources, and follow the principles of excellent customer
Q: How can established magazine writers take their careers to the next
A: Diversify! Though you can make a good living as a magazine writer,
diversifying can help you even out the financial ups and downs of
the freelance life. Do corporate writing, write books, teach classes, and
Q: What inspired you to create your e-course on Write for Magazines?
A: I have a life coach friend who has a very successful e-course on
improving your life, and she encouraged me to start a writing e-
course. I had actually attempted to start a course a couple of years
before that, but gave up during the market research phase: I posted
to a few writers' discussion groups that I frequented, asking what
writers would want in an e-course and how much they'd be willing to
pay, and a few people posted, "Why would I pay for information I can
get online for free?" (Of course, the way they were getting info for
free was by e-mailing professionals like myself asking for advice,
and posting questions on writers' forums.) My life coach friend
convinced me to try again and walked me through the whole process. I
did a beta test in April 2005 and launched the course in June 2005.
It's been a hit! I've had over 140 students in the last 15 months,
and so far they've landed assignments in magazines like Woman's Day,
MyBusiness, E: The Environmental Magazine, Pizza Today, and others.
It's so gratifying to hear from a student that she scored her first
freelance assignment or broken into her dream magazine! So many of
my previous students have asked me for a follow-up e-mentoring
program that I added that to my services a few months ago for both
my former students and writers who don't want the structure of the
Excerpted from Latinidad?« ?® 2003 by Marcela Landres
Marcela Landres is the author of the e-book How Editors Think. She is an Editorial Consultant who specializes in helping Latinos get published and was formerly an editor at Simon & Schuster.
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