When you are only a magazine reader you don’t really consider the thought that goes behind finding the perfect articles. You don’t consider the freelance writers to submit their work or the cold, calculating eye of the magazine editor. However, when you bridge that gap between reader and writer, the magazine becomes an entirely different animal.
If you are hoping to be published in magazines, you will need to learn how to analyze magazine markets to target your submissions. If you are just blindly writing and submitting articles, it is doubtful that you work will ever find a home. Instead, you must pay careful attention not only to the submission guidelines, but also to the magazine itself.
Analyze Magazine Markets: Read the magazine.
The first step in targeting your submissions is reading the magazines in which you hope to one day be featured. I recommend picking up at least three issues of each magazine and reading them all cover-to-cover. Once you have a comprehensive understanding of the magazine, look for the following key points.
Analyze Magazine Markets: Are the articles written by freelancers?
You can usually find out whether a magazine is written mostly by freelancers or staff writers by checking in Writer’s Market or on the masthead of their publication. A magazine that’s 80% freelance-written is going to be much easier to target than a magazine that only publishes 20% freelance-written articles.
Analyze Magazine Markets: How long are the articles?
You don’t need to count every word of each article, but get a feel for how long their articles are. Count the number of words in one line of the article and then multiply by the total number of lines to get an approximate word count. When targeting your own submissions, make sure that your article is of similar length.
Analyze Magazine Markets: What is the tone of the articles?
Analyzing the tone of each article is extremely important when targeting your submissions. How does the author speak to the reader? What reading level are the articles written in? For example, most commercial magazines are written in a casual tone directly to the reader (using “you” and “your”). When targeting your own submissions, mimic the tone that other authors have used.
Analyze Magazine Markets: Do the authors use sub-headings?
Some magazines insist that all articles have sub-headings (like this one) while others don’t care one way or another. If the magazine articles all contain sub-headings, then yours should, as well.
Analyze Magazine Markets: How many quotes are used?
You’ll find that some magazine articles are riddled with quotes by experts and regular people, while others are written without. As a rule, it’s a good idea to quote at least one expert when writing for a commercial magazine and at least two or three for a professional publication, but this varies by magazine. Look at several articles to determine the trend before targeting your submissions.
Analyze Magazine Markets: What lengths are the paragraphs?
Looks matter, and one way in which magazine editors choose their articles is by looking at the way the manuscript can be typeset. Some magazines prefer long articles while others want you to break up the text. Look through each magazine to get a feel for the lay-out before targeting your submissions.
Analyze Magazine Markets: Are anecdotes used?
Anecdotes are personal stories that the author uses to lead the reader into a point. For example, in Marcia Trahan’s AC Article How to Start a Home-based Writing Business: Find a Specialty, she talks about how she wasn’t enjoying her job, but ran across a few books on starting a writing business. Then she begins to impart her advice. Anecdotes can be powerful ways to draw the reader in, but make sure it is an accepted practiced by looking through the magazine’s published articles.
Analyze Magazine Markets: What products are advertised?
Believe it or not, you can derive a very specific portrait of the target audience of a magazine by analyzing the advertisements. What types of products are advertised? What types of companies?
Analyze Magazine Markets: What are the key demographics?
Another way that you can begin to analyze the target audience of a magazine is to request a comprehensive report of key demographics. They have these published for advertisers, and it can be a great resource for you as a freelance writer.
Follow these steps and you’ll have a more thorough understanding of how the magazine you are targeting works. Once you know who you’re writing for, you’ll have a much better chance of being accepted for publication.