Beginning freelancers frequently put the cart before the horse. Or rather, the idea before the target publication. Do you get an idea and run to write it up only to struggle to find a place to send it? That’s what I’m talking about. Finding good writing markets should be your starting point, not writing the story.
In this post, I want to talk about why you shouldn’t start writing before you have an assignment and where to find good, well-paying writing markets to work with.
Why you shouldn’t write your story before you have an assignment
As we discussed in this post, you want to know the reader you’re writing for before you even begin your story. And this post showed you how to define the reader of your target publication. If you do these things before you send your idea to an editor, you will save yourself a ton of work, and heartache.
Even if you think you have the perfect place to send your story, and you know the editor will love it because you read every single issue and you are the definition of the publication’s target audience, don’t do it. Editors like to have input into their stories. They may have sources they would want you to include or a particular angle to explore. They may want it written as a department piece rather than a feature.
Another idea to consider is that there may be a better place for your story that you didn’t even consider. That’s why you should always have a list of niche publications on file.
Finding good writing markets is easy
The first thing to do before submitting anything to anybody (including query letters) is to create a list of possible markets. I have several lists by niche–homesteading/ag, home, construction, health and wellness, and food. When I have an idea, I send it to my favorite pub in that niche. Now, my favorite might be the editor that I’ve worked with the longest or it might be the highest payer, or it may be the one I’ve been trying to break into currently. If that editor declines, I send it to the next person on my list. And so on.
Where to find good writing markets
Finding good writing markets is easy. Here are several places I look when I want someone new to work with or am trying to break into a new niche.
- Google–Even though we use this search engine a bazillion times a day, it is frequently overlooked when we want something important. The first place to look for good writing markets is Google. Simply put “top food magazines” into the search bar and you will get more hits than you ever imagined. From there, you can create a list to explore further.
- Writer’s Market–Take that list from Google and look them up in the Writer’s Market. If you purchase the most recent year with the online edition, you will get the most up-to-date info and you can use the sort feature. If you’re on a budget, check out a paper copy from your library. Either way, this resource will give you tips like pay range, editor name, and how to break in.
- The library–While you’re in the library picking up a Writer’s Market, take a stroll through the magazine racks. Don’t stop there. Some libraries spread the magazines throughout the building with parenting and education magazines in the children’s department, teen magazines in the young adult department, and music magazines next to the racks of CDs. Also, if your library has a room or area with books for sale, look there. Sometimes folks donate their already-read copies and the library sells them for a few cents. The library probably sells its back issues, too.
- The bookstore–I can spend hours in my local Barnes and Noble or Books-a-Million in the magazine area alone. I pick several titles that look interesting, take them to a chair and get comfortable. If I think I would like to add the title to one of my lists, I snap a photo of the masthead. Of course, you can buy the magazines that interest you. I do that sometimes, too.
- Waiting rooms–Never leave a doctor, dentist, hairdresser, or auto mechanic’s waiting room without checking out the magazines. Don’t just look at the consumer pubs, either. Medical offices will have publications from the organization they’re affiliated with. Hairdressers or mechanic’s shops might have trade pubs. Get your phone out and snap some pics of those mastheads and look them up at home.
- Mastheads–So, I’ve got you reading the mastheads of the publications. Guess what’s there? The name of the publishing company for that magazine. Well, chances are that the publishing company puts out other titles. For instance, Hearst Communications publishes Good Housekeeping. And if you visit the Hearst website, you will find all their other titles.
- Organizational lists–Organizations keep a database of their industry titles. Tradepub.com is a great place to find trade publications for everything from food to automotive. According to their website, members of The Content Council “include the industry’s top publishers, media companies and marketing agencies who create quality, multi-channel strategies and content for North American and global brands.” Use their search engine to find members like Hanley Wood, who publishes Remodeling, Builder, Architect, MultiFamily Executive, Journal of Light Construction, and Concrete Construction magazines.
How to find what publications pay
If you’ve been writing a while and have enough clips to command more money, you may want to find out what a publication pays before reaching out. Here are a few places to look for that information.
- Who Pays Writers–This database is kept up-to-date by freelancers who have actually written for the publications. You can search for a particular title or you can add one of your own. The nice thing about Who Pays Writers is it tells you if someone is making more money than the publication’s contributor guidelines quotes. Armed with that information, you know if you can negotiate for higher rates.
- Writer’s Market–As mentioned above, look up your publication in the Writer’s Market and if it doesn’t give you the exact pay rate, it will give you a range.
- Funds for Writers Newsletter–The Funds for Writers newsletter was one of the first I ever subscribed to as a new freelancer. Hope Clark curates markets and includes them with a helpful article, delivered each week to your inbox.
- Other blogs–Various blogs keep tabs on writing markets and regularly post lists like “10 Magazines that Pay $1 Per Word” or “100 High-Paying Magazine Markets” and things like that. Subscribe for their updates and these posts will come right to your email inbox. My favorites are:
Freedom with Writing
The Write Life
Writers in Charge
Don’t limit yourself to publications
While I speak mainly on writing for print publications, here, don’t limit yourself. My work for Family Handyman is online. Many publications have online blogs and articles. And when you write online content it’s published a lot quicker and pays faster than print.
Also, think about businesses that use online content. Grocery store and drugstore chains publish online content. Kraft Foods Group publishes online content on its site My Food and Family. Tom’s of Maine (you know, the all-natural toothpaste people) has a blog called Good Matters. And Allstate Insurance has one called–are you ready for this?–The Allstate Blog. I’ve written for a stationer, shed manufacturer, fermenting supply manufacturer, and a maker of home goods, to name a few.
So, where do you find your writing markets? Or their payment information? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.