|My first published articles were about one of my passions—anything military-related. Since then, I’ve had more than 60 military stories appear in 20 magazines and newspapers in the U.S., U.K. and New Zealand. So far, every military story I’ve pitched has been picked up, and I’ve resold many of them, often in other countries. This success has led to a regular column for Military magazine, which has further enhanced my credibility in this genre.|
Popular movies including Saving Private Ryan and Flags of Our Fathers as well as the miniseries Band of Brothers have reignited interest in military stories, and you’d be amazed at how large and varied the military-literature field is. I have a staggering 87 military magazines on my pitch list! Additionally, many nonmilitary magazines will take military stories occasionally. I’ve had military-themed articles appear in nationally and internationally distributed magazines and newspapers such as Popular Communications, Monitoring Times, Renaissance, Scotland Magazine, Spaceflight, Aviation History, VHF Communications and New Zealand’s Sunday News. And history magazines will always consider your military stories.
Plenty of markets
First, you have to think outside the box. When most writers think of military topics, usually famous battles come to mind. However, there is a plethora of other military-related topics that many editors are interested in.
What I love most about writing on military themes is that I can combine my love of travel writing with my passion for military places and artifacts. A story about the gun batteries and military museums at Edinburgh Castle in Scotland, for example, is still a travel story any way you slice it. Likewise, when you write about military fortresses, battlefields, monuments and memorials, memorial parades, cemeteries, vehicles and historical buildings—there’s a travel element in them all.And don’t forget your regional travel and lifestyle magazines as well as newspapers. They’ll take military-oriented articles, especially about local military museums and parades. I’ve had military stories in Pacific Northwest regionals such as South Sound, Kitsap Sun, Gorge Guide and The Oregonian.
I broke into military writing after visiting more than 200 European military museums, battlefields, memorials and cemeteries while living in Brussels, Belgium, for two years, so I had good content and photos. Wanting to share these experiences, I was pleasantly surprised at how receptive editors were to these stories when I pitched them. Then, once the bylines started building up and my confidence grew, some of the higher-echelon magazines started showing interest in my work.Starting out with museum stories
I’ve had tremendous success pitching stories about military museums to magazines and newspapers, so they’re a great place to start your military-writing career. Let me remind you that there are hundreds of military museums spread across the U.S. and Canada. And international publications are also interested in stories about U.S. and Canadian military museums. I’ve sold stories about U.S. military museums to a U.K. military-vehicle magazine, and I have also sold stories about U.K. military museums to U.S. magazines.
Have you visited old fortresses with lots of ancient cannon lying around? I got started writing about these places. The Artilleryman loves stories about artillery museums and fortresses; I’ve written for the magazine about artillery at the Battle of Waterloo in Belgium, the military museum at Montjuïc Castle in Barcelona, Spain, and the Sveaborg fortress in Helsinki Harbor in Finland.The Artilleryman does not pay much ($50), but writing for the magazine is a great way to get your first byline and gain some confidence writing about military topics. And if you put some thought into your topics, you can select them with resale in mind. I’ve resold my stories about Edinburgh Castle and artillery at the Battle of Waterloo to U.K. magazines, making more than $900 from those two pieces—and I’m certain I’ll resell my other military articles to travel magazines.
Now I travel to Europe every year for three to four weeks and plan several military museums, fortresses and battlefields into my itinerary. I always come back with enough material to submit at least six military articles to magazines, significantly defraying my travel costs. In addition, I arrange free entry into these sites, also saving myself money. Other military topics
If ancient guns and fortresses are not your thing, consider writing on other aspects of militaria that might interest you: military history, battlefields, monuments and memorials, memorial parades, cemeteries, weapons, vehicles, aircraft, missiles, ships, historical buildings, and communications.
Where else can you get ideas for military articles? Well, do you live near a famous historical battlefield? Look for a new slant on it. Have some new artifacts been uncovered at the site? Is there an annual battle re-enactment nearby that you can write about? You’re probably reading this thinking, “But you’re an expert on military history.” The fact is, I’m not. You don’t necessarily have to be a professional military historian to get published in military magazines—you just have to be an enthusiast. Certainly there are military magazines that require an advanced level of knowledge, but you can pitch those magazines after you’ve built up your bylines to an impressive number, say, more than 10 magazines.
How, then, can you write about military topics without professional expertise? It really helps to have access to an expert who can help you with research and give you some quotes. Recruit “expert witnesses” to assist with military-vehicle, aircraft and ancient-cannon identification. You’ll find they’re happy to help. They’ll love the challenge of identifying vehicles or cannon in the photos you send them, and they’ll supply you with lots of juicy details that you can write into your stories. Make sure you reward them for their help. I thank my experts in the bylines, where appropriate, and I send them an annual $100 gift card to a bookstore. Also make sure you do lots of reading on your military topic. You’ll find it fun learning about new topics, becoming more and more confident from your growing knowledge with each article.
Consider writing free military articles for some magazines when you’re starting out, if you find out they don’t pay. I began by writing free articles about airborne museums in Western Europe for U.S. airborne association magazines Airborne Quarterly and Static Line. Of course, your aim should be to eventually place your free stories in paying publications, but having these bylines gives you the credibility to pitch other military magazines. I write a free column that appears alongside Lt. Col. Oliver North’s column in Military, which certainly helps my credibility when pitching other military magazines. Finding military magazines
Where do you find magazines to pitch your military stories? An interest in military vehicles can lead you to Classic Military Vehicle (U.K.), Military Machines International (U.K.) and Army Motors (U.S.). Civil War enthusiasts can pitch Civil War News. Antique-weapons aficionados should try Classic Arms & Militaria (U.K.).
And if you’ve visited military battlefield sites in Europe and the Pacific where your country’s servicemen fought, you can pitch newspapers several months before the anniversaries of those battles. August or September, for example, are good months to send articles about the Battle of the Bulge, because it began in December 1944.