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How to start writing for trade, niche, and international magazines

There’s a whole world of publishing opportunities outside your local newsstand.

A stack of three magazines on a wooden coffee table.
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Achieving success within these markets

Now that you have found new magazines to submit your ideas to, getting paid assignments is within your grasp. The basic process of submitting and writing for these publications is the same as writing for consumer magazines:

  • Research the magazine
  • Read and follow the submission guidelines
  • Write an effective query relevant to that magazine
  • Be professional and turn in your work on time and within the assigned word count

Even though the basics are the same, here are some subtle differences to keep in mind with these markets.

Study the magazines

Freelance writers who take the time to study the publications they want to submit to have more success. Editors appreciate writers who have a clear understanding of their magazine, making them more likely to give them assignments.

Read past issues. There is no need to track down print copies (unless you really want to) when digital copies are easy to find. Look at the magazine’s website, use a platform like Magzter, or access emagazine archives available via your local library. Study a few articles to get a feel for the tone and the style. Are they more conversational? More academic? How long are the articles? With international markets, be aware of different cultural norms and even distinct spellings for words. For instance, some words in British English have a slightly different spelling, like colour and centre. For niche magazines, examine how in-depth the articles are: Are they geared toward beginners or more advanced readers who practice this hobby or hold this interest? If the articles cover all levels, then mention in your query which level you plan to target with your article. With trade publications, study how often experts in the industry are quoted and whether the topics are covered in a more broad or narrow scope. Also, pay attention to the length of the articles, so you understand the approximate word count to pitch in your query.

Know the reader

This is essential with these specialized markets. Editors want to know that you “get” their readers and that you can slant your topics to meet their expectations. Every magazine has a certain readership with a target reader: mother of young children, antique enthusiast, budget traveler, and so on. It is imperative you know as much about that reader as possible before submitting a query to the editor. The more you know about who reads the magazine, the more you can tailor your work to reach that audience best.

One strategy to learn the demographics of the reader is to locate the media kit on the magazine’s website. This document is intended to provide data to potential advertisers about the magazine’s readership and is a gold mine for freelance writers. The media kit provides information like average age, income, gender, hobbies, homeownership, education, and marital status. This helps you understand who exactly the magazine targets.

Understand the jargon

With niche and trade publications, it is important to understand the specific language associated with that trade or hobby so you can weave it into your query or article when necessary. For instance, if I planned to write for a niche RV magazine like Family RVing, I might include terms like full hookup, slideout, black water tank, and triple tow without worry of explaining each one because I know the audience is familiar with this language. If, however, I was writing an introductory RVing article for a budget travel magazine, I’d probably take the time to define the phrases, since there’s a greater risk of the audience not understanding these particular terms. And if you are unfamiliar with the jargon associated with a specific trade or hobby, take the time to do additional research and familiarize yourself with it. This extra step will assure both editors and readers you’re familiar with the subject at hand.

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