For those who have followed the tale of my “meteoric” departure from Unpubbed Island, you may remember it was anything but! I first began writing for publication in 1983, but my dream to publish a novel waited 25 long years for fulfillment.
What kept the dream alive through over 200 book manuscript rejections? Consistent sales of articles, short fiction, and devotions to periodical markets. Magazine writing has many advantages, not the least of which is building a solid list of writing credits that demonstrate your professionalism: the ability to follow guidelines, write “tight” (see Tina’s post on writing short fiction), meet deadlines, and accept editorial feedback.
Another plus is that magazine submissions normally get a quicker response than you can expect from a book editor, often in as little as 4-6 weeks. Most reputable publications pay upon acceptance (although payment upon publication is not necessarily a negative), and while the pay may not always be stellar (many pay only in copies), a writing credit is a writing credit. Not to mention you can crank out an article or story in a week or two, whereas a book can take several months to a year or more.
Something else to think about: Since most magazines come out monthly--many even more frequently--the constant and urgent need for new material becomes obvious. Sally Stuart’s 2008 Christian Writers’ Market Guide lists 677 periodicals, 53 of which are new. While several accept fiction, open any magazine or newspaper and you’ll quickly realize that publishing opportunities for nonfiction far outpace those for fiction.
Do you have to be an expert in some field to sell nonfiction? Not necessarily. Most of the articles I’ve sold have been based on personal experience--a children’s activity, choosing a pet, various aspects of my faith journey.
Or you might research a timely topic, interview an expert, or profile an interesting person. Once I came across a newspaper article about elephant communication. I did a little more research at the library, simplified the topic and added a spiritual element, and sold the article to a Sunday-school paper.
Magazines often look for articles of seasonal interest, so perhaps you have holiday-related ideas or experiences. You can also tailor personal experiences or spiritual insights as short fillers and devotions.
The most important aspect of writing for magazines is to know your target markets. Read the guidelines. Make note of submission format (e-mail is increasingly accepted) and lead time for seasonal ideas. Obtain sample issues and study them for content and style. Sally Stuart offers several resources in addition to her annual market guide, including her Top 50 Christian Periodical Publisher's Packet, which includes a list of the top 50 “writer-friendly” periodicals, complete analysis sheets, and publisher's guidelines (visit her Web site for complete details).
Know the rights a publication purchases and which rights you are offering. Editors commonly purchase first rights or first serial rights, which means once the piece appears in print, you are free to market reprint rights to other magazines. For a complete explanation see Sally Stuart’s Guide to Getting Published, which can be ordered from her Web site.
Here are other books you may find helpful:
Writing from Personal Experience, Nancy Davidoff Kelton
Writing Articles from the Heart, Marjorie Holmes
Write on Target: A Five-Phase Program for Nonfiction Writers, Dennis Hensley & Holly Miller
An Introduction to Christian Writing: An Indepth Companion to the Complete Writing Experience, Ethel Herr
The Christian Writer's Manual of Style, Robert Hudson
Writing for the Soul: Instruction and Advice from an Extraordinary Writing Life, Jerry Jenkins
Write His Answer: A Bible Study for Christian Writers, Marlene Bagnull
On Writing Well, William Zinsser
The Elements of Style, William Strunk Jr.
And last but definitely not least . . .
Sally Stuart’s Christian Writers’ Market Guide, updated annually. Get on her subscription list now and your annual purchase price will be locked in for as long as you continue subscribing. (The current price is already $10 higher than when I first signed up.)
To learn even more about the nonfiction market, you may want to attend a writers conference that offers a nonfiction track and/or individual workshops. I discussed the Mount Hermon conference in an earlier post, and it is definitely one of the best. Others include:
Florida Christian Writers Conference
Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference
Glorieta Christian Writers Conference
Colorado Christian Writers Conference
American Christian Writers conferences (smaller conferences held in various locations across the U.S.)
Could you be supplementing your writing income and improving your craft with magazine writing? It might be worth a try!
FOR LOVE AND MONEY DAY 5
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