I’ve taught online writing classes for the company that publishes Writer’s Digest for 18 years now and at writer’s conferences for more than 20 years. If I were to choose the challenge that seems to derail the biggest number of talented writers with potential to be published in magazines, I’d say this: they tend to focus their early efforts on super-sized magazines such as Good Housekeeping, Entrepreneur and Parenting. But, is that really the best publishing strategy?
The problem is that countless other writers are doing the exact same thing – and many of them probably have more experience and flashier clips than you do in the salad days of your career. A percentage of them have most likely also worked with the editor before – or at least know him or her.
At writer’s conferences, I’ve heard claims that the mammoth-sized magazines get hundreds of queries a day. So, let’s say that they get 200 a day, five days a week. That’s 1,000 queries a week, 4,000 a month, 52,000 a year. So, what are the chances – from a purely mathematical standpoint – that yours will rise to the top?
Here’s the bottom line: no matter how outstanding your idea or query letter, it can get crowded out simply because of the overwhelming number of submissions and queries that each of these magazines receives. If you get rejected or ignored too many times, early on, that can lead to a permanent case of discouragement and a promising career can fizzle before it even starts.
There are multiple strategies that you can take. Here are three of them.
Strategy 1: This is one I used (although I also used number 2!): During the earlier days of your publishing career, focus on finding respectable mid-tier publications that will look good on your resume and will help you to accomplish your goals without so many barriers. If your ultimate goal is to publish in Parenting, as just one example, focus first on getting your work into a quality regional parenting publication. That doesn’t mean that you have to give up your big dream. It simply means that you are creating a strategy to build the types of clips that Parenting will want to see. You are creating an effective step-by-step plan.
Strategy 2: Scrap the idea of consumer magazines (at least for now) and focus on trade publications. To quote myself, trade magazines are “business publications specifically targeted for people in a certain industry: plumbers, doctors, journalists and so forth. You seldom find these magazines in stores, although you can sometimes find them in libraries.” Because so many aspiring and under-published writers are focusing on consumer publications, they are leaving the trade publication opportunities more wide open for you. Read more about that strategy in my article, Hidden Gems: Publishing in Trade Magazines.