If you freelance, you already know that marketing is part of the business. But the way you pitch will depend on the nature of the market or client you're pitching. Your approach to a trade publication will differ from that of a local, national, or custom magazine, for example. Here's a look at four types of lucrative markets and how to crack each:
National Consumer Magazines
Most freelancers dream of writing for the "biggies," most of which pay $1/word and up. But how do you get your foot in the door when you have few clips (or none)? Here's the secret: pitch FOB (or front-of-book) pieces. Nearly every magazine has a regular FOB section where it features short, newsy, "quick hit" type of pieces of 300 words or less. These short pieces are relatively easy assignments, and the editors are more likely to give new writers a chance here. Writing FOB pieces is lets you prove yourself and start developing a relationship with the section editor, which makes it easier to sell other ideas in the future.
Regional and Local Magazines
Regional and local publications are a great place to break in for new writers, but they offer opportunities for established writers as well. While these magazines cover the same topics as their national counterparts, they almost always have a local angle. They're more open to newer writers, which is a plus if you're starting out. No, they don't pay as well as national magazines do (about $0.10 to $0.50/word), but writing for regional magazines can help you develop a portfolio and specialty and give you clips you can use to break into nationals. To break in, pitch a local trend story, a profile of a local person (or a roundup--e.g., five local celebs or five up-and-coming chefs), or find a local perspective on a national trend (e.g., how area families are cutting back on expenses for a regional parenting magazine).
Trade magazines are aimed at people who work in a particular trade or industry. Some, especially smaller ones, don't pay but most offer rates of about $0.20 to $0.50/word. So, how do you break in? Either pitch with a query letter or use an LOI, or letter of introduction. When querying, use industry lingo (e.g., mentioning "end caps" and "POS" for a pitch to a magazine for retailers) to show you "get it," and pitch an idea that will benefit readers. Make sure to mention the section of the magazine the story belongs in! And if you use an LOI (see my earlier posts, Query vs. LOI and Write your own LOI for more on how to do it), play up your knowledge of/experience with the relevant industry. Read my earlier post, Trade Magazines for more about finding potential markets.
Custom magazines are often overlooked by freelancers, but they often pay well, with rates starting at $0.50/word. A custom magazine is a consumer magazine with a twist; it's aimed at a particular audience—say, Jeep owners or people who buy Iams dog food for their pets. In the past, custom magazines resembled advertorial vehicles but today many are high-quality publications that mimic the look and feel of their consumer counterparts and help create loyalty between readers and the relevant company. To break in, send an LOI that highlights your experience with the subject(s) the magazine covers. Check out the Custom Content Council (formerly the Custom Publishing Council) for possible markets.
In future posts, I'll talk more about these kinds of lucrative markets and provide you with more techniques about pitching to, and writing for, them. In the meantime, get pitching!