Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Best 'Market Research' Advice I've Ever Gotten

According to my writing mentor (who's been published in Family Circle, Woman's Day, Reader's Digest, Baby Talk, etc..), a magazine masthead is the freelancer's Holy Grail. All that writers need is a magazine and its masthead to learn who to submit to, where, what sections -if any- are open to freelancers, and how to write an article that will leave editors salivating.

And so the other day I sunk into a leather library chair, pounds of Family Circles on my lap. Opened the latest issue, and flipped through the first few pages, to its masthead. Linda says to use it like this:

Check Out Who's on Staff

Get an idea for what types of writers the magazine already has handy -and where the gaps are- by seeing who's working for the magazine. One look at Family Circle's masthead shows it has its own full health advisory board! Md's, psychologists, nutritionists, you name it. Definitely gives some indication of the types of articles they don't need. But let's say you're a medical professional/writer/superperson, and you don't see your field of medicine represented on the masthead. Maybe there's an opening for your article.

Figure Out Which Articles were Written Inhouse, and by Freelancers

My mentor's next suggestion was to see who wrote each article in the magazine, and find out if they're on the masthead. If they are, then that department/article type is written inhouse. One of Family Circle's first sections is called "My Hometown," and sounds promising for freelancers. But the writer, Jennifer Beck, is listed on the masthead as inhouse staff. In fact, most of the articles were written inhouse by someone, be it an Editor, Editorial Assistant or someone on the health board.

A closer look at the articles that weren't written inhouse all had the same things in common, and those similarities suggest specific guidelines on what to write and how to write it, in order to get into FC. Which brings us to the next task.

What Do the Freelance Articles Have in Common?

Once you've picked out all of the freelance articles, note their topics, format and style. This tells you how to structure and propose your article. For example, maybe a magazine has four pieces written by freelancers. Three of them are personal essays. They're all slanted to the editorial calendar theme. And all three essays include two personal photos, a few lines of dialogue and a "tips" sidebar. Improve your chances of acceptance by proposing a personal essay with these things in mind.


Michele said...

Hey there,

Folks don't understand how much goes into freelancing. It's amazing, isn't it? Invoicing, researching, queries, answering emails, paperwork... It never ends! And then people think we're lazy 'cause we sit down to study a market. Imagine that!

Here's to lots of sales in 2009!


P.S. Thanks for your kind words on my latest post. I appreciate you chiming in. :-)

ACW said...

I thought the old man was going to turn out to be the editor-in-chief of some well-known magazine and ready to scoop up your talent for an upcoming issue....alas! However, that's not a bad start to a fictional story!

Always love to hear what you're up to...inspiring to all of us!

Colleen said...


I wish! Maybe on my next trip... :)

Colleen said...

Hi Michele,

At the end of a day, sometimes I look back and think, where'd all the time go? What sounds like the simplest thing can suck up hours.

For some reason my old computer kept freezing when I tried to get onto your revamped blog (& a ton of other websites), but I finally invested in a new computer & can now go on, no problem. I'm looking forward to reading more,