Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Generating Articles

by Annette Lyon

I've had a lot of success in recent months selling articles to magazines. In addition to hearing, "Congratulations," and "I'm jealous," I'm also hearing, "How do you get your article ideas?"

You can learn about ideas, finding angles, and writing what you know in writing magazines and books. I did all that for years and still couldn't seem to manage to come up with many concrete, specfic ideas.

But below, I'm about to spill what I finally learned about getting article ideas.

1) Read the ads, not the articles.
Contrary to what you might think, magazines make the bulk of their money from selling ad space, not from selling subscriptions. If you pitch an article that might sell them more ad space, you have a better chance of getting your foot in the door.

Several months ago I noticed that a magazine I subscribe to had a lot of ads from companies specializing in modest clothing like extra-long t-shirts and formal dresses with sleeves and low hemlines. I pitched an article on how to dress fashionably and while fully covered, complete with side bars that had resources for companies that carried such clothing. The magazine snatched it up. (And can you guess where they turned to for selling ads that month? Yep. My side bar contact information.)

2) Look months ahead.
Several magazines actually post their upcoming topics online. Such listings are a freelancer's goldmine. If an editor is looking for something about easy Halloween costumes for the October issue, by all means, send one in! Just be sure to read deadlines and note lead times. Magazines don't go by the typical calendar. When the rest of the population is thinking summer, editors are thinking winter or even spring.

3) Follow trends and twist them.
If you've followed a magazine for a while, you know what topics they've covered and what they like. Capitalize on that. Find a similar but untapped topic. If they recently ran an article about sending a child off to college, pitch one about how parents can keep in touch with that child once they're AT college.

4) Find what you know that's abnormal.
I recently threw together an article last minute that I thought was rather obvious and lame. The editor took it, I thought, because she needed to fill a space and was desperate. But I've had lots of people tell me they thought it was wonderful, and the editor has used me several times since then. Turns out that not everyone knows this stuff after all, and I can capitalize on that fact.

Everyone has knowledge that no one else does. The trick is finding out what you know that others don't. You might be surprised how much you know that you can share.

Use a few of these tips, and you could be selling some articles of your own. It's easier than you might think!


Heather B. Moore said...

This is awesome. If you're an unpublished novelist, this is a great way to get some writing experience and extra cash at the same time.

Janette Rallison said...

These are great ideas. I keep thinking, "One day I'll try the magazine market." You know, right after I do all that other stuff that I'm supposed to do . . .clean my closets . . . get rid of the Tupperware lids that no longer have containers . . .

Heather B. Moore said...

Hey Janette, I have Tupperware containers with no lids. Maybe we should do a swap!