Freelance Writing Part Two
In Part One, we began to look at the layout of newsagents and to recognise that their layout in store is based on circulation figures. With newspapers selling more than 3,000,000 copies in the UK, you might jump to the conclusion that this would be the first area to try to write for. But newspapers deal mostly in news. News, by its nature, is short-lived, immediate, on-the-scene - freelance writing draws its longevity from producing articles with a longer shelf-life. Yes, newspapers are bulked up with all sorts of sections, supplements and pull-outs, but these are often put together by senior news journalists.
As a beginning freelance writer, the magazine market – both mass and niche titles, on stands and online – is going to prove to be a more accessible and exciting arena for your work, at least at first.
Only around 10 per cent of consumer magazines have an average circulation greater than 200,000. More than this many copies every week defines a publication as a ‘mass market’ title, which means that 9 out of every 10 titles you see in the newsagent has a limited target market. That leaves a number of small special-interest titles available to consumers - ‘niche titles’- which are the main market for beginning freelance writers.
It’s all very encouraging: all those different titles mean lots of potential buyers for your articles. Here’s just a rapidly assembled sample of the many kinds of magazines that are out there looking for material from freelance writers:
Arts and crafts
Food and wine
Hair and make-up
Hip hop music Football
Home entertainment hardware
This list doesn’t include celebrity-based magazines such as Hello!, OK and Woman’s Weekly which make up a large part of the UK publishing market, nor lifestyle magazines such as FHM, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, or Maxim which feature a selection of the subjects above.
In brief, there are more outlets for articles than you can easily imagine.
In either the front or the back of most these magazines will be a page or a column that contains all that title’s credit information, called the masthead. This has the names and titles of staff from the editor down, contact phone numbers and email addresses (sometimes for each staff member) postal addresses, and full details about the publishing company that produces the title. This gives you the points of contact for selling your material. It’s important that you research this prior to sending anything to them - you need to contact the decision-makers so as not to waste the wrong person’s time and look like you haven’t even read their magazine. The masthead will also tell you whether the publisher is small and independent or a large media company, which gives you clues about how they do business and what their rates of pay may be.
Most of these magazines will have websites set up that will provide full circulation and readership figures, as well as demographics for the typical reader’s age, employment, income, etc. for the use of potential advertisers. This kind of information is useful when you’re trying to tap into different markets and deciding upon subject matter.
When it comes to the crunch of what to write about, you’ll need to bear all this in mind. Obviously a sports magazine isn’t going to want an article about knitting; a golf magazine won’t want an article about horse-riding, and so on. Luckily, the niche nature of most magazines will tell you exactly what sort of thing they will be interested in hearing about, but publications with general appeal, that might cover all styles of music and music journalism, or different aspects of new technology are a little trickier. You’ll need to read them as a freelance writer who is interested in getting work in print. Note how the stories are presented; which ones appear at the front, the middle or the back; how long is each one; what kind of style they are written in - formal, informal, chatty, serious; and think about the purpose of each.
Your job is to come up with interesting story ideas and angles. Understanding what each magazine needs is the best way of getting your work published and getting paid for it.