I started my freelance career two decades ago writing for women's magazines. My first sale was to Cosmopolitan; after that, I wrote for publications including Woman's Day, Family Circle, Self, Shape, Redbook, Fitness, Fit, and Woman's World.
I had several reasons for doing so. First off, I was familiar with some of the publications already. I'd been reading mags like Cosmo and Shape for years before I pitched them. I knew what topics the magazines covered and what kind of stories that editors were likely to be interested in.
But even more important, these magazines paid well, and used plenty of freelance material. While some sections of the mags might be produced in-house, the majority of them relied on freelancers for short FOB (front-of-the-book) pieces, departments, and longer features.
While a lot has changed in 20 years, some things haven't. Women's magazines still work with lots of freelancers, and while some of their contracts request all rights, they pay in the $2/word range. Plus, there's still some cachet to writing for these big publications, and they make impressive clips when you're starting out.
Best news of all? There's any easy way to crack these markets, even when you're short on clips. That was the message I heard from editors from Family Circle, Woman's Day, and First for Women when I moderated a panel on women's magazines at this year's annual ASJA writer's conference.
The answer? Pitch "real women" stories. Editors from all three magazines said they're always looking for compelling pieces about real-life women, and these stories are often difficult to find.
So, what sells? When pitching a "real woman" piece to a woman's magazine, keep these factors in mind:
- The woman you profile should fit within the magazine's readers' demographics.
- The woman should have a compelling story to share. Consider the challenge she faced, how she overcame it, and the takeaway for the reader.
- Even if the story is sad, there should be some kind of positive or uplifting aspect to it. (Generally speaking, women's magazine readers aren't looking for depressing reads.)
- Send a photo of the person along with the pitch.
- Look for people who haven't been covered in national media (local media is usually fine).
- If pitching a story about more than one woman--say four women who have successfully started their own at-home businesses--strive for diversity in terms of age, race, geographic location, etc.
- Tell your friends and family members you're looking for possible story ideas. The bigger the net you cast, the more likely you are to find possible stories.
- If one market doesn't say "yes," try another. I pitched a story about a woman whose doctors didn't believe she was sick for years--until she was finally diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and successfully treated--to nine women's magazines and finally the ninth one assigned the story!
I hope you find these tips helpful to pitching, and selling to, women's magazines. Good luck with your pitches!
**New to the blog? Welcome! If you're serious about making your freelance writing business a money-maker, I suggest my freelance classic, Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money, Second Edition.
If you're more interested in getting into ghostwriting and content marketing, I suggest Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: Make Money Ghostwriting Books, Articles, Blogs and More, Second Edition.
If you're brand-new to freelancing, Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets walks you through the process of launching your freelance career.
Finally, if you like your books full of shorter pieces, check out a different format--Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success is divided into five broad sections to help you make more money regardless of what kind of nonfiction writing you do.