“Selling nonfiction articles is most often done by pitching editors with article ideas that fit the publication’s needs, whether you’re pitching a magazine, newspaper, or online publication. It is key that you understand the needs of the specific publication and the audience, as well as the sections of the publication that need freelance writing.” – Writer’s Market
There’s more nonfiction published every year than fiction. Books aren’t the whole of it; there are also magazines and newspapers and a variety of online sites. So, where’s the biggest opportunity for freelancers? If you’ve been writing poetry, short stories and novels and are serious about increasing your published output and earnings, check sources like Writer’s Market for advice, lists of publications, and submission guidelines.
Here are a starling ideas list:
- As with fiction, you need to develop a platform. This includes ever expanding lists of articles in better and better magazines that show you can develop what editors want, get it finished on time, and have a certain level of acceptance in your specialty subjects.
- Credentials are important. Think of this as resume material. In terms of subject matter, do you have college or technical school degrees to back up your writing, or profit and/or nonprofit work in your specialty areas? Working as a full-time staff member for a newspaper or magazine where you covered your specialty areas also helps. Unlike blogging, newsstand and prestigious quarterly publications don’t accept facts gathered from Wikipedia or a few hobbyists’ blogs as either research or solid credentials.
- Follow the directions in the submission guidelines. Notice that many magazines are working on articles for issues that won’t be published for 6-9 months. Others have yearly themes or special themes. If these themes aren’t listed in the submission guidelines and/or aren’t obvious from reading the magazine, go to the publication’s web site and look for advertiser information. Quite often there will be a calendar there of one kind or another that lists the focus of the year’s issues.
- If you can pitch an article, you’ll normally save time and have a better chance of acceptance even though competition for paying markets is tough. First, if you write an article and send it in unsolicited, the odds are about as bad as winning the lottery to expect that article to arrive in the mail at the same moment the editor is wishing s/he had such an article. If you send a query, including your credentials, focus/angle, and word count, you haven’t wasted time writing and researching anything that may not be what the editor needs; secondly, the editor may wish to ask you if you can write something slightly different than you’re proposing. Assignments, guaranteed or not, are always better than sending stuff in out of nowhere.
- Knowing the magazine’s style, depth, and focus will help you deliver what makes sense to that magazine’s editor and readers. Articles are always written to address the needs of the readers, as in, what’s in it for them if they take the time to read the material? Some magazines like easy checklists; others use a lot of humor; some like a first-person approach; some want in-depth material that’s heavier in tone.
There are a lot of opportunities out there for freelance writers who develop their track records, specialties, abilities to adapt to editorial demands and deadlines, and a reputation for delivering high-quality material when promised.
If you go this route, you may never be as well-known as mainstream novelists, but you’ll make more money than writers who submit short stories and poetry alone.