Academics are very busy people. Among other things, they must teach, mark, publish, and network. Despite all that work, we still suggest that you try to write newspaper or magazine articles occasionally.
Publishing for magazines is a great way to improve your writing skills, as your content will be reviewed by experienced editors. This will help you professionally when writing academic papers. Once you get the hang of it, it can also be a lucrative side hustle as publishers are always looking for articles that contain in-depth information and that are written by a experts in the field.
- Brainstorm: The article that you pitch should be in your area of research. Before even beginning the process, free-write or map-out an angle that is unique, interesting, and compelling. Publishers run a business and they will prioritize articles that grab their audience’s attention.
- Study your target publication: Ideally the publication where you plan to be published is one that you read often and that tackles your research subject.
- Plan ahead of time: The article that you plan to publish should be on a topic that has not been reviewed in the past year because publishers like to address different issues. Since articles often have a six month lead, we suggest that you pitch for an article that will coincide with an upcoming event. Explain in a query letter why that topic will be in the news on publication day.
- Write a query letter: Query letters are short, formal letters sent to an editor to consider you for publishing. You should make it as specific as possible: editors do not like vague queries. A good query letter should:
- Address the editor by name (if the magazine has more than one editor, send it to the one who handles your topic);
- Include the date and your contact information;
- Mention your academic credential and experiences;
- Give a brief point-form outline of what you want to write and how it relates to their magazines;
- Explain why this subject will be relevant in the next few months;
- Note your writing experience in the subject matter; and
- Pay attention to the guidelines!
- Prove yourself first: National magazines want to know that you are a good writer and that their readers can relate to you. To prove yourself, we suggest to first pitch to local publications and very specialized magazines. We also recommend pitching at first for a short 300-500 word article before transitioning to a long-form story. This approach will also give you the opportunity to fine tune your writing skills.
- Prepare for rejection: Most articles do not get published. A writer’s life is marked by rejection and unpublished work. However, you can only become successful if you learn from those failures. We still encourage you to follow-up on the status of your query.