Breaking (Back) into Print Market

Dear Jodee,

I was an active freelance writer throughout the 80s, publishing articles on weight loss and body image (my then-field) for women’s and health magazines. Also wrote essays, travel pieces, a newspaper column, and more. Then I changed fields, went into corporate training/consulting, and didn’t write or publish nearly as much. Now I’m trying again. I have some business columns on my website, but otherwise my clips are 30 years old, not available on the web, sometimes from magazines that don’t exist anymore! The publishing world is, of course, a completely different animal than before. It all feels very surreal.

I have several essays I’m currently trying to market, at top magazines. Maybe I’m aiming too high, but I was published before in high-paying markets.

I don’t want to give up, but I do get very discouraged.

Any advice? Thank you!


Dear Louisa,

Nothing stays the same, and that is true in publishing as in other things. The fact that you have had success as a freelancer in the past is something you can and should be proud of. There are many people who think they would like to write, and there are fewer individuals who actually do something about it.

Let’s look at your experience in weight loss and body image. It may not be 1985 anymore, but people are still interested in how to lose weight and many of us live with body image issues. (I know it can’t be just me.) These are evergreen topics and your previous clips can be used to demonstrate that you know how to craft a story properly.

Not every editor is going to get hung up on the fact that the magazine the story appeared in is not longer in print. Many of them have folded in recent years; it doesn’t take anything away from the fact that your work was accepted.

You also have the option of writing some updated material and posting it on your web site. That way, you have something more recent to show to a prospective client.

Are you aiming too high approaching top magazines? Absolutely not! Never, never, never sell yourself short. (At least that’s what my mother tells me.) The “top magazines” hire writers to provide content, and there is no reason why you don’t have a shot.

Are you thinking that because you are a mature writer that you will be overlooked in favor of someone younger? Some editors may do that, but they aren’t people you want to work with anyway. You have a wealth of experience that you bring to the table, both as a freelancer and in business, and don’t ever forget that.

As far as your marketing efforts go, the basic rules of making sure that you have read the writer’s guidelines carefully and are submitting queries and essays that are a good fit apply. You also want to be sure that your angle is adding something new to the magazine’s content.

It’s always too soon to give up. You may get rejected, but you move on. Do take some time to feel down and lick your wounds if you need to. That’s part of being human (and a writer). Then tell yourself that next time you may have a more positive response and keep submitting queries to the publications you are interested in.

What would you tell Louisa to do? Do you have a question about freelance writing you would like considered for a future column? Share it in comments.





2 responses
  1. Phil Avatar

    Though I’ve never been “out” of the market since I started, I have changed focus several times. And many of the publications I’ve written for are gone. So hopefully, I can offer some insight.

    Many top pubs have cut back so much that they stay with the writers they know. Still try there, but suggest newsletter route or talking to a local hospital about writing these articles for them and their Web site. WebMD might be another possibilty. If you haven’t done so already, look into the sports/fitness/exercis equipment arena for pubs.

  2. allena Avatar

    i wonder how the magazines would even know if she was “older”? As long as she rings with her readers, I’m not sure age matters or is looked t. Maybe I am being naive.

    I do get people at who want to pop right into the Glamour, Time, Real Weddings glossies without anything to put them there. I don’t tell them nice things like your mom does. I tell them to build up to it like the rest of us!!

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