On Writing

How I Got My First Magazine Assignment – and You Can Too

It only takes one yes.

After  giving up my childhood dream of being an archaelogist, I turned my attention to writing – specifically writing for magazines.  Here’s what happened:

I went to my first writer’s conference in Phoenix, Arizona where the editor of Arizona Highways  told a story about assigning articles to three freelancers. But, as it turned out, only one of the articles was ever published. That’s because one  was so filled with errors it couldn’t be used and the other came in so far past the deadline the  editor wouldn’t accept it.   I remember him saying, “You don’t have to be the Great American Writer. Just be on time and be accurate.”

I knew my work would be both, so my confidence soared.

At the second writer’s conference I met the editor of a trade magazine. She gave me an assignment to write about “behind the scenes of a doctor’s office”, which  was a slam-dunk for me as my sister owned a medical transcription company and a good friend ran the back office for a neurologist.  We ended up going into the office after hours and setting up a little photo shoot to accompany my article.  That turned out to be my first work ever published in a magazine.

My second was for another trade on catering a wedding. One of my friends was a chef at a local hotel that did a lot of weddings. She got me into the ballroom before a wedding party so I could photograph the tables and all of the decorations, making it possible for me to provide the total package (words and pictures) on that assignment.

My third published piece was for another trade – this time a travel magazine. I wrote about the many jeep tours of Red Rock County, Sedona, Arizona. Again, I knew a man who owned one of the companies and again I took photos to accompany the stories. I knew the town well and knew I could deliver a solid story.

How Can You Use My Experience to Get Your Foot in the Magazine Market

  • Writer’s conferences are a great place for networking, particularly with editors. Go loaded for bear – have several ideas in your back pocket that you can pitch to the appropriate editors.
  • Make a list of all of your friends and the type of job/careers they have. They are some of your best resources for magazine ideas, interviews, and insider tips.
  • Don’t be afraid to say you can provide photographs, as long as you have that capacity. Editors love complete packages.

You have a wealth of experience and an over-abundance of ideas and friends and family who can open doors for you to other resources. Sometimes the key to breaking  into the magazine market is right in your backyard – you don’t have to sail the ocean or live in Paris to be successful in this market.

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