Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Why Novelists Should Consider Writing Magazine Articles

You can spend months researching fascinating bits of information for your novels. Maybe you found out your character who lived in the early 1900’s couldn’t be drinking Makers Mark because it wasn’t available until 1958. Or maybe you read about an ancient Japanese tradition that says if a sumo wrestler makes a baby cry it will bring the little one good health.

Some research finds its way into your novels, while other facts make you shake your head in amazement, but never make it to the page. Instead of having all this interesting information die a slow death in the depths of your computer hard drive, consider writing articles using these topics.

Writing magazine articles is a great way to use all this fascinating research, and it allows you the chance to get your name out there to potential new readers. If people read your article and enjoy it, it may compel them to look up your website or one of your other books listed in your short bio at the end of the piece. One Facebook post talking about your book may reach a couple thousand people on a great day. One article has the potential to reach tens of thousands of readers or more depending on the magazine.

If that isn’t enough of a reason to consider writing articles, how about these:

  • Showcases your writing skills
  • Helps your SEO (search engine optimization) when people Google your name because the articles may appear in the searches
  • If you target the right markets, you will get paid for your work
  • Gives you a nice break between novels and keeps you writing
  • Builds your credibility 
  • Strengthens your author brand

Ready to move forward? The first step is to take out all your research. Look through it and pull out the ideas that have potential. Write down specific angles for each of those ideas. For instance, if I go back to the Makers Mark whisky fact, that piece of information alone isn’t enough to sustain a whole article. But I could look at writing an article about:
  • The history of whisky in the U.S. 
  • Bill Samuels, Sr., the man behind Makers Mark 
  • The science behind whisky and how it’s made
  • The top 5 whisky companies in the U.S.
  • How to host a whisky tasting party 

Once you figure out the direction for your article, it’s time to find the perfect magazine for the idea. Think beyond the obvious magazines. A piece about the top five whisky companies can work for a business magazine or the tasting party idea can fit in a lifestyle magazine. Use the Writer’s Market as a reference to find a variety of markets. Go to the magazines’ websites to read past articles to better understand the style and tone before pitching your idea.

For articles, email a short query first. The basic components to include:
  • Salutation (Find the correct editor and the correct spelling of his/her name)
  • A great hook
  • Provide information about the topic (enough to pique an editor’s interest and show you have knowledge of the topic)
  • Share specifics about what you are proposing, approximate word count, the department you see this fitting into, the type of article (profile, roundup, how-to, feature, review…)
  • Your bio
  • Your name and contact information (Phone number, email and website if you have one)

If the editor is interested, she will give you the assignment, a contract and then you write the article.

This is a quick look at how to make the best use of your research and build your author brand through magazine articles. If you want more in depth information, I wrote a whole book about the topic, The Writer’s Digest Guide to Magazine Article Writing. Good luck and I hope to see your byline on articles in the near future.
Kerrie Flanagan is writing consultant, freelance writer, author and presenter from Fort Collins, CO. She is presenting at the Writer’s Digest Conference this August in NYC. To learn more about Kerrie, her books and where she is presenting or teaching next, visit her website at KerrieFlanagan.com


  1. This is a fabulous article, Kerrie. Too often we overlook the importance of branding or limit ourselves to our comfort zone(s) instead of exploring new avenues to showcase our writing ability and get our names in front of the reading public. For example, I view myself as a novelist, so I haven't approached the magazine market since the early 70s, when an article I wrote appeared in a regional publication. Now you've inspired me to begin reviewing decades of accumulated research to see what hidden gems might be lurking there. Thank you. (I'll be visiting your website, too.)

  2. Excellent post, Kerrie. I've never seriously thought of writing for a magazine, but I have a couple of research notes that never went beyond the "what if" category that might be fun.

  3. Many many many years ago, I tried querying magazines and never got a bite except for a short piece about ham radio in a communications magazine. I wish I'd worked at it harder.

  4. Never thought of using the research that way.

  5. Linda, I am glad I have inspired you to maybe give magazine writing another try.
    Thanks, Polly, maybe now you will consider it.
    Pat, there's nothing to stop you from trying again now (except maybe how much time you have in your day ;-) )

  6. This post is giving me lots of thoughts. I have a ton of research piled up.

  7. As a novelist, exposure is the hardest thing to gain. This is a great tip.

  8. Great tips, Kerrie, and congratulations on the new book! A wonderful resource for writers. :O)


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