Writing for Magazines --Part 14

By June Campbell

Part 14: Pitfalls to Avoid

There are a couple of pitfalls you want to avoid when you begin writing for magazines. One pitfall is the mistake of pitching a magazine article with a topic best suited for a press release. The second pitfall is allowing people to take advantage of you.

Let me explain.

Writing for Magazines Pitfall Number One: Article Pitch Vs. Press Release

Magazines and newspapers publish articles of interest to their readers. They do not publish articles that are thinly veiled advertisements.

Here is an example. A few years ago while attending a networking meeting, a woman approached me and asked if I would write an article about her new yoga studio. She envisioned that various community newspapers would be thrilled to publish such an article.

Now here's the problem: a new yoga studio might be newsworthy in Outer Mongolia. It is not remotely newsworthy in Vancouver, a city that has a yoga studio on every street corner.

I explained to this woman that she might write an article on the health benefits or yoga, for example, and negotiate with the newspaper to include her studio's location in a "blurb" at the end. However, as for me writing an article about her studio and somehow convincing an editor to publish it - that was not going to happen. I offered to write a press release for her at my regular rates. She was not interested.

Many people will approach you with similar suggestions when you become known as a magazine writer. Be clear in your own mind as to what warrants an article pitch and what is best handled through a press release.

Writing for Magazines Pitfall Number Two: People Who Take Advantage (if you let them)

Many years ago, I took up furniture refinishing as a hobby. Before long, people were bringing me their furniture to refinish - since I needed the practice! When I stopped needing practice and started suggesting reimbursement, interest dropped off suddenly.

The same thing happens when you begin to promote yourself as a writer. I wish I had $1 for every person who has generously offered to allow me to write for them for free - since I need the exposure!

Let me tell you something. Free exposure doesn't help you one little bit. You need some clips to show editors, yes. If you need to, do some volunteer writing for charitable organizations to get clips, references and testimonials.

But when Mr. Joe Bigshot offers to let you do a bunch of unpaid writing for his web site or for the new magazine he is launching, because "thousands of people will see it," graciously thank Mr. Bigshot for his offer and move on.

When I pay my bills at the end of the month, my creditors accept only cold, hard cash. They are not remotely interested in how many people viewed my writing this month.

Remember that. It's one of the best pieces of advice you'll get.

Best of luck with your magazine writing endeavors. Let me know when your first article is published!

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