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Discovering markets you didn’t know existed

From quarterlies about secretaries to periodicals about electricity, it seems there’s a magazine for everything. Expand where you sell your writing by mining obscure markets.

I worked as managing editor of OfficePro magazine for eight years, and during that time two things about writers surprised me: I only received about fifteen queries a year, and at least thirteen of those were completely off target.

Before I worked as a magazine editor, I’d been a full-time writer. I’d worked as head writer and editor at a weekly newspaper, churning out the main stories of the newspaper every week—but having a managing editor above me and also a slew of copyeditors. So, when I started a job that required me to hire freelancers and also create a cohesive, themed magazine, I learned a ton about being a freelancer—from the other side of the desk.

Maybe you’re scratching your head and wondering why you’ve never heard of OfficePro magazine. When I started to work there, it was a small magazine with a circulation of 50,000. It was a magazine that went to mailboxes of the members of an association for office workers. You won’t find it at your local indie bookstore or even at Barnes and Noble. Not even Amazon carries it.

If this magazine is so hard to find, why would you want to write for it? Because when I was managing editor, I paid a dollar per word. That’s why you want to write for it. And I’d have wanted you to write because I not only worked as managing editor of the magazine, I also lead five teams at the association and spearheaded all communications. I was regularly drowning in work. When I found a good writer, one who submitted error-free, apt work on time, I’d have paid just about anything to keep her. If you’re looking for new markets that often pay well, look at association and trade publications.

Exactly how does one find out about association and trade publications? In the case of OfficePro magazine (which is still looking for talented writers) you’ll find submission information on their website. To find other publications, there are excellent books and websites to point you to new markets.

I’m a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature—the sister organization to Institute for Writers. When I was writing exclusively for children, I’d purchase their excellent Magazine Market for Children’s Writers every year. When I began writing for adults, I purchased the Writer’s Market book for adults. The yearly “bible for writers” lists dozens of niche publications that you’ve never heard about. These books are worth the price.

When I first started writing for adults, I overlooked unknown publications, dreaming of bigger things. Who has even heard of “American Laundry News” anyway? But I don’t pass over little-known markets anymore.

Here’s why: Trade and association publications often have a narrow focus, so it’s harder for them to find good freelancers and easier for me to get a gig. When I worked in the association field, I connected yearly with other association publishers. Finding good freelance writers was a perpetual topic of woe because few editors received workable pitches from writers. That meant we were often stuck writing articles ourselves.

The likelihood of earning a steady gig goes way up when you finally break into a trade publication and do a good job with the first article you write.

There are hundreds of markets you can write for that will never be listed in a writer’s market book. Because of that I’ve turned to WebWire for a fairly comprehensive listing of trade magazines listed by industry type—which makes turning your love of RVing into a new writing gig much easier.

Another favorite resource of mine that goes one step further than WebWire is WhoPaysWriters. It lists paying writing gigs and also notes pay per word. If you don’t want to work for five cents a word, you’ve saved the time you would have spent pulling together a query and story ideas only to find the pay is abysmal. It’s fine to write for measly pay if you like the subject or if you think a certain gig will open more doors for you. I’ve done it.

WhoPaysWriters also gives wait times to get paid, insight into how the writer landed the deal (cold pitch or existing relationship), and what type of writing or reporting the writer performed. In addition, those who’ve written for a publication can leave reviews on their interaction with the publication. It’s a helpful site you’ll want to bookmark, especially if you’re trying to break into the freelance business.

Whether you’re just starting out as a writer or, like me, wrote for years before breaking into niche markets such as association, trade, and industry publications, the rewards can be worth the extra effort expended to research new topics. Besides adding to my bank account, I’ve learned a lot about subjects I knew nothing about.     

There are a lot of markets out there. Find five publications that pique your interest, pull together a solid story idea and pitch away. Happy writing!

Emily Allen is the writer/editor for the Boilermakers union, founder of Kansas City Walking Tours, and a life and writing coach. She’s written for the Discovery Channel’s website, the Kansas City Star, Weekly Reader’s Current Science magazine and Cricket magazine in addition to hundreds of articles in regional and national publications. Emily’s a former journalist, newspaper editor, and broadcaster and has also worked in public relations and marketing. Her debut middle-grade novel, “A Friend of the Enemy,” will be released in 2019. Visit her at www.emilyrallen.com.

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