My first few published articles, in October 2007, were about one of my passions — all things military. Since then I’ve had well over 60 military stories appear in twenty magazines and newspapers in the U.S., U.K, and New Zealand.
So far, every military story I’ve pitched has been picked up, and I’ve resold many of them, often in other countries. This success has led to a regular military museum column for Military Magazine, which has further enhanced my credibility in this genre.
Why this demand for military articles? There’s always been a consistent
need for military stories, but movies like Saving Private Ryan, Band of
Brothers, Flags of our Fathers, etc, have caused a resurgence of interest that shows no sign of abating.
You’d be amazed at how large and varied the military literature field is and how many military magazines there are out there. I have a staggering 87 military magazines on my pitch list!
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In fact, you’ll be surprised at how many non-military magazines will take military stories occasionally. I’ve had military themed articles appear in nationally and internationally distributed magazines and newspapers like Popular Communications, Monitoring Times, Renaissance, Scotland, SpaceFlight, Aviation History, VHF Communications, and New Zealand Sunday News. And history magazines will always consider your military stories because they’re a steady seller.
There are plenty of markets.
First, you have to think outside the box. When most writers think of
military topics, it’s usually famous battles that come to mind. However,
there is a plethora of other military related topics that many editors are
What I love above all else when writing on this theme is that I can combine my love of travel writing with my passion for military places and artifacts.
A story about the military vehicles at the Luxembourg National Military Museum, for example, is still a travel story any way you slice it. A piece about the gun batteries and military museums at Edinburgh Castle is still a travel piece. Likewise when you write about military fortresses, battlefields, monuments and memorials, memorial parades, cemeteries, vehicles, and historical buildings—there’s a travel element in them all.
And don’t forget your regional travel and lifestyle magazines, and
newspapers. They’ll often take military oriented articles, especially about local military museums and parades. I’ve had military stories in Pacific Northwest regionals like South Sound, Kitsap Sun, Columbia Gorge Guide, and the Sunday Oregonian.
I broke into military writing after visiting over two hundred European
military museums, battlefields, memorials and cemeteries while living in Brussels for two years, so I obviously had good content and photos. Wanting to share these experiences with other people, I was pleasantly surprised at how receptive editors were to these stories when I pitched them. Then, once the bylines started building up my confident grew, and some of the higher echelon magazines started showing interest in my work.
Start Out by Pitching Military Museum Stories
I’ve had tremendous success pitching stories about Military museums to magazines and newspapers, so they’re a great place to start your military writing career. Let me remind you that there are hundreds of military museums spread out around the U.S.A. And it’s not just U.S. publications that are interested in stories about U.S. military museums. I’ve sold stories about two U.S. military museums to a U.K. military vehicle magazine within the last few months and been paid well for them, and have also sold stories about U.K. military museums to U.S. magazines.
Have you visited any old fortresses with lots of ancient cannon lying
around? I got started writing about these places. The Artilleryman magazine loves these stories—they’ve yet to turn down any of my pitches about artillery museums and fortresses. Here are some of my stories they’ve published, all good examples of combining travel and militaria.
· Artillery museums in Portsmouth
· Artillery at the Battle of Waterloo
· The Military Museum at Montjuic Castle in Barcelona
· The Gun Batteries and Military Museums at Edinburgh Castle
· The Sveaborg Fortress in Helsinki Harbor
· The Royal Gunpowder Museum in England
· The Artillery Museum at Spandau Castle
· Cannon at the Royal Museum of Military History in Brussels
· Artillery at Fort Nelson Royal Armoury
The Artilleryman does not pay much ($50), but it’s a great way to get your first byline and gain some confidence writing about military topics. And if you put some thought into your topics, you can select them with resale in mind. I’ve resold my stories about Edinburgh Castle, and Artillery at the Battle of Waterloo, to U.K. magazines, making over $900 from those two pieces—and I’m certain I’ll resell my other military articles to travel magazines.
Now I travel to Europe every year for 3-4 weeks and always plan several
military museums, fortresses and battlefields into my itinerary. I always
come back with enough material to submit at least 6 military articles to
magazines, significantly defraying my travel costs. In addition, I arrange free entry into these sites, also saving me money.
Other Military Topics to Write About
If ancient guns and fortresses are not your thing, consider writing on other aspects of militaria that might interest you: military history, battlefields, monuments and memorials, memorial parades, cemeteries, weapons, vehicles, aircraft, missiles, ships, historical buildings, and communications.
Where else can you get ideas on military topics to write about? Do you live near a famous historical battlefield? Look for a new slant to it; have they uncovered something new (artifacts) at the site? Is there an annual battle re-enactment nearby that you can write about?
You Don’t Have to be a Military Expert
You’re probably reading this thinking, “but you’re an expert on military
history”. The fact is, I’m not. You don’t necessarily have to be a
professional military historian to get published in military magazines—just an enthusiast.
Certainly there are military magazines that require an advanced level of knowledge, but you can pitch those magazines after you’ve built up your bylines to an impressive number, say more than 10 magazines, and the editor will definitely consider your pitch.
How, then, can you write about military topics without having in-depth
background in the topic?
It really helps to have access to an expert who can help you with research and give you some quotes. Recruit “expert witnesses” to assist with military vehicle, aircraft, and ancient cannon identification. You’ll find they’re only too pleased to help. They’ll love the challenge of ID’ing the photos of vehicles or cannon you send them, and will supply you with lots of juicy details that you can write into your stories.
Make sure you reward them for their help. I thank my experts in the bylines, where appropriate, and send them a Barnes and Noble gift voucher for $100 every year.
Also make sure you do lots of reading on your military topic. You’ll find it fun learning about new topics, becoming more and more confident from your growing knowledge with each article.
Consider writing free military articles for some magazines when you’re
starting out, if you find out they don’t pay. I began by writing several free articles about Airborne Museums in Western Europe for two U.S. Airborne Association magazines called Airborne Quarterly and Static Line.
Of course your aim should be to eventually place your free stories in paying magazines or newspapers, but having these bylines gives you the credibility and bylines to pitch other military magazines. I write a free monthly military museum column that appears alongside Colonel Oliver North’s column in Military magazine, which certainly helps my credibility when pitching other military magazines.
Finding Military Magazines
Where do you find magazines to pitch your military stories? Having an
interest in military vehicles is fertile ground. Try Classic Military Vehicle
(U.K.), Military Machines International (U.K.), and Army motors (U.S.).
Civil War enthusiasts can pitch Civil War News or any of the other half
dozen U.S. magazines covering this era. Antique weapons aficionados
should try Classic Arms & Militaria (U.K.) or any of the other antique
And if you’ve visited military battlefield sites in Europe and the Pacific
where American servicemen fought, you can pitch newspapers around the country several months before the anniversaries of those battles. August or September, for example, would be good months to send articles about the Battle of the Bulge, or Bastogne to newspapers, as those battles took place in December of 1944.
AMERICA IN WORLD WAR II www.americainwwii.com Interested in all
aspects of WWII as it affected Americans. Editor James P. Kushlan
AMERICAN HISTORY www.historynet.com Roger L. Vance Editor
ARMY MOTORS www.mvpa.org For U.S. military vehicle aficionados. Reg Hodgson Editor
THE ARTILLERYMAN www.civilwarnews.com
Focus on pre-1900 cannon and fortifications. Pays $50. Kay Jorgensen Editor email@example.com
AVIATION HISTORY www.Aviationhistory.org Military and civilian aviation from first flight to jet age. Carl von Wodtke Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
CIVIL WAR NEWS www.civilwarnews.com Kay Jorgensen Editor
CLASSIC ARMS & MILITARIA U.K. www.blazepublishing.co.uk Militaria
magazine. Battles, weaponry. Jonathan Downs Editor email@example.com
HISTORY CHANNEL MAGAZINE. www.thehistorychannelclub.com
Submit article to: The History Channel, Club, Attn: Jim Tarbox, Editor, PO Box 3485, Minnetonka, MN 55343
MILITARY www.milmag.com Debbie Shank, Assistant Editor,
MILITARY MACHINES INTERNATIONAL U.K.
www.modelactivitypress.com Magazine featuring restored military vehicles, parades, museums. Ian Young Editor Military.firstname.lastname@example.org
VIETNAM www.historynet.com/magazines/vietnam All aspects of the
Vietnam War. David T. Zabecki Editor Vietnam@weiderhistorygroup.com
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