By Roy Stevenson
I still get excited when I discover a new magazine on the rack at my local bookstore. While start-up magazines have never been a major source of outlets and assignments for me, I’ve managed to snag enough assignments from them to make it worthwhile. And I’m still writing for a couple of magazines that I cold-called just after they started up.
According to Samir Husni’s Guide to New Magazines, about 700 to 1000 new magazines are launched each year in the U.S.
And several hundred more start up each year in the other major English-speaking countries around the world: Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
Many of these foreign magazines want to break into the U.S. market. And, I’ve found many of them receptive to American writers—provided, of course, that you have juicy stories to pitch to them.
Getting published in startup magazines is a good bet for beginning and experienced freelancers alike.
Here’s why . . .
New magazines don’t have many articles in their backlog. Their editors haven’t had much chance to network with travel writers and are often scrambling around for good copy.
For novice writers, brand new magazines are worth pursuing because the editor doesn’t yet have an established network of writers. As a result, these editors are more likely to accept stories from less experienced writers. This makes it easier for newbies to break in.
For seasoned writers, new magazines are easy targets because the editors are thrilled they’re getting a veteran writer right off the bat. They know they can count on good, solid stories that need little or no editing. When new magazines list experienced travel writers on their magazine masthead, it shows the readers they’re getting stories from pros.
If you keep your eyes open at your local bookstore, you’ll notice new magazines as they come in. I frequent my local bookstores every 2-3 weeks and skim through the magazine racks.
If you’re traveling to English-speaking countries overseas, it pays to spend some time exploring the magazine racks in the local bookstores while you’re there.
I always make a point of visiting London’s largest bookstores whenever I’m in England, and inevitably I discover several new magazines that will pay off somewhere down the line. I especially enjoy roaming London’s Charing Cross Road because there are two large bookstores with magazine racks.
I’m not just looking for travel magazines on these quests. I have always preached that freelance writers should get their work published in several genres. So you should look for potential magazines in all the genres that interest you.
1. Be Proactive.
When you discover a startup magazine that looks like a good target for your writing genres, send the magazine editor an introductory email. Do this immediately, because other savvy travel writers are doing exactly the same thing, and you want to beat them to the punch.
2. Write a letter of introduction. Your mission is to …
I call these letters (emails) ‘Requests For Work’.
Here’s a sample introductory email I wrote to a new regional travel magazine that I discovered on the magazine rack a couple of years ago.
Sample Introductory Query Letter
<Your Name & Contact Details>
Dear <Editor’s name>,
Congratulations on your new venture! I was excited to see the information about <name of magazine>. From reading the Writer’s Guidelines, it’s clear you’re looking for a wide spread of articles about the Northwest, and I’d love to see my work published in it.
With this in mind, I have a couple of story ideas for you to consider.
Both of these articles are available now and have not been published anywhere else, in print or online. Both articles come with an broad selection of high res photographs to accompany them.
The Pendleton Round Up
The Pendleton Round Up is a brilliantly revolving kaleidoscope of western culture, color and action, from the 2-hour long Westward Ho! Parade, to dozens of proud Indian braves from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation dancing in bright rainbow costumes of buckskin and feathers. Not to mention the short, sharp violence of bareback horse and bull riding and the dazzling skill displayed by the calf roping and steer wrestling cowboys.
First held in September 1910, the Round Up celebrated the end of the harvest, attracting 7,000 people. Now, every September the small town of Pendleton, Oregon, swells from 17,000 to 50,000 people each day during the Round Up. The Pendleton event is a giant affair, dwarfing all others in the region and drawing people from across the U.S.A. and around the world. If you ever have visitors from out of town, this is the place to bring them.
This 1200-word article brings to life the various events associated with this world-class event. I can offer a gallery of 45 images to accompany this article.
Eagle watching on the Nooksack River
Magnificent. Majestic. Proud. You soon run out of superlatives when you’re watching large black and white bald eagles soaring overhead, their wide feathered wings spreading out over 6 feet from tip to tip.
We’re on an eagle-watching trip on the swiftly flowing Nooksack River, its swollen waters muddy brown from the recent floods. With all eyes scanning for eagles, our six-person raft floats past rocky gravel peninsulas covered with stark maples, scraggly cottonwoods, green cedars, and sparse, striped birch trees. With all of this Northwest scenery against the backdrop of towering, snow-veiled mountains, this would still be an enjoyable the trip without the eagles.
This 1400-word article tells about my eagle-watching trip down the Nooksack River. It’s more than just a description of how many eagles we saw, and includes information about eagle protection and a little about their lives, size, feeding, etc. I have a 21-image gallery of stunning photos of the eagles, and the Pacific Northwest background.
If your freelance budget is limited, please bear in mind that I have several dozen Pacific Northwest travel reprints available. Most articles are 1000-1500 words, and many include sidebars. Please let me know if you’d like to see my complete article list and I’ll be happy to send it to you.
A review of my writing highlights follows: I’m a full time freelance travel writer and photographer based in Seattle. I have 700 articles published in 160 regional, national, and international magazines, newspapers, in-flights and online travel magazines. I write the monthly destination travel column for 48 Degrees North yachting magazine. To view some of my travel articles please go to <URL of your writer's website>.
My travel articles have appeared in: Northwest Travel, Northwest Meetings & Events, Seattleite.com, Sunday Oregonian, South Sound, Columbia Gorge, Gorge Guide, Mid-Columbian, Kitsap Sun, 48 Degrees North, Coast Food & Arts, Kenmore Air Harbors In-flight, Washington Tasting Room, Wavelength, Colors Northwest, Go World Travel, Tourist Travel, Travellady, Travel Post Monthly, Scotland Magazine, Britain Magazine, This England, Renaissance, Zymurgy, Mysteries, Sculpture, and Emirates Open Skies In-flight.
Thank you for consideration of these articles. Please contact me if either of these pieces looks like a good fit for your magazine. If my skills appear to be a good fit for your publication, I’d love to discuss your editorial needs.
I look forward to hearing from you at your convenience.
End of Sample
• First, it contains two story pitches.
• Next, I mention that I have an archive of stories available immediately. Startup magazines are not likely to have many articles on hand and may be scrambling around for content. So there’s always the prospect of some immediate sales of reprints.
• Also, notice that I list some of the magazines where I’ve been published. You want to show the editor that you're an experienced writer, that you can write good copy and meet deadlines.
• I use form letters, or templates like this to reach out to new magazines. Templates save time and improve your productivity. I fill in the specifics and tailor each form letter to meet the new magazine’s profile.
Sending an open email like this is a hit-or-miss proposition. However, I’ve had enough “hits” from new magazines to make this standard practice. And I’ve developed some bountiful long-term relationships with some of these magazine editors.
Try it the next time you find a new magazine on the racks. Your introductory letter shows initiative. You might find a delighted editor on the other end, happy to give you a writing assignment.
Do you need help writing query letters that catch the attention of editors?
If you're looking for a guide to help you write query letters to editors, I've written The Complete Guide to Query Letters for Travel Writers to help you. It includes everything you need to know about query letters, along with 20 sample query letters that you can use as templates for your own queries.
Roy Stevenson is a professional travel writer and the author of www.PitchTravelWrite.com. Over the past ten years, he’s had more than 1000 articles published in 200 magazines, trade and specialty journals, in-flights, on-boards, blogs and websites and has traveled on assignment around the U.S. and to dozens of international destinations.
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