Have you ever wondered how to submit your articles to magazines (or online platforms) and get published?
Five years ago, I was wondering the same thing. I was still working as a fashion designer in a 9-5 job I was desperate to escape from.
I wanted to change careers and be a writer, and get paid for my work; but I had no idea where to start.
I had no professional experience, no contacts to hook me up with clients, and no one to show me the way.
In the space of year, I had my writing published on numerous platforms, including The Huffington Post, Teen Vogue & Thought Catalog; and I created a thriving freelance writing business with numerous private clients.
But to be honest, I had no idea what I was doing at the beginning. I made a lot of mistakes, experienced countless rejections and obstacles, and sometimes wondered if the whole writing thing would ever work out for me.
So I’m here to show you how to submit articles to magazines (or online publications) and get your writing published.
I can promise you two things:
- It won’t be easy.
- If you want this enough, and you’re willing to dedicate your time and energy to it, you will get published.
Are you ready?
How to write and submit articles to magazines & online platforms.
Build some writing experience.
If you’re completely new to writing, you might not have any by-lines or published articles in your name, yet.
Don’t stress about this. We all have to start somewhere. And I was in your shoes not long ago.
The best advice I can give you is to start writing, now. Just for fun. Publish your writing on your own blog, or your Medium account.
There are some online publications that will accept personal essays or articles from new, unpublished writers, as long as your content is strong; so this is an option too.
Make sure they’re well written, thoroughly self-edited, and some of your best stuff. These published pieces will act as your CV when pitching your writing to other magazines and publications.
Don’t rush this process. Make sure you enjoy it, and have fun. Because if you want to eventually get paid and write full time, you should love what you do. And, you should be writing every day; even if it’s just for 30 minutes.
If you know you need some extra help when it comes to mastering your writing craft, then don’t be afraid to invest in up-levelling your skills. Take an online writing course, or go to a local workshop.
I’m always investing money in developing my skills, and growing, both as a writer and a woman.
Remember, you are the best investment you will ever make.
Choose the right magazine or online platform.
Once you’ve built enough experience and samples up, it’s time to choose a magazine or platform to pitch to.
The best thing to do is to begin with publications you’re most familiar with—ones you already read.
I was reading articles on Thought Catalog for about two years before I sent them my first submission. You don’t have to wait this long, but what I’m saying is, the more familiar you are with the publication, the easier it will be to write something that fits their unique voice and audience. And the higher your chances of getting published.
So make a list of magazines and online publications that you already read, and enjoy reading. If you don’t actively read anything right now, use this as an opportunity to browse through some current magazines and online publications, and see what’s out there.
Next, think about which ones suit your personal writing tone and style the most. And if none of them do, then think about which one would be the easiest one to write for, and start there.
Know the magazine and its market.
Every magazine and publication has its own style, tone, and target reader. Some publish personal essay pieces, while others only deal in hard news articles.
If you know you want to write personal essays, or more current-based articles, then pick a magazine accordingly.
Spend at least an hour browsing the magazine or publication, and get familiar with their content. This is one of the best ways to get a feel for what they do and don’t publish, along with topics that work for them, and who they speak to.
Most print magazines will have contact information for editors listed in the front or back pages; while online publications will usually have a submissions page, or editorial policy.
Some questions to ask yourself when browsing:
- Is the tone formal or informal, and is it serious or more conversational?
- Who reads this magazine or publication, and why?
- What value or benefit does the reader get from reading it?
- What do the currently published pieces all have in common? Why do you think they have been published?
As a general rule, you want keep within the magazine’s style, but avoid pitching or writing a piece that has already been covered countless times.
Follow the editorial guidelines.
If you’re going to submit your articles to magazines & publications, then please, follow their guidelines.
As the founder and main editor of She Rose Revolution, I receive a tonne of sloppy submissions each week, and I find this incredibly frustrating. Because it’s clear the people sending these submissions in have not taken five minutes to properly read our submission guidelines.
This tells me they’re either lazy, or not good at paying attention to detail; neither of which I’m looking for in a writer.
Think about it this way: would you spend your valuable time responding to a submission like that, when it’s clear that person hasn’t spent time making sure it’s aligned and polished?
So read the submission guidelines or editorial policy carefully; a couple of times. And stick to it like glue. This is not the time for free-styling.
Some magazines and publications will ask for pitches (queries) only, while others will accept full submissions.
Sending a pitch can save you a lot of time, as you can see if the magazine is interested before going ahead and writing the full piece. On the other hand, if you’re a new writer, they’ll probably want to see the full piece before accepting it, to make sure it’s strong enough.
Choose a topic you’re passionate about.
You need to make sure the topic you choose aligns with the magazine in question. But at the same time, you want to make sure it’s a topic you’re passionate about, or have a decent amount of experience in.
This is the sweet spot.
So think about the unique knowledge, experience, and stories you can share.
Some questions to ask yourself:
- What do you know a lot about, that most people don’t?
- What are some of the things you’re most interested in/passionate about?
- And what are you happy to research and learn more about?
Once you’ve selected your topic, create a mind map, and roughly jot down everything you know about it. Use this to guide you in the actual writing process.
The more excited you are about your idea, the easier it will be to write, and the more powerful it will be to read.
There are no shortcuts when it comes to this part. You’ve done all the prep work, and now you just have to show up and write.
Find a quiet space where you can focus, but make sure it’s inspiring, too.
Give yourself a window of time to get the first draft of your article completed, or set yourself a word count to reach instead; whatever works best for you.
You might want to write the whole article in one go, or separate it out into smaller chunks. Try both and see what suits you.
Remember, the best writers tell stories; but they don’t just tell stories. They use their personal stories and experiences to connect with the topic they’re writing about. They write authentically and openly, and by doing so, their story ends up resonating with and speaking to the people who read it.
This is the power of writing, and this is one of the real gifts of being a writer.
Self-edit your article.
Now that you have a completed first draft, it’s time to begin the self-editing process.
Most first drafts will be okay to good, but skilful editing is what takes you from good to great.
Read through your piece to check if it flows well. Make any minor edits or spelling corrections that need addressing. Don’t be afraid to move things around if needed. Add in quotes to emphasise your points, and any links to research or stats that you’ve mentioned.
If you don’t feel completely confident editing your work, do you have a writer friend you can ask to take a look at it?
Keep editing your draft until:
- You’re happy that you’ve corrected any errors.
- The topic/theme is clear from the beginning, and stays on track.
- The piece flows well from start to finish.
- It’s the right fit for the publication you’re submitting it to.
- You’re happy this is the best article you can write.
Editing your work may feel alien and challenging to begin with. But the more you do it, the easier it will become, and the more natural it will feel.
Submit your article.
As I already mentioned, get familiar with the submission guidelines before you submit your articles to magazines or publications. Follow them carefully, and do what they say!
Some might require a cover letter, CV, or query letter; while others will require the full article.
Some might require you to send your submission via email, while others have a contact form online.
Most will give you specific instructions to follow when sending an email, including what to write as your subject line, the correct editor to send your pitch to, and the format your submission should be in.
Remember to triple check you’re happy with everything before hitting send. This is your chance to make a fabulous first impression.
Make a note of the turnaround time (if mentioned), and don’t be afraid to send a short, polite follow up email if you still haven’t received a reply within this time. Most editors usually have hundreds of submissions to go through each week, so be patient.
Don’t be afraid of rejection.
Rejection is part of being a writer. In fact, it’s a part of doing anything in this life. Don’t take it personally. I’ve had my writing rejected countless times.
It doesn’t mean you’re not good enough, it just means what you sent them wasn’t what they’re looking for right now.
Use rejection as an opportunity to learn, get better, and keep going.
If you receive a rejection email on your submission, you could always try pitching it somewhere else, or self-publish it on your own blog.
Like I said at the start of this article, if you really want to make a living as a writer, then be prepared to put in the time and energy required to get there. It will take time and effort. You will be rejected. But you will also, eventually, be published.
So, if this is what you really want, don’t give up.
And that is how to submit your articles to magazines and online publications, and get published.