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Writing for Trade Magazines – 7 Tips for Freelance Writers

These tips for writing for trade magazines are directly from a panel of print trade publishers and editors. The good news? Not all trade print magazines are shutting down! I was part of a writer’s craft fair recently; these magazine editors and publishers said their readers don’t read online e-zines or use Google to find information. They read trade magazines — the print versions — many of which are still going strong and steady!

Before the tips, a quip:

“An old racetrack joke reminds you that your program contains all the winners’ names,” wrote Mignon McLaughlin, in The Neurotic’s Notebook. “I stare at my typewriter keys with the same thought.”

There you have it, fellow scribes: the secret to a successful writing career is literally right under your nose! It’s in your computer or typewriter keys, just waiting to be released. If you need help with that release, read The Everything Guide To Magazine Writing by Kim Kovin. And, here are my tips for writing for trade magazines…

Writing for Trade Magazines – 7 Tips for Freelance Writers

A trade magazine focuses on a specific industry, niche, or career. Western Grocer, Motor Age Magazine, and Canadian Gardening Magazine are examples of trade magazines.

1. Make sure your query letter reassures the editor that she can trust you to write in a way that suits the audience. This is important for all types of writing – but it’s especially important with trade magazines because their readership is highly specialized. For help with query letters, read Pitching Your Freelance Article to Magazines.

2. Keep the advertisers in mind. Advertisements keep magazines in print; the editors of trade magazines aren’t likely to print an article that challenges the basic tenets of any specific advertiser. For instance, an editor of a grocers’ magazine wouldn’t print an article that disrespects or challenges a major food chain…it’s the magazine’s bread and butter!

3. Write about what readers are interested in, or worried about. This tip for writing for trade magazines is similar to consumer magazines, but the readers of trade magazines aren’t thinking about their personal experiences or lives. They want to learn about their industry or specialty – they’re more interested in the technical side of their niche. If you’re stuck on the type of article to write, read Types of Feature Articles.

4. Consider writing advertorials. Does the word “advertorial” make you cringe? It did me. But, one of the trade magazine editors listed several benefits of writing advertorials: the topic is assigned, no research is required (the editor gives you the advertisers or sources to interview), they can lead to more writing assignments, they increase writing experience and exposure, and they pay money. Note that the advertisers pay for advertorials, so they have the final say regarding content.

5. Read the advertisements carefully. This is a good tip for writing for consumer magazines, too – but again, it’s especially important for trade magazines. Those ads offer clues about the readers, which leads to ideas for articles. One of the magazine editors on this panel suggested that reading the ads is just as important as reading the articles.

6. Do adequate research before pitching. Remember: the readers of trade magazines are enthusiasts about the topic: they may know more than you about it. Their industry is their specialty – perhaps even their passion. When you pitch an article, be specific, technical, and detailed about your story idea. And, if you’re curious about pitching different editors at the same time, read Tips for Submitting Multiple Query Letters to Magazines.

7. Send an introduction letter to the editor. This is particularly important if you’re interested in writing advertorials. Offer your resume, writing samples, a list of magazines or e-zines you’ve written for. If you want to write for trade magazines, you need to show you can talk to people in the industry and that you can handle the topic. If you’d like an example of an introduction letter, I’d be happy to write about it — just let me know!

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What have I missed? If you have any tips or questions for writing for trade magazines, I welcome your comments below…

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8 thoughts on “Writing for Trade Magazines – 7 Tips for Freelance Writers”

  1. Thanks for this, Stan.

    Funny, last I met one of the editors who was on the panel I mentioned in the article above. He has an article idea that he wants to assign me, for his trade magazine! So, fellow scribes, keep meeting people and talking about your freelance writing career…you never know who may hire you 🙂

    And — always keep your business cards handy!

    .-= Laurie PK´s last blog post ..Signs It’s Time to Hire a Webmaster for Your Blog =-.

  2. Some perfect examples of pitches/query letters here, from a chap who is in the throes of pitching 642 magazines are at Pitching the World.wordpress.com.
    He seems a borderline alcoholic, but it right on the money. Most of the time.

  3. I’d be happy to post an article about writing a letter of introduction to editors and magazine publishers!

    It’ll in less than a week; I’ll post the link here, just to make sure y’all see it.

    Thursdays is now officially “Quips and Tips from X” day…so today I get to round up quips and tips from some successful writer!

    .-= Laurie PK´s last blog post ..Coping With Negative Coworkers Who Drain Your Energy – Anais Nin =-.

  4. Great post, Laurie. I got my start in trade journals and worked for one for 6 years. It’s a great market area. I, too, would like to see a sample intro letter.
    Laverne Daley
    .-= Laverne Daley´s last blog post ..GUEST POST: 7 Ways to be a More Productive Writer =-.

  5. Amber from Girl with the Red Hair

    Great advice, once again!

    I would definitely be interested in seeing an example of an intro letter!

    .-= Amber from Girl with the Red Hair´s last blog post ..Ugh. =-.

  6. Hi Laurie,

    You really can’t overdo the research thing. It is so important to gather the tone of the pub as well as a solid feel for the type of article that fits.

    I got my start in trade journals for EMS. It literally boosted my writing career with the side benefit of landing me presenter gigs at national conferences and the like.


    .-= Tumblemoose´s last blog post ..A New Home for the New Blog of the Week =-.

  7. Fabulous information! I really would be interested in reading a sample intro letter. I’ve gotten many online jobs that way. Thanks so much!
    .-= Mary ´s last blog post ..Using HARO to Enhance Your Writing =-.