Experts agree that by publishing articles in magazines, aspiring writers can gain clout and increase their chances of eventually publishing a book.
Aspiring writers face a lot of rejection. Famously, author Stephen King, in his book On Writing, says when he first started out, he pinned every rejection letter he received to his wall with a nail. By the time he was 14, the nail could no longer support the weight of all the rejection letters and he had to replace it with a spike.
What is an article in a magazine? An article is a nonfiction prose piece that can vary in length from a couple of paragraphs to several pages. Shorter than books, articles are usually published in magazines or periodicals. An article can explore any topic the author chooses. Many magazines publish weekly or monthly and are dedicated to particular areas of interest for the reader – for example, Rolling Stone, Popular Mechanics, Vogue, Sports Illustrated and GQ.
In this essay, we will go over the different types of magazine articles and how to publish an article in a magazine.
Different types of magazine articles:
Profile and Interview Articles – A classic subtype of a magazine article, the profile or interview provides information about a notable person. The person could be a politician, celebrity, artist, musician, actor, or another noteworthy person. Interview Magazine is a magazine dedicated to eccentric, usually unedited interviews with celebrities, often with the celebrities interviewing each other. One of the most well-known magazine articles of all time was The New Yorker’s 2007 profile of the then-future President Barack Obama.
Informative or Service Articles – News magazines such as Time and Newsweek publish weekly issues about current events topics. In 2010, the website Cool Tools published a controversial list of the Best Magazine Articles of All Time, many of which were news articles such as Ron Rosenbaum’s “Secrets of the Little Blue Box,” a 1971 Esquire article about phone hacking or “phreaking,” and “Wall Street on the Tundra,” Michael Lewis’s 2009 analysis of the financial collapse of Iceland.
Essay, Narrative, or Opinion Articles – Magazines will also publish personal essays, opinion pieces such as reviews, and narrative articles – a creative subset of articles that retells a personal experience. Some publications are well known for their narrative and opinion articles are The New Yorker, Harper’s Bazaar, the Economist, The National Review and Jacobin. Many of Cool Tool’s Best Magazine Articles of All Time were narrative articles, such as Hunter S. Thompson’s 1970 article, “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved” and Jon Krakauer’s 1993 article, “Death of an Innocent: How Christopher McCandless Lost His Way In The Wild,” which later became the non-fiction-book-turned-movie Into the Wild.
Humor or Comedy Articles – Some publications are dedicated solely to humorous articles, such as The Onion and Clickhole. Other publications, though humor is not their main focus, will publish funny articles – for example, humorist David Sedaris sometimes contributes essays to The New Yorker.
Inspirational Magazine Articles – Some articles have the power to remind us of the resilience of the human spirit. Oprah’s O Magazine often profiles people who have had hardships in their life, which can motivate and inspire its readers. One Cool Tool’s list of the Best Magazine Articles of All Time is “Can you say…Hero?” a profile of Mister Rogers published in Esquire in 1998. Mister Rogers, one of the most inspirational figures in pop culture history, says in the article “The connections we make in the course of a life – maybe that’s what heaven is.”
Research Shorts – Research articles are most commonly published in journals such as Nature. They are considered primary sources – meaning they consist of an original study conducted by the authors, who report on its methodology.
Historical Articles – One fascinating type of article is the exploration of a historical topic the reader might not know about. One of Research Outreach’s most clicked-on articles of 2021 was a piece about medicine in Ancient Mesopotamia. Also in 2021, The New York Times put together archival maps and photographs to construct a 3D model of Black Wall Street, a prosperous African-American district in Tulsa, Oklahoma which was destroyed by a white mob 100 years prior.
Publish an Article in a Magazine in 5 Steps:
Choose a topic you’re passionate about
What are you passionate about? Business? International relations? Feminist cultural analysis? Fishing? If you have a genuine interest in what you are writing about, your article will have a greater chance of being an engaging read, and therefore of being published. If you follow your passion, you will have more drive, and you will create more opportunities.
You might take a look at a publication that features articles that align with your interests and generate ideas from there. For example, if you’re passionate about writing personal essays, you might read some in The New Yorker and use those as a jumping-off point for your own ideas. If you’re passionate about cars, you might pitch an article to Top Gear.
Research, write and review
Most publications have contributor guidelines that outline editorial requirements for submissions. These often outline what the magazine is looking for in submissions – expertise, a particular point of view, themes they often cover, whether they accept reviews, etc. These guidelines will help you formulate the angle with which you will approach the piece.
Pitch one of the editors of the publication and chat with them about the angle you are taking for the article. The editor will be able to make suggestions about how to frame the magazine article. If the submitted article has an angle the magazine approves of, it is more likely to be published, even if the submission is unsolicited.
In writing the article, it is important to grab the reader’s attention. Since you’re writing about a topic you’re passionate about, it should be easier to get the reader on board. The first paragraph of a feature article is the most important. It draws the reader in.
After you’ve written your article, make sure to copy and edit. Ask a friend or fellow writer to look at your work and check it for errors. The more polished your work is, the more likely it is to be published.
Make a list of publishers
In making a list of publishers, do some research about what types of articles the magazines usually feature. Make sure your article fits the style, tone, and length of what they usually publish. Make sure the publications you’re submitting to are a good fit for the article — for example, a science article would be most appropriate for a scientific publication, and a personal essay would be a good fit for a magazine that publishes personal essays, short stories, poems and the like. In addition to style, you should also get a sense of the length of articles the outlet usually publishes as well as the tone – are they cheeky and witty? Or more formal and straightforward?
If they have already published work similar to yours, you may have to go a different route. Also, remember that articles may be slated for publication weeks in advance; if your article is seasonal or topical, there may be a small window of time in which you can submit it.
Write a query letter and submit your article
Remember those contributor guidelines you delved into during the research and writing stage? These guidelines will also lay out editorial requirements for submissions – including word count and instructions for how to submit pitches. It is important to follow these guidelines to the letter if you want your article to be considered.
Some publications require a cover letter or query letter along with the submission. A query letter is a sales pitch. Much in the same way that the first paragraph of your article needs to grab the reader’s attention, the first sentence of your pitch needs to command the editor’s attention. Editors see a lot of pitches – make yours stand out in a good way. Tell them why your approach to the article is unique. Tell them why their readers would want to read the article.
Many publications accept pitches through their website or via email. Some websites accept pitches on a rolling basis. For email pitches, research which section of the magazine you’d like to submit to and email that specific editor. You might want to
If you haven’t worked with the publication before, always send them a resume, a few links to some published work and a little bit about yourself.
The publication you are submitting to likely receives a high volume of submissions. Send a follow-up if you haven’t heard back in two or three weeks.
If the magazine rejects your submission, don’t fret. Rejection is painful, but you can always try again or self-publish on a platform like Ghost or Squarespace. Blogging platforms can offer an array of magazine article layout templates to choose from.
Editors may even offer constructive criticism of your work, which will help you grow as a writer.