Experts concur that by publishing articles in magazines, aspiring writers can boost their visibility and boost their chances of eventually publishing a book.
Aspiring writers often experience rejection. Stephen King famously recounted in his book On Writing that when he first started out, he used to pin every rejection letter he received to his wall with a nail. By 14 though, that nail could no longer support all the weight of rejection letters and had to be replaced with a spike.
What is an article in a magazine? An article is a nonfiction prose piece that can range in length from several paragraphs to several pages. Shorter than books, articles tend to be published in magazines or periodicals and can cover any topic the author chooses. Many magazines publish weekly or monthly and focus on particular interests for readers – examples include Rolling Stone, Popular Mechanics, Vogue, Sports Illustrated and GQ.
This essay will examine the various types of magazine articles and how to submit one for publication.
Different types of magazine articles:
Profile and Interview Articles – Profile or interview articles offer information about a notable person, whether it be a politician, celebrity, artist, musician, actor or another notable individual. Interview Magazine is known for its eccentric interviews with celebrities that often involve them interviewing each other. One of the most renowned magazine profiles ever published was The New Yorker’s 2007 profile of then-future President Barack Obama which became one of history’s most enduring classics.
Informative or Service Articles – News magazines such as Time and Newsweek publish weekly issues about current events topics. In 2010, Cool Tools published a controversial list of the Best Magazine Articles of All Time, many of which were news pieces such as Ron Rosenbaum’s “Secrets of the Little Blue Box,” an Esquire 1971 article about phone hacking or “phreaking,” and Michael Lewis’ 2009 analysis of Iceland’s financial collapse.
Essay, Narrative, or Opinion Articles – Magazines often publish personal essays, opinion pieces such as reviews and narrative articles – creative works that recount personal experiences. Some notable publications for these types of pieces include The New Yorker, Harper’s Bazaar, the Economist, The National Review and Jacobin. Some of Cool Tool’s Best Magazine Articles of All Time were narrative essays such as Hunter S. Thompson’s 1970 piece “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved” or Jon Krakauer’s 1993 article “Death of an Innocent: Christopher McCandless Lost His Way In The Wild”, which later became nonfiction book-turned movie adaptation Into the Wild.
Humor or Comedy Articles – Some publications specialize solely in humorous articles, such as The Onion and Clickhole. Even publications without a primary focus on humor will occasionally publish humorous pieces – for instance, humorist David Sedaris has been known to contribute essays to The New Yorker.
Inspirational Magazine Articles – Some articles can serve to remind us of the strength and resilience of human spirit. Oprah’s O Magazine often profiles people who have overcome hardships in life, inspiring its readers with motivation and inspiration. Cool Tool’s list of the Best Magazine Articles of All Time includes Mister Rogers’ 1998 Esquire profile entitled “Can you say…Hero?” which featured one of pop culture’s most inspirational figures saying that connections made during life may be what heaven truly is – something to think about as Mister Rogers says in that article: “Maybe that’s what heaven looks like?”
Research Shorts – Research articles are typically published in journals like Nature. These sources are considered primary sources – meaning they contain an original study conducted by the authors and report on its methodology.
Historical Articles – One captivating type of article is one that delves into a historical topic the reader might not be familiar with. Research Outreach’s most popular article of 2021 was an exploration of medicine in Ancient Mesopotamia. Furthermore, The New York Times assembled archival maps and photographs to construct a 3D model of Black Wall Street–an African-American district in Tulsa, Oklahoma which was tragically destroyed by white mob 100 years prior.
Publish an Article in a Magazine in 5 Steps:
Choose a topic you’re passionate about
What interests you? Business? International relations? Feminist cultural analysis? Fishing? If your article demonstrates genuine interest in what it covers, it will likely be an engaging read and eventually published. Following your passion will fuel you with energy and open doors to new experiences.
If you’re passionate about writing personal essays, The New Yorker might offer some inspiration and serve as a springboard for creativity. On the other hand, if cars are your passion then why not pitch an article to Top Gear magazine?
Research, write and review
Most publications provide contributor guidelines that specify editorial expectations for submissions. These typically spell out what the magazine seeks in submissions – expertise, a particular point of view, themes they frequently cover, whether reviews are allowed, etc. Knowing these guidelines will help you formulate an approach with which you will approach the piece.
Pitch one of the editors at your publication and discuss your article idea with them. They can offer helpful suggestions about framing the piece so it has more chances to be accepted, even if it was submitted without being specifically requested.
Writing an article requires capturing your reader’s attention. Since you’re writing about something you are passionate about, it should be easier for them to get on board. The opening paragraph of a feature article is crucial; it draws them in.
Once you’ve written your article, make sure to copy and edit. Ask a friend or fellow writer to review your work for errors; the more polished your piece is, the greater its chances are of being published.
Make a list of publishers
When making a list of publishers, do some research about the types of articles they typically publish. Make sure your article fits their style, tone and length requirements – for instance, science articles would belong in scientific publications while personal essays fit better into magazines that specialize in such works. Besides style, pay attention to both length and tone: are they cheeky and witty or more formal and straightforward?
If they have already published work similar to yours, you may need to take a different route. Furthermore, keep in mind that articles are usually scheduled for publication weeks ahead; if your article is seasonal or topical, there may be only a limited window of opportunity in which to submit it.
Write a query letter and submit your article
Remember those contributor guidelines you studied during research and writing? These will also spell out editorial requirements for submissions – like word count requirements and instructions on how to submit pitches. It is critical that you adhere strictly to these instructions if you want your article considered for consideration.
Some publications require a cover letter or query letter with their submission. A query letter functions much like an elevator pitch – it needs to grab the reader’s attention just like your article’s first paragraph does for readers, so make sure yours stands out in an impressive way. Explain why your approach to writing the article is unique, and why their readers should want to read it too.
Many publications accept pitches through their website or via email. Some sites take submissions on a rolling basis. When sending in an email pitch, research which section of the magazine you’d like to submit it to and contact that editor directly. You might want to include some context as well.
If you have never worked with the publication before, always send them your resume, links to some published work and a little about yourself.
If the publication you are submitting to receives a high volume of submissions, don’t be surprised if there haven’t been any responses in two or three weeks.
If the magazine rejects your submission, don’t despair. Rejection can be disheartening, but you always have options to try again or self-publish on platforms such as Ghost or Squarespace. Blogging platforms often provide 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.