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    Home Columns

    You Can be a Magazine Writer!

    An Interview with Meg Weaver

    Meg Weaver wrote the ebook on magazine writing -- Writing for Magazines: Twelve New Things Writers Must Do Today to Make Money.

    In our You Can Be...Series for Writers™, Meg Weaver shares her experience as a magazine writer, and gives valuable advice and insights for writers wanting to break into magazine writing.

    "I wrote my first article when I was twelve years old," Meg Weaver begins. "Without a doubt, I didn't know what I was doing. But I had a story I wanted to tell and for some reason the editor felt that it should be published."

    After being paid for the publication of her first article, Meg realized that she liked the storytelling.

    "It was a simple story about a dog that belonged to an adult friend and had saved her life and it was published in a women's service magazine," shares Meg. "Over the years and into my twenties, I 'interviewed' other friends about various things and some stories got published."

    According to Meg, she wrote not for the money or seeing her name in print: "It was the sheer joy of putting together a story – a true story."

    When asked what genres she has written for, Meg admits that the only genre she hasn't written for is articles for children.

    "Otherwise, I have written for women's magazines, travel mags, medical/health, home, fitness, historical, food, psychology and my love, science," she explains. "However, I think it's important for successful writers to not think about genres; to not think about yourself as a 'travel' writer or a 'health' writer.

    "In order to make money writing articles, you must take an idea, do the research and then produce as many articles as you can from that one idea. And the more genres you can cover, the more money you can make," Meg continues. "For example, I recently turned research into Type 2 ("Adult Onset") diabetes into about twenty different articles and over the last month have sent out a hundred different queries. Yes, each one was a little different since each magazine has a different reader positioning. How do I know what those are? I use the market database I created. It's available to everybody at http://www.woodenhorsepub.com.

    Meg doesn't find genres all that different. She explains that all editors are looking for are writers who can do a professional job.

    "Be someone who has a good story, will take direction, be on time and is flexible when deadlines and the magazine's needs change and you'll get published," is Meg's wise advice.

    In all the years Megan has been writing, writing for magazines was never a conscious decision on her part.

    "Article writing is just something I do," she admits. "I can't stop. If I'm not writing on paper, I write in my head. So, I might as well put it on paper and get paid for it.

    "I didn't choose magazine writing," Meg continues. "It chose me. It's the format I prefer. However, I do write other things, primarily corporate and technical writing and I write quite a bit for my website, Wooden Horse Publishing, a news and resource site for non-fiction periodicals writers."

    According to Meg, corporate and technical writing is perhaps the best paid kind of writing, except writing a fiction bestseller.

    "It also can be quite boring," she follows up. "That's why I enjoy magazine writing. The pay is less but I chose my topics and, unless my taste is really strange, I can probably find someone who wants to publish it.

    "However, we can't lose track of the fact that most magazines today are businesses," Meg continues. "As such they have developed their own marketing niches and they will only publish articles that have relevance to their particular audience."

    And this, according to Meg, is where writers make the most mistakes.

    "They don't take the time to understand a magazine's needs in depth," she explains. "About a year ago I was working with the editor for the magazine for the northern California automobile club. As a genre, it would be classified as a travel magazine but if you understand their needs you’d see that they want stories about day or weekend trips. So, a story about Lake Tahoe would be appropriate but one about New York City wouldn't. Yet, every day the editor would get queries about trips to Boston, Guatemala or Thailand. Enjoy the freedom article writing gives you but to be successful you need to pick the right magazines for your story."

    When asked about how Meg deals with rejections, she simply says, "When you're writing for magazines you will get rejections.

    "It's part of the process. There is no way you can absolutely know exactly what each editor wants at each moment, so you do your best," says Meg. "Sometimes, you're going to be wrong and then you get a rejection in the mail. It's inevitable. You deal with it in two ways: 1) Minimize the amount you receive, and 2) Learn not to get depressed when they do arrive."

    Meg also gives some tips on how to minimize rejection:

    "First, make sure that the queries you send look professional. You'd be surprised how many childish, dirty and torn letters editors get every day. And believe me, these will get instant form rejections. So be sure to send out your queries on professional-looking stationery, without grammar and spelling mistakes," advises Meg.

    "Nine out of ten queries are rejected because the proposed article didn't fit the magazine,"she continues. "As I mentioned, each magazine has a unique approach to entertaining and informing their readers. You need to find it and tailor your article idea to fit this approach. I wrote extensively about this in my e-book, Writing for Magazines: Twelve New Things Writers Must Do to Make Money, because it's becoming increasingly more important. Magazines are bought by multinational conglomerations and are expected to make big money. And they do this by providing a clearly defined service to their readers. If you don’t write articles that support that concept, your story will be rejected.

    "As I said, that's nine out of ten rejections. The remaining one out of ten you probably don't have much control over (the editor's in a bad mood, your idea just happened to be the publisher's pet peeve...etc). So, don’t spend useful time trying to figure this one out," Meg advises. "Instead, take the opportunity the rejection brings to investigate if you really suggested the right idea. Maybe a small change gets you a go-ahead next time. Be flexible. So, take a rejection as a challenge. Instead of moping, try to figure out why your idea was rejected. If you're lucky enough to get a clue from the editor, you have a start. Otherwise, assume that your article didn't fit the magazine’s marketing niche and try again."

    Meg also assures writers that breaking into magazine writing is very easy.

    "It's very easy," she says, "if you're willing to look at writing articles as providing a service to an industry. Be professional, be inventive and be flexible and you'll be very successful."

    When asked about her plans of branching out to other writing genres, Meg replies, "I always have written other things, especially technical writing. I have a degree in electronic engineering so it's just natural for me to write technical papers and even brochures and other promotional material for corporate clients. I don't write a lot of fiction, but not by choice. The most tangible effort is my half-finished Great American Novel, which I hope to work more on once my website is finished. Since I've got millions of ideas I want to implement there, I think work on the novel may be a few years in the future. But I miss writing fiction."

    If a writer wants to write for magazines, Meg has this advise: "The problem most beginning magazine writers have is to realize that most articles must solve a problem for the reader. It's not enough to write about something exciting, gripping or educational that happened to you. You have to make it a learning opportunity. Look at the front covers of magazines. What do you see? "How to...", "What to do when...", "Become..." There must always be something in it for the reader. "I can't repeat it often enough: Think of it as providing a service to an industry. That's what article writing is today and if you embrace this concept you will do fine," is Meg's parting shot.


    Recommended books:

    • The Magazine Publishing Industry by Charles P. Daly, Patrick Henry and Ellen Ryder, Allyn & Bacon, ISBN 0-205-16612-1

    • Writing for Magazines: Twelve New Things Writers Must Do to Make Money by Meg Weaver, ISBN 0-9702989-0-0, available for $9.95 at Booklocker. (To read a sample chapter, click here.)

    Copyright © 2001 Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ

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