Writing and Selling Magazine Articles

Thursday evening I headed to my local library to hear a talk by Ray Bronk, a freelance writer in these parts (Central Texas). Serving as host was the San Gabriel Writer’s League.

Bronk’s speciality is wildlife writing and he’s published in national magazines including Field & Stream, Camping & RV, and American Hunting.

He outlined some basics that included caveats as well as encouraging secrets to success as a freelancer:

  • You have chosen a difficult writing genre
  • In you write the manuscript first you will fail
  • Quality must remain high
  • Anybody can qualify, sex, age, abilities
  • Manuscript vs. query letters
  • Read the magazine
  • Put yourself in the editor’s chair
  • You are needed
  • You can predict needs
  • Don’t give up your day job

While some of the advice can be found in most articles or advice books on magazine writing, I liked getting a firsthand account from someone with a lot of experience.

One particular piece of advice — to query first before writing — has been on my mind lately, because I’ve been noodling around with several ideas, and I want to rush to get started, before I have any idea what to really write. Queries, Bronk said, were as important to your success as a freelance as your skill as a writer.

Other advice that he offered:

  • Write things that interest you
  • Write for free to get experience and clips
  • Nurture and protect your relationships with editors
  • Think ahead
  • Study the magazine, looking for length and type of articles
  • Go to writing classes

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