Trade Publications

Conference Notes Pt. 2: Alternative Writing Income

Having An IdeaIntroduction

I recently attended a local writing conference and came away with notes on several topics which interested me. Last week, I post about creating compelling characters. This week, I turn to a completely different subject but one which may be no less appealing.

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Lately, I’ve been more interested in increasing my current writing income to better fund my fiction and author platform needs. I’ve been writing some short fiction to submit to magazine markets but acceptance is very competitive.

It’s fairly well known that non-fiction pays better per word than fiction. But most consumer non-fiction is pretty competitive also and for someone like me, adding some income sooner rather than later is important for future plans.

However, there is a less competitive alternative if you are willing to give it a try – writing for trade magazines. Trade magazines are basically journals, magazines and newsletters written for specific industries so the audiences are specific. This type of magazine is not the same as a consumer magazine which you see on sale at stores. Personally, I’m still giving this particular option my consideration but I’m leaning toward trying it. Here are some reasons to try it as well as some tips to get started.

WritingReasons To Write For Trade Magazines

1. The barriers to entry in this market are much lower than literary and consumer magazines. There are just fewer writers in this field so there’s less competition.

2. The pay per article or word is generally much higher than literary and consumer magazines.

3. Most trade publications lack staff so use of freelance writers and acceptance of proposed ideas is much higher.

4. Since it’s easier to break into the industry you can quickly build a reputation and branch out into other publications quickly – depending on your need for income and your availability.

Considerations About Style

Because this is a different type of writing there are differences in style which a new trade magazine writer must consider in approaching this market.

  • You should be willing to conduct interviews.
  • You should work to be come familiar with writing in some version of Associated Press style.
  • Learn to write in an inverted pyramid style which means you should have the most important details at the beginning of the story. The least important aspects of the story should go at the end so that if the story needs to have content cut the editor can easily do this. These details are: how, who, what where, when and why of the story.
  • Also in consideration of style, begin with a lede (correct spelling) that is either anecdotal or descriptive. Next include the nut graf or the idea followed by the body. However, all the main details should be in the nut graf in case the story needs to be cut below that point.
Clip Art Image Copyright by Microsoft. Clip Art Used by Permission of Microsoft

Clip Art Image Copyright by Microsoft. Clip Art Used by Permission of Microsoft

Getting Started

Here are further tips to get started writing for trade publications.

1. Learn about the industry you are targeting. You may have more than one interest in mind so learn about each. You are not required to be an expert or even have contacts within the industry but understanding aspects of it are necessary.

2. Read the magazine(s) for the industry that you are targeting. This is one of the best ways to learn about the industry.

3. If you really want to engage your targeted industry more and have the time and/or money, try visiting a convention or trade-show.

4. Once you feel like you have enough insights about your targeted industry pitch an idea to an editor based on the style currently used by the publication. If you already have credits make sure to include these “clips” in a .pdf document so the editor can gauge your writing. If you are brand new, offer to write a piece for free though this is not advised in all cases since it cheapens your value. Instead, offer a sample piece and then volunteer to write an article that you’ve noticed is usually credited to the staff (meaning that it gets written by whoever is available. Note that these are usually shorter pieces and a great way to gain trust).

5. Once you’re working with one or more publications, make sure you communicate your upcoming availability so an editor understands how much work to assign to you. As in my case, I would plan to write limited numbers of articles simply to fund my fiction so I want to spend as little time as possible on trade publications and work on fiction. However, if the publication is mostly on-line the articles will be much less than 1,000 words, usually averaging about 500, so the time investment in actually writing articles can be minimal (the actual time investment would be in interviews and research).

One last note about about what you need to know going into this kind of writing. The interviews may often be setup by the publication or even come from press releases. Also, being factually accurate, especially when quoting people is very important so interviews are often recorded.


So there you have it, one way to supplement your fiction writing with another kind of writing. It can be interesting and fun as well as help you jump-start your fiction writing budget.

Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section. I’d also love to connect with you over social media so check my Contact page for that information. I’ve updated the site with a new landing page starting today but you can still view the News page for announcements. As part of the changes, new email subscribers (you won’t be spammed nor sold) will receive my free new guide, 15 Must Have Apps for Self-Publishing Authors. Sign-up today! I’ve added a new sign-up tab on my FaceBook page to simplify the process. Also, the cover of my book, The Bow of Destiny, was revealed recently so take a look.

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