Writing for women’s magazines

The Crafty Writer asked top women’s magazine writer Lorna V how new writers could break into this aspirational market. Lorna has written for glossy, mass market and specialist women’s magazines in the UK and abroad, as well as national newspaper supplements. Her experience also includes editing Time Out’s consumer section. She’ll be running a three day Writing for Women’s Magazines course at the London School of Journalism in September, and also runs tailored individual courses through her website.

Reality check

So you love reading women’s magazines, and now you want to write for them. They’re a fun, easy read, so they must be fun and easy to write for. Well here’s the reality.

The rates for consumer magazines have barely gone up in the past 15 years, and the work required before you get a commission has rocketed. Yet there’s never been a better time to break into freelancing. So long as you’re savvy.

Three types of writers

I’ve noticed that there are three types of women who want to write for women’s magazines. The first camp has already worked in the media, but not as writers. Then there are the starry-eyed super-positive ones who see their names in the Mail On Sunday’s You magazine, or Sunday Times Style. And finally there are the insecure ones who have always wanted to do this, and wonder whether they’re up to it.

The first lot are already well prepared, and likely to succeed. Whether they’ve worked in PR or as makeup artists for magazines, they already know the territory: the importance of understanding the readership for each and every publication, as well its competition, how newspapers, the internet and magazines all relate to each other, and that it’s as much about knowing how to sell yourself, as the mechanics of putting a piece together.

If you’re a fresh 21 year old out of university, then embarking on a career with a naïve, starry-eyed approach works. But for the older woman, the brutal reality is, it doesn’t. However, if you’re thinking of writing having had one career, you’d like something flexible, and you’re not expecting to see your name in Sunday supplements and glossy titles immediately, then provided you put the time in to study the publications, and turn insecurity into willingness to learn, it’s a viable choice.

Do the research

Magazines depend on freelancers. But much of the work, especially finding case studies (the mainstay of women’s magazines), is labour intensive, and not cost effective. And before you get the go-ahead commission to write a piece, you’ll have to supply the research, packaged as an outline for the piece, complete with cover line, headline, and what’s known as a sell (two lines that sum up the piece in a snappy, compelling way).

If you start from the basis of what you know or need to know, whether that’s your IT knowledge or which eco nappies are best for your newborn, you won’t be wasting any time. If you have a huge network of mums, for example, then talking to mums and sourcing personal stories will be easy. But if you’re a single woman working for a bank, then finding interviews for a story on modern motherhood is going to be logistically difficult.

All that glitters

The easiest way to get into magazines, and for that matter newspapers, is to go for the least glamorous part of publications, not the big impressive features. Look for all those Me and My Holiday/Finances/Wardrobe, How To slots, and career/employment pages as a starting point. These are all written to a formula, and they are short – so you won’t have a nervous breakdown writing them.

From my experience of running courses, those bent on writing pieces about themselves for weekend supplements and top glossy titles, despite knowing that they are competing with top journalists for that work, give up.

Work your way up

But the women I’ve seen succeed in writing for women’s magazines are the ones who weren’t status hooked, and have been willing to start off with local papers, trade magazines (perhaps related to their own jobs), and lesser known consumer titles. That way they gather a track record and the confidence that gets them into bigger and better magazines. This is also the path most experienced journalists take anyway –from the bottom, moving up.

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One comment on “Writing for women’s magazines

  1. Pingback: thursdaybram.com » Blog Archive » The Business of Freelance Writing Carnival, Edition 30

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