Magazine Writing AdviceMagazine, Writing, Advice
ServiceScape Incorporated
ServiceScape Incorporated
2014

Knowing Your Audience When Choosing a Magazine Topic

PrecisionEdit

There are as many magazines as there are special interests and nowhere is this more evident than the magazine racks of your local major bookseller. You can find magazines about gardens, magazines about guns, magazines about guns and gardens, and just about everything in between. So if you're a freelance writer, how do you get your foot in the door of an industry with such a wide variety of published topics and actually make good money at it?

The answer is simple: find an audience you know well and write for them.

Knowing your audience is one of the top qualifications for writing for a particular magazine—right up there with being a decent writer. If you know the audience, everything concerning voice, tone and content will fall into place naturally for you.

Below are the primary considerations you should make when choosing the audience for which you want to write, and the concepts you should keep in mind when choosing a topic, tone and writing style for that audience.

Demographics

Demographics play a major role in many magazines' success or failure. Without the right demographics in a publication's readership, the magazine risks failure from the onset. That's why marketers for the magazine's advertising sales will be focusing on demographics before the magazine's first issue even goes to print.

Demographics concentrate on the age, location, marital status, income level, education level and even racial profile of the magazine's readership. With ads targeting a particular demographic (for example, college-educated, professional, single African American women), the magazine can ensure that those ads reach the right audience through careful attention to content that will attract that demographic's interest. Editors are less likely to accept content that might not appeal to the magazine's readership for this reason alone—it's truly all about money and it has to be. Without the ad sales to companies wishing to target a particular demographic, most magazines can't stay afloat financially. It's all a simple matter of numbers and audience appeal, regardless of how riveting your content might be.

Trends

Focusing on trends within a particular demographic is a great way to determine the type of content the editor of a magazine would be most likely to accept and approve for publication. One easy way to do this is to find a magazine that contains ads and content focused on your own demographic, whatever that might be. No one is better aware of demographic trends than a person within that demographic, because you know what interests you and your friends. You know what your demographic is doing, talking about, tweeting about, posting about or passing time with on a day-to-day basis. That knowledge gives you the unique qualification of writing for your own demographic effortlessly.

For this reason, many freelancers begin their search for publishing venues by querying the magazines they read, themselves. This puts you in a unique place of knowing the content and knowing the audience well, since you have been reading the magazine for some time and are familiar with the type of articles they tend to run.

However, the downside to this is that focusing on a magazine with a large, established readership makes querying more difficult. Such magazine editors receive hundreds of queries per day and yours will inevitably end up at the bottom of a line of emails or a stack of mail that might not be answered quickly. A delay like that is enough to put the damper on any freelance writer's dream of being published in a magazine, which brings us to the third point…

Size matters

If you take a moment to look at the magazines provided for free at local restaurants or grocery stores, you're likely to find a few upstart regional magazines that have a broader demographic readership base and are more willing to answer your query quickly. These smaller publications often pay freelancers a reasonable rate, although it might not be quite as high as the larger publications pay.

If you are seeking a way to get published often and build a portfolio, however, the smaller publications are just the ticket. The editors running them are often more willing to hire local and a few feature assignments could easily turn into a steady gig writing a regular column or section for these types of magazines. The demographic focus is almost always broad (an audience within your region), so you already know what that audience wants to read.

This should in no way keep you from querying the big guys. You'll still have the opportunity to focus on your dream of being published in a national or international publication, even if you're writing more for a small, regional one. In fact, if you go this route, you'll have a lot more publishing credit under your belt when querying the larger magazines and a lot more experience with the process, allowing you to fine-tune your skills and eventually get published in the magazines you prefer.

Grow with your audience

The most significant factor you'll discover about choosing the right audience is that as a freelance writer, you'll tend to grow with your audience if you focus on the right things. If there is a particular topic that your expertise particularly shines in, keep writing about that topic and submitting your writing to magazines, even the smaller, regional ones. If no magazine wants the article, start a blog and place those articles there, allowing it to be a sort of personal interest portfolio space for you that shows your most quality writing. You'll find that time spent writing those pieces is not wasted, regardless of where it is published, and you will start to gather a growing audience that is also interested in that niche topic—even if it's through a blog. This same audience will be anxious to read anything you write and isn't that the point of writing in the first place?

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