In order to be published by the better-known magazines, one has to start small. An absolute necessity is to buy a market guide—buy the one (or two) that fits best with the genre you prefer to write in. Because my two main forms of writing are Christian fiction and practical, help-yourself-style articles, I usually buy Sally Stuart’s Christian Writers’ Market Guide and Writer’s Market.
Starting out, I worked with the list of best-selling magazines and steered my gaze toward the bottom of the list. Down there are the smaller magazines that pay less or nothing, but they will give you an opening into the world of published work. You need to get published here, as the better-paying magazines will not be interested in your queries if you have no previously-published clips. E-magazines are also good places to see your name in print.
Read the information about the magazines that you pick out of the guide. The description of what they are interested in will guide you as to what type of story/article/poem you can write for them. If you ask about sending a story about Aunt Gertrude’s strawberry jelly and they are only interested in fiction, then you have wasted both your time and theirs.
Most magazines are not interested in seeing the fully written piece; you must send a proposal first. In the front of the market guides are good examples of how a query/proposal letter should be written. You can also find out (in the guides) if the magazine you want to submit to is open to receiving that query by e-mail. They may want it sent the old fashioned way—by mail.
If you send it by mail, don’t forget to send a self-addressed envelope with it or you will not hear back. If you send it via e-mail, save the e-mail in a separate folder so that every month you can check to see if it was replied to. If, within two months, it was not, then you can send another e-mail to ask if they have considered your query yet.
Once you get a response and, oh joy, they want you to send in the piece, send it in as soon as possible. Editors are busy people, and their time should be honored. If you flake off at this crucial point of business, they will remember and not ask for your work again. Editors want people they can rely on.
Usually when starting out, pay will be either nothing but a byline (your name beside your work) or a year’s subscription to the magazine. That’s fine. All you need is to have that published clip for the bigger and better queries you will be sending out.