Magazine writers have a unique way of viewing the yearly calendar. It’s May and most people are thinking of Memorial Day, graduation, and summer. But magazine writers are thinking Christmas, New Year’s, and Valentine’s Day. Why is that? Because the lead time for magazines can be anywhere from seven to nine months prior to the month on the magazine cover.
If you’ve been thinking about writing for magazines, but haven’t figured out a system to get your timing down for querying your article ideas, consider these tips.
- Create a square graphic and divide the square into quarters (one quarter for each of the four seasons). In the quadrant labeled “Spring,” list the four spring months–March, April, May. In the quadrant labeled “Summer,” list the four summer months–June, July, August. Repeat the process for the two remaining quadrants. Fall months are September, October, November, and winter months are December, January, February.
- Look at each month and think seven to nine months ahead. For example, when you look at May, think December and under “May” write down article idea ticklers for December such as Christmas traditions, last-minute gifts, etc. When you look at June, think January and under “June” write down January article ideas such as resolutions, coping with credit card bills, winter blues, etc. Repeat for each month and you’ll know when to query your ideas so they arrive at the right time for the editors to accept or reject your query.
- Set up a system of file folders labeled January through December. It doesn’t matter whether your system is in your computer or in old-fashioned file folders, just as long as you use it. Using your square graphic as a guide, drop your article ideas, or even your written articles, in the appropriate monthly folder. For example, in your “May” folder, you’ll have Christmas stuff. In your “June” folder, you’ll have stuff related to whatever you listed in the square quadrant under June (for publication in January issues of magazines). And so it goes.
- Use your system year round to collect ideas and information for the coming year as well. Magazine writers know certain months carry certain articles. Your job is to provide the editor a new angle on those ideas and to offer your new angle in a timely manner to get it into the editorial calendar.
If you want to do well as a magazine writer, you should have at least twelve query letters out at all times. Your job is to match your article idea to the right magazine, so keep a list of every magazine you think might buy each idea, then send the query to the top magazine on your list. If you get a rejection, send it to the next one on the list, etc. Don’t despair, just keep working. You’ll get there.