Read the magazine first! Know your audience.
If you want to write for an online magazine, you should read it! Reading rather than skimming a variety of its articles and features will give you a good feel for the tone of the magazine. Is it upbeat? Quirky? Traditional? Do you see a topic or theme that would be compatible with the magazine but is not being featured? Where and under what categories do you think your writing would fit?
Contact the editor and ask for the writer’s guidelines
Once you have an idea of the content of the magazine, do not send an unsolicited article. Your first step should be to contact the editor and ask for the writer’s guidelines. These guidelines typically give you the types of articles the magazine wants, a minimum word count, a maximum word count, the file type such as Microsoft Word, and photo requirements. There may also be a specific process for submitting a writing sample, your topic suggestions, or a “test” article. Many magazines want to know if you have been published in another magazine or if you are currently writing a blog. Be prepared to discuss your ideas and your work after you make the initial contact.
Click here to download the most recent version of LKNConnect’s guidelines. Please note: do not assume that the guidelines you received from a magazine last year are still valid this year. Online magazines are always shifting content and requirements to keep up with technology and what their readers think is popular.
Pick a topic
If you regularly read a magazine that you want to submit an article to, you will have a good feel for the articles that they publish. No magazine wants a duplicate article of your currently published blog post. You should know that most of the major search engines penalize websites for duplicates. (BOTH sites where the duplicate occurs are usually downgraded in their rankings.)
That said, write about something YOU find interesting. If you are bored, your readers will be bored. What is happening in your part of town? As former managing editor of LKNConnect.com, I can tell you that we were always looking for positive reviews of restaurants, wineries, and breweries. Our readers want to know where to go for a night out. They are also interested in live music, cultural events, local non-profit organizations, and more.
People are skimmers, they only read what they are interested in
Once you have your topic, pick 3 to 5 points about that topic. These points become your subheads in your article. Most people will skim the subheads until they find something that piques their interest, and that’s where they will start reading. (On a side note: If your bounce rate is high on your article page, which means people “bounce” off and leave the page quickly, you know that you haven’t given your readers enough interesting content to stay and read your whole article.)
Write 3 to 5 sentences expanding or explaining each point
For LKNConnect, they require short articles: a minimum of 350 words and a maximum of 500 words. Think of the short article as a positive respite in someone’s day. Your article should bring a smile to someone’s face, or introduce them to something positive in our community.
A 350 word article is literally one paragraph for each of 5 points. Write two paragraphs and you will be at the 500 word limit. Make sure you answer the main questions of who, what, where, why, and how in your article. Even though the article is short, you still want to capture your reader’s interest and hold that interest with a good story.
Limit to one topic or discuss a series
Do not diffuse your article by going in too many directions. People’s attention spans are limited to their exact interests. If you have multiple topics where you want to share your experience, find a theme between 3 articles and propose a series. Each article can then go into detail about a related topic.
Proofread, proofread, proofread!
Whether you use Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or a generic word processor, pay attention to the red underlines – they indicate a possible misspelling. Green underlines indicate grammar mistakes. I can tell you: the better you write, the less the editor edits! If you provide an interesting, well-written article/story, then most editors will love you and continue to turn to you for content in their magazines.
Provide photos and illustrations
Check the writer’s guidelines and always include photos or illustrations to illustrate your point. Again, the writer who includes what is asked for in the guidelines in the format that is requested and uses the proper submission process is considered “gold” or from the editor’s perspective, the very best kind of writer.
Don’t give up!
If your first article is not accepted, read the comments that the editor has made to improve your writing. Then practice. Write in a journal every day, or write and publish your own blog. The more you write, the better your work will become.
Ellen Stafford is the former managing editor for LKNConnect.com. She is currently writing a book about time travel. The Facebook group Impromptu: Spontaneous Writing and Flash Fiction is her way of giving back to the writing community. She firmly believes that you need to silence your inner critic and simply write. There is always time for editing later.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed by our writers belong solely to them
and do not represent LKNConnect.com, its publisher or its staff.