If you’ve accumulated some writing credits, you’re ready to begin planning out your queries to magazines that do pay well. Don’t forget about the non-paying, high quality magazines (for example, there’s Patrol and Next-Wave in my own Christian market). They have their place in building your marketing platform if you hope to sell books or to accumulate writing credits. However, you can now broaden your scope.
I’ve heard many editors say that you need to read their magazine before sending them a query. While that makes sense, the typical writer doesn’t have time to pour over the past twelve issues for fifteen different magazines. However, most writers should be able to read at least four or five editions (if not more) of four or five magazines, especially when some of them are available online. Choose wisely as you begin, and then add to your inventory of magazines you read regularly as you query more of them.
Still, the question remains, Why? Does it really make that big of a difference if the guidelines are listed online?
In a word, yes.
Besides simply knowing what a magazine is looking for topically, reading a magazine clues you in on the kinds of stories the magazine accepts, the angle most writers take, and the expectations of readers. For example, after reading about six issues of a regional magazine I began to think of solid story ideas that one editor purchased right away.
When you’ve read a magazine the query ideas will come faster and you’ll write better queries that appeal to editors. Perhaps you could hammer out a decent query after a few hours of staring at the guidelines, but investing a similar amount of time in reading the magazine will result in better queries that are far more likely to be accepted.