Write for Magazines Without Writing for Magazines

on May 29, 2009 in Business Writing, Magazine Writing

I've shared this tip with freelance writers at All Freelance Writing previously, but it's worth mentioning again here.

If you're open to the idea of ghostwriting, and you'd like to write print features, you can do it query-free. Really. No pitching of publications required at all (not on your end at least). How?

This strategy works best for writers working with commercial clients (especially PR writers, since these features generally fall under that heading).

How it Works

Many print publications (especially trade magazines) accept unpaid features from authority sources in the industry. These are the same people you may already be working for on other commercial writing projects. Having those features published under their name is an excellent PR tool, but not all of your clients are willing or able to put their expert knowledge into written form.

That just means you would do it for them! I've done this for several of my clients. They make the initial contact with the magazine in most cases to get the writer's guidelines if they're not publicly available, or sometimes they're actually approached by an editor themselves. I'm then contracted to actually write the feature (to ghostwrite it), based on interview notes and other material coming from the client, since they're the official and credited source.

How the Pay Measures Up

Pay for these kinds of projects can be decent. In fact, I've been paid more from a private client to ghostwrite a feature than the same publication would have paid a freelance writer for it. You can charge any amount you see fit. My basic policy is $499 for 400-800 words, and $1.00 per word for anything over that for this kind of feature writing, and I'd consider that very much on the low end. You could certainly charge more than that and still attract plenty of commercial clients.


In cases where the client wasn't contacted by an editor, and they do plan to pitch (just like you'd have to query), I'm often contracted to write the pitch letter as well (which I charge a little under $200 for on top of the feature itself). Did I just say you can actually get paid to write query letters? You betcha! And to this day I've never ghostwritten a feature for a client that wasn't published.

Kick Rejections to the Curb

That's one of the biggest perks--it's often much easier for the client (an industry expert) to convince a trade publication to pick up their feature than it would be for a freelancer to do the same. Why? On top of their name lending credibility to the piece, the magazine doesn't directly pay for it. It's completely financed by the client.

Do you work for commercial clients? Ask them if they would be interested in this kind of arrangement. Who knows? You may find that you really enjoy it. I do. (And just to nip some potential criticisms up front, not once has a client ever asked me to hype up the company or product in these features--they're always editorial, authoritative pieces designed to educate the readers, where the company is often only mentioned in a quote attribution. That's the nice part of only doing this for my existing clients who already understand the PR value of avoiding direct promotion in the features. If you don't have that kind of client base, your experience may be different.)

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She began writing for clients in 1999 and started her first blog in 2004.

She owns 3 Beat Media - a publishing and client services company which operates All Indie Writers as well as several other websites and blogs including The Busy Author's Guide and BizAmmo. Jenn comes from a background in online PR and social media consulting, having owned a small PR firm for several years before choosing to pursue a full-time writing and publishing career.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names in the areas of children's fiction, mysteries, and horror fiction. Jenn is an active member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and currently serves as the organization's Assistant Coordinator of Promotions and Social Media.

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