• Mar

    Secrets of Profitable Freelance Writing: Researching Your Topic


    (This is post is an excerpt of Chapter 2)

    This is where it all begins, where you learn how to write for magazines.

    When I began writing many years ago, things were much different than they are now. Most writing resources were not online and, if you wanted to use them, you needed to visit a large public library or business resource center.

    Back then, the number one resource I used was the Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media. These are four large books and to use them, you would need to get help from the librarian. The main branch would be your best chance for finding the directories.

    Fortunately, things have changed and it is now possible to access the Gale Directories online, depending on the library. Here, you will learn how these directories work and how they can help you to position yourself as an expert using writing. In the early days, this was all I used and, when you see how powerful they are, you will wonder how you ever got along without them.

    To find the directories, visit Google and do a broad search on the keyword phrase, “gales directories public libraries.” This will bring up many references to different libraries. If you have a library card and you live in a large city, there’s an excellent chance that they will have access to this database.

    Here is one listing I like to use. No password is necessary.


    When the web page comes up, click on “Gale Directory Library.” Note the rectangular box highlighting the Gale Directory Library link.


    Above is the Gale’s interface. You will find a similar appearance on other Web Sites, though the ways of accessing the directory will be different.Another good resource is the Faquier County Public Library . In this case, you will get a 30-day temporary pass to the library. After that, you have to visit the library, show your ID, and then you will be able to get a library card with ongoing access.

    Each access point will have different features enabled or disabled. This is due, in part, to the subscription package by the institution and may cause your results to be different as well. To elaborate, on the New York interface, there are 360,263 entries in the available directories. On the Fauquier interface, there are 385,354 entries available.

    Note that when you use the Fauquier library interface, some of your options are Export, Tips and Guided Tour. These are absent or grayed out on the New York interface.

    In contrast, the New York library offers 13 directories that you can search, while the Fauquier library offers six. Still, both libraries offer the Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media, which is what we need for our searches.


    For the purposes of this chapter, I will be using the Fauquier library access point. To get a better understanding of how the directory works, watch the Guided Tour video at the top right on the menu bar (it may take awhile to load).

    To show you how these directories work, make sure to click on the Basic link in the directory. Here, we will search for the keyword: “travel.” We will also limit what we receive “to data from the current editions only.” Click on the Search button.


    The first thing to note about this result is that there are 319 listings. If you were to scroll through the list, you would discover that the search has accessed several directories, which you would see to the right of the heading in each listing. Since we only want to access the Gale’s Directories, our search is too broad. To find what we are looking for, we will have to use the Advanced Search function.


    In the screen shot on the previous page, we have chosen several settings in Advanced Search. These are: Directories, the Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media, Keyword and Travel for our keyword.


    This screen shot shows that there are 646 listings here, which is quite substantial. Still, all of these are from the Gale’s Directories, which will make it easier to find the magazines or journals we would like to write for. To go forward in the list, click on the next button or, if there is a listing that you want to see, type in a number in the Results box and click on the “Go” button.

    Searching through the list, I came across En Route, which is a Canadian publication.


    There are several things to note about this listing. The first is the name, which is hyperlinked to a listing with more information. Secondly, directly under the publication name (Gale’s) is an email address and the URL for the Web Site. The Web Site is especially important when looking at the magazine to learn more about the content, back issues, etc. Directly below this area are their phone numbers and some information about the focus of the magazine. To learn more about the publication, click on the hyperlinked name.


    In the expanded listing, there is much more information available. One of the first things to look at is the Web Site URL, which is important for more research. Secondly, the contact information is of the utmost importance. This is where you send your query. Generally, I write to the Editor in Chief (if there is one) because this person is usually the decision maker. Sometimes it is the publisher, though. Note that this is not available here.

    Moving down the page, the next item is frequency, letting you know that the magazine is published once per month. Next is the circulation, which is unknown here. However, this is Air Canada’s magazine, so there is an excellent chance they pay well. To learn more about the magazine, you need to visit their Web Site.


    In this screen shot is some general information about the magazine, which will help you with your research and formulating a query letter.


    The next thing to look at is the Writer’s Guidelines, which gives you a lot of information about the magazine, their background, their readership, the types of stories they like, etc. They also tell you to look at past issues before you write a pitch and they give you the name of the editor to contact. More than that, they post their rate ($1.00 per word) and they pay upon acceptance, within 30 days of receiving your invoice.

    In this particular situation, it is relatively easy to find the Writer’s Guidelines on this site. That varies, though. When you visit a Web Site and discover it is difficult to find the Writer’s Guidelines, here are some tips:

    • Look for different headings, such as contributor guidelines or write for us
    • Look at the sitemap
    • Click on the Contacts or About Us links
    • If you have searched thoroughly and still cannot find anything, send a letter to the editor(s) and ask

    (This concludes today’s excerpt.)

    Want the entire program ? Click here to get the book and all the videos in one package.)

    You can read all the posts under the Freelance Writing category

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